It's Saturday night, and I'm not quite old enough to drink. The best of my generation are at house parties, dorm socials, dance clubs, or wherever they go to make merry. I instead spent the evening behind the Patagonia store in Cardiff, where Woodshed Films' latest project "One Track Mind" premiered to a flannelled subset of North County's seafarering community. Am I a loser? Like a D&D freak or a comic book nerd, but for surfing? Maybe. But now it's 1:00 AM, the roommate's asleep, and I get to rant off with my pants off. Please clear the area.
The movie features at least seven world champions, as well as Dane and Jordy and a bunch of other stars. But who was the first surfer to really catch my attention? Get ready for it…
E…(Come on, be original)
A…(Wait, don't you mean L?)
N…(Just what are you getting at?)
U. (Oh. Hmmm. Really?)
Really, Keanu Asing is a little bruiser. Not so little, actually, which is the reason he was such a standout in a section that included the much more highly touted blond trio of John John Florence, Luke Davis and Kolohe Andino. Kolohe still rules that whole age group with an iron fist, but Keanu has something the others don't: a fair bit of heft. Those few extra pounds are worth their weight in gold, because when Keanu does a turn, it's a real turn – not a flick. Luke and John John, by contrast, need to hit the gym and the kitchen (in no particular order) to keep pace. Their 5'1"s look too big and slow when Keanu gets all manly on his. Good on you, Keanu – a first generation product of the training revolution.
I've never heard anyone say something nice about Jordy Smith. Everybody raves about his surfing and his contract and the silly shape of his chest, but he seems to strike out in terms of attitude and personality. In fact, in the film, Jordy's longest speaking part comes when he recounts a heat lost in South Africa, after which he broke his board on the beach and punched a contest official.
So why rock the boat? Let's talk about his surfing some more. It's actually quite good. In fact, I think Jordy may be the only guy who appears to truly ride the wave; other surfers look like they're riding their boards (albeit very well). Jordy is in such control, and he's such a big primate monster, that his board comes off as a bright white extension of his legs (which in turn are an extension of those sweet pink and blue signature trunks). He kind of looks strapped in, and it's kind of awesome. But then again, maybe I just don't want to get punched in the face by a thick South African.
Dane says at one point in the film that the most technically sound surfers are somewhat boring to watch. He'd rather watch Bruce: "He'll probably catch rail, but he might do a ten-foot air and stick it. At least it's interesting."
Bruce and his brother Adam, or Alan, or Abner…fiddlesticks, what was his name? He used to compete for titles, used to be the answer to Kelly Slater? Andy, that's it! Bruce and his brother Andy are super good at surfing in a way that training and watching video and going to bed early and hiring a manager just can't capture. Witness Andy on the world champion's trip to P-Pass at the end of "One Track Mind," doing the right things in the wrong places on big, scary rights. Or look at Bruce's waves from the Teahupo'o event this year. Or either of them at Pipeline. Mick has flawless technique, Parko has timeless style, Taj can put together a good highlight reel, but the Irons brothers are like Jackson Pollack when everyone else is doing coloring books. Their surfing is just weird, in the best way.
So how'd they do in France last week? Lowest heat scores of rounds 1 and 2, including a no-show from Andy? Stellar. I believe Bruce's post-heat quote was, "The tour's so played out."
The web is abuzz with pundits commenting on the Irons meltdown and the reasons for their departure from Europe. But perhaps it's worth examining the competitive structure that repels two surfers as talented and as fun to watch as Bruce and Andy. They're retiring and/or skipping heats and/or not as addicted to the ASP as the rest of the top 10 seems to be. People are hating the player instead of the game, and it's like, c'mon people, don't hate the player. Don't. The WCT has come a long way, but until it puts a crown on Bruce's head (or maybe Dane's), it must still have some kinks to work out.
I don't remember what we were talking about. I guess it was Chris Malloy's movie, which is highly watchable in the way that all his films are. You probably won't put it on right before a surf, but maybe afterwards, or on random nights and weekends to get excited. It's at the same time a display of both excellence (in the surfing performances of Slater, Curren, Fanning, Reynolds, etc…) and of weakness or vulnerability (in the deep personal interviews with said surfers). After seeing the premiere, I became highly motivated to get better at surfing. But it was nighttime, so I did some sit ups and ranted instead.