It doesn't take much of a swell for Lowers to turn into the high-performance wave park that has been setting the standard for over 20 years now. The modest increase in swell today was just enough for those that wanted to project into the lip or high into the air (Kerr, Julian, Simpo, Adriano) to cut loose. While those who would rather use all that face to carve all over the place (Kelly, Parko, Mick) could put on quite a show as well.
All the varied action in the water has led to some very close heats that were extremely difficult to select a clear-cut winner. More than ever, the judges have been challenged to differentiate and decide how to score the many different styles of surfing on display. The two surfers who have combined the best of both worlds thus far, and are still going in the comp are Taj and Owen.
When Owen paddled into an end-of-the-heat bomb needing a 9, he never thought air for a second. Instead he methodically/surgically/brutally placed every turn in the perfect spot. It was a work of art, well above the other 8-point plus rides of earlier in the heat, and very deserving of a 9.77. Surfing that good, while on the wave face, will always get scored. Knock on wood.
Taj surfs at a much faster speed than everyone else—always has. He now buries his rail from start to finish when he’s not in the air. He's been the future of surfing for 10 years or more already. Now that he's added the power, Taj is showing us were the next 10 years or more needs to head. I'm thinking Taj for the win tomorrow.
Except Kelly threw down the two most radical, tight, arcing carves I've ever seen today, on a board that looked to be an extension of his feet, directly wired to his brain. One hundred tail-pop, air reverses on slopey faces dosen't add up to one of those turns. And if anyone is making the final tomorrow, they will have to contend with the very non air-friendly morning conditions of Lower Trestles.
It started of Slowers the first two days, with everyone being extremely on edge—whether it be a last ditch struggle to put your name up there in the World Title race, or even a confused webcast viewer trying to figure out why the rides he sees and the scores dropping aren't adding up correctly in their heads (get yourself a twitter account and start following every surfer you can find, or just Kelly, and you will see how truly subjective the sport of surfing actually is). For as long as I can remember, my friends and I have watched every heat, closely examining every ride, score given, and then expressed our opinions—sometimes in the form of vulgarities hurled towards the judging panel. Sorry. Social media has opened up those conversations to the world.
So tomorrow, as the swell peaks and 11 very capable surfers attempt to pry the Lowers title from Kelly, embrace your inner sports fan, cheer for what you like, and let 'em know what you don't—have an opinion. With the world shrinking capabilities of the internet, online forums, social media, and comments below this post should crackle with debate. Even if you've never surfed and live in Istanbul, you have an audience, and as a fan your opinion matters more than mine. I still get my clothes and boards for free.