Almost Famous


Radical Performances Draw the Crowd to Day 3 of the Hurley Pro

By Alex Ryden

A bald, barrel-chested security guard wouldn't let Rob Machado into the staging area to grab his clothes. Sporting a bright yellow security shirt decorated with Hurley logos, the guard had no idea who Rob was. Rob Machado — a guy who has had countless historical contest moments on the Lowers shoreline, a guy who has been in the industry limelight for over a decade, serving the global surf community as an ambassador, marketing icon, and contest legend. Rob looked around in disbelief until he eventually looked skyward to the judges. "Hey, do you think you guys could help me out here?"

And then the Hurley underworld swallowed Rob in all its bannered and scaffolded and siliconed glory, leaving the guard — and the rest of the spectators — meddling around the perimeter like dogs scratching to get on the other side of the fence. Compared to the cobblestone bleachers for the masses, the VIP section had its perks: live video coverage on 40 inch plasma TV screens, seating on leather couches, fully catered meals. Tortellini, seabass, and fresh fruit sounds mildly digestible, right? And if the fountain of Sparkletts water wasn't enough to quench your thirst, a bartender was more than happy to hand you a free beer. With the luxuries of a 5 star hotel surrounding competitors and their entourages, it was pretty easy to forget about the average Joe still scratching outside. Maybe that's how India feels. And that's just not fair.

Luckily, on the competition side of day, things were starting to make much more sense. Round 3 saw Slater put a reality check on Brett Simpson, Dane Reynolds trounce Benn Dunn, and CJ Hobgood take out Luke Stedman. However, current World Number 1, Joel Parkinson, was unable to keep the win streak alive and lost round 3 to Rob Machado.

And then the Hurley Expression Session brought everyone together in one harmonious succession of fun surfing again. It was a reminder of what a surf contest scene is all about: athletes at the pinnacle of the sport simply shredding with no strings attached. Crowned by the newly developed judging system called "Facebook," Dane Reynolds won the Expression Session and, consequently, showed some rare expression: "I think the peer voting thing is pretty innovative. I'm not sure how accurate it is, but so far it's pretty cool." There you go, Dane said it. It's cool. So for onlookers who may have thought the contest scene was getting too lavish and that the sport is selling out, who looked at the guarded two-story Hurley Fort Knox with unfettered jealousy, it wasn't anything that watching a full rotation no-grab 360 couldn't cure. Thanks for keeping us grounded, Dane.

Whether it was leaving with a full stomach (sorry, VIP only), sunburn, or mental stoke to last for months, everyone got something out of the day. But who are the bigger fans? The friends, family members, and company representatives schmoozing and boozing with the athletes under the shade of the VIP area, or those who make the trek down to Lowers and strain themselves on rocks and cobbles just to watch their favorite surfers in action? You decide.