By Stuart Cornuelle
Photos by Jimmicane
Friday, September 10, 2010: Best day of surfing on the World Tour so far this year? I wager it was so. Friday was what contest directors pray for and marketing chiefs dream about. It was the reason surfers qualify and fans risk surreptitious live feeds behind their spreadsheets at work.
There were so many worth-writing-about moments at the Hurley Pro today that, had I not at certain points been surfing Uppers (Round 3, Heats 1-4) or surfing Church (Round 4, Heats 3-4), there'd simply be too much to report. Below are highlights from some of the heats I did catch.
Round 3, Heat 6: Gabe Kling vs. Kelly Slater
Gabe had SURFING's Associate Photo Editor, Jimmicane, in his ear as a sideline coach in the lead-up to this match. Jimmicane, of "That's Bull$#!t" quasi-fame, knows comp surfing absolutely cold -- but it wasn't enough; Slater was devastating. He's continuously on-rail like nobody else in the Top 34. (That's what they call it now, as of this event.) Kelly was never not on-rail today. Watch the Heats on Demand on the event website or with the Hurley Pro iPhone app for confirmation. Also, that's not a paid plug; the app is just superlative. Even the obligatory Hurley Denim ad that launches each heat video -- which seems strikingly similar to the Levi's "Go Forth" campaign -- is minimally intrusive. Plus it's free.
Round 3, Heat 7: Jordy Smith vs. Brett Simpson
Brett won another US Open, Brett's from nearby, Brett rides for Hurley, blah and so on -- but no one could really have expected Brett to win this heat. Especially when Jordy faded on a Lowers right and dug deep, throwing his board and behemoth South African self into a no-grab nose-pick reverse before racing to the inside and sticking a three-foot Superman. 9.60. Baffling. But wait, Brett on the very next wave: float, float, big tail-throw reverse, float, BIGGER tail-throw reverse...7.70. Brett escaped with his dignity but without the win. A blow to Nike-Hurley-global takeover conspiracy theorists everywhere.
Round 3, Heat 8: Damien Hobgood vs. Jadson Andre
How do you solve a problem like Jadson Andre? For the judges, he's a trick question. He logs one or two of his patented, predictably amazing tail-hucks on every left. If judges reward the turn, they look like Jadson's personal scoring harem -- slaves to his little trick. If they don't reward him, they're possible racists and their judging is a popularity contest. I make neither accusation, but today, Jadson got mid-range scores for the most over-extended airs of the contest, lost to Damien's backhand, and came in fuming. Is his variety of repertoire judged by heat, not by wave? Or is there a Jadson Handicap of about 1.5 points per ride? If bigger names did Jadson's tail-throws, we'd vomit our approval to the point of dehydration.
Round 3, Heat 10: Luke Stedman vs. Dane Reynolds
Speaking of Dane: If he were to paddle out, sit still for his 30-minute heat, paddle in, fall walking up the cobblestones, then flash a swastika tattoo at Jodie Nelson...would he still get an 18.50 heat total? I suspect he would. I suspect Dane worship has reached a nadir in its absurdity, like Facebook worship now or Obama worship pre-inauguration.
Dane could twiddle his thumbs out at Lowers and we'd still be impressed -- this I assume; I don't know for sure because he doesn't twiddle. He instead does one move (slob air reverse) for a 9.33, then two moves (nose-pick reverse to Knoxian top carve) for a 9.17, and gets his 18.50's that way. Three moves -- that's an average of 6.17 points per turn. Check the replay.
Round 4, Heat 1: Mick Fanning vs. Chris Davidson vs. Kieren Perrow
During this heat, Benji Weatherley kept saying, "These are the best waves I've ever seen in California." (Not to me, just really loudly. The beer was free.) A torrent of 7-foot faces peeled from north to south for Mick, Kieren and Davo. Mick was by far the best surfer and there was nowhere for this fact to hide. But the star was Trestles.
Round 4, Heat 2: Owen Wright vs. CJ Hobgood vs. Kelly Slater
This was more about Kelly proving himself immune to physics: falling but then un-falling, going straighter up than gravity should allow, wearing a headband...but with three minutes to go, Owen Wright did what he's done with unsettling frequency in the last two years. He beat Kelly. Owen's backhand is as technically flawless as Mick Fanning's forehand, but Owen also has the airs, which he proved at the end of his Slater-beating 9.63. Replay.
Be aware that Round 4 was the new format's second losers' round (you can now lose twice and still win the contest), so everyone surfs again. Watch it live at http://hurley.com/hurleypro/live.cfm