Sean Doherty Previews The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, 2014

27 Feb 2014 1 Share

Sean Doherty

Senior Writer

Morrisey's Unicorn
By Sean Doherty

Sean Doherty's double (yeah right) holds the 2014 ASP World Championship trophy aloft at the ASP banquet this week. Photo: ASP/Kirstin

Sean Doherty's double (yeah right) holds the 2014 ASP World Championship trophy aloft at the ASP banquet this week. Photo: ASP/Kirstin

“Mick!”

I check over my shoulder then point at myself, eyebrows raised. “Me?”

“Yeah, Mick! Just want to say congrats on the world title and wish you good luck in the contest.”

Flummoxed, I slowly make sense of the scene unfolding in front of me outside Coolangatta airport this morning; this chick thinks I’m Mick Fanning. It’s an easy mistake to make. His hairline advancing, mine gone. Him at fighting weight, me fighting to see my shoes. As alike as Schwarzenegger and De Vito, we are, as alike as Brad Pitt and Bad Boy Bubby. I have occasionally signed an autograph as Kelly Slater, but being mistaken for Mick Fanning is new and fertile territory for me. I run with it. “Yeah, thanks. The connest should be fun, aaayyyyy…. I can’t wait to kick Kelly’s arse!” She leaves high on her chance meeting with the world champ, I leave shaking my head with a wry smile. Just a half-mile down the road there is a hundred-foot high Mick Fanning billboard out the front of the local surf shop that bears little resemblance to me, and in about two minutes she’s going to drive past it and realise. Meanwhile, I text Mick the bad news that someone has somehow just mistaken me for him, ergo his head, like mine, must look like a dropped meat pie.

From the airport I drive straight to Snapper knowing full well what I’m going to see. I’d already seen it a half hour earlier from a thousand feet above, directly below me on the flight path from Sydney. The Quiksilver Pro contest site at Snapper is hard to miss. Major Tom just flew over it and reported to Ground Control that the planet earth was indeed blue, but also reported a surf contest so big that it was visible from outer space. The thing is huge, like a horizontal block of apartments sitting on the beach at Snapper, literally four times the size of the old contest site. “It makes the old contest site look like a club contest,” whined Occy, whose view of the surf from his Rainbow Bay unit was now blocked by the MCG by the Sea. It’s fair to say the new guys are here to make a statement.

In case you’ve come late to the party on this, pro surfing has new owners. ZoSea Media Holdings Incorporated acquired the beleaguered ASP in late 2012 for a song from its previous owners, the surf brands and the surfers themselves. Following the booms and busts of the surf industry that controlled it, pro surfing itself had ebbed and flowed over it’s 30-year history, but it certainly wasn’t too big to fail. Under the old regime, the ASP conservatively had two years at best before it dried up and blew away in the wind, so depending on how you look at it the ZoSea deal was either opportunistic, a saviour, or both. Their vision for pro surfing was big, but the cone of silence came down almost immediately on how they were planning to do it. Kelly was involved but stayed at arms length, there was a mysterious billionaire backer, announcements only announced future announcements – and pro surfing fans had no idea what the new incarnation of pro surfing might look like.

Well, three days out from the first wave of the new era being ridden, ZoSea’s vision of pro surfing is suddenly very real. The new guys are here and they are going all-on-black. They’re throwing ace after ace, throwing a dozen aces from a single pack. Every morning your phone lights up with news of a new contest, a new sponsor, a new tour and their strategy all along now becomes clear – hold fire until you see the whites of their eyes. Sitting in the sacred watering hole of the Rainbow Bay Surf Club, watching this horizontal skyscraper come together with a million sticks of scaffolding, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer grandiosity of it. They’ve spent a shitload and will continue to do so this year, but strategically there are a few moves they’ve made that demonstrate they have a fundamental understanding of what makes pro surfing great. They’ve brought the big-wave guys into the tent, they split the qualifying and championship tours and ended the procession of recycling journeymen, and they not only boosted the women’s tour, they completely reinvented it. And to their credit they haven’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater and have brought across experienced guys like Rod Brooks and Graham Stapleberg from a previous Golden Age of pro surfing to transition this thing seamlessly.

Medina gets some practice in beneath the impending behemoth of the new Quikky Pro stand at Snapper. Photo: Muirhead

Medina gets some practice in beneath the impending behemoth of the new Quikky Pro stand at Snapper. Photo: Muirhead

The only real fail so far is the junking of Lewis Samuels’ Power Rankings on their website, which was a noble idea – better him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in – but the delicate flower that is the pro surfer ego is not quite ready to have that kinda scrutiny sanctioned by the state. They’ve got a battle also on their hands with freelance surf photographers and filmers, who’ve supported pro surfing in exchange for abject poverty for decades and are now being made to sign away the rights to any photo taken during any event to the ASP. As I write the Surf Photographer’s Union is meeting (in a phone box at Greenmount) and on opening day may be storming the Bastille – or at least the VIP tent – in protest, conducting a murderous head-lopping rampage stopping only to sample the smoked salmon canapés on the buffet table.

Dane Reynolds toasted the pro surfing revolution with a beer just the other night. He’s not quite sure what the revolution is all about – he famously had no idea who ZoSea was when asked at a press conference here at Snapper last year – but what the heck? It seems like it’ll be fun. As of this moment, Dane Reynolds is the only surfer to have put an entry form in for every six-star qualifying event for this season. He surfed a heat at Manly two weeks back and actually built house. Dane – built – house. Surfed heats like he wanted to win them. If pro surfing has been reinvigorated re-enegrised to the point where even Dane wants in, then surely it’s doing something right. And while last season at certain junctures it felt like the old tour was tired and running out the clock, the last days of the old empire, this is a new era with a new purpose. The change in mood is palpable. It’s like Morrissey just jumped on a unicorn and flew away over the rainbow.

The acid test for the new tour, however, will start on the weekend. Just like the real Mick Fanning and his bald and flabby impostor can quickly be told apart out in the surf, the test of whether this new tour is the real deal or not will come in the water when the Big Show starts. Speaking with ASP CEO Paul Speaker the other day, he admitted there was only one contingency ZoSea couldn’t find cash-splash a solution for: “We ran out of money to pay the guy who controls the surf.” The thing is, at Snapper that guy actually exists, but on that front it looks like they’re gonna get lucky anyway.

“The bank is as good as I have ever seen it.” Stop me if you’ve heard this one before used to describe Snapper, but coming from Joel Parkinson – who feels it’s his professional duty to downplay the Snapper bank even at its finest – this is some big ol’ talk. He’s right. On first sight today the bank is literally razor-edged and grain-perfect. Whereas in the past few years you’ve been able to set your watch by some Old Testament storm sweeping through the week before the contest and reducing the bank to rubble, this year it’s been left unmolested and it looks a lot like it did during the Superbank’s salad days of the early millennium. In concert with steady trades in the Coral Sea and a cyclone perched over Fiji, the swell forecast is as good as it has looked for this event in a long time. In fact, the forecast has a real feel of 2002, the first ever Quiksilver Pro, when Cyclone Des produced day after day of groomed four-foot lines. It should be Snapper for days, and the biggest decisions will be the days not to run.

The revolution starts on Saturday, more likely Sunday. If it works it will take surfing to places it never dared to dream. And if it fails… well, we’ll party on the Titanic as we plunge to the bottom of the frigid Atlantic. I’ll be playing the violin. Either way, there will be some fair sport on show over the next week. We certainly live in interesting times, and as I sat on a rock under a pandanus tree down at Snapper pondering the universal pinhead of all this late this afternoon, I heard a voice yelling at me.

“Hey Mick!”

I look over and it’s Mick, the real Mick.

“Geez, mate,” he offers to me, “you’ve never looked better.”

Read the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast 2014 Official Forecast

Tags: asp , quiksilver pro gold coast 2014 , gold coast , sean doherty (create Alert from these tags)

blog comments powered by Disqus
More From ASP
Sean Doherty On: Cape Fiji

Sean Doherty On: Cape Fiji

Cut off from the outside world on this island outpost – no fans, no entourages, no girlfriends – this contest quickly becomes a self-contained social experiment.

2 6 Jun 2016
Who Is Going To Win The Women's World Title? – Sean Doherty On...

Who Is Going To Win The Women's World Title? – Sean Doherty On...

The Day of Reckoning... It's coming.

3 21 Nov 2014
Vasco Ribeiro and Mahina Maeda Win Allianz ASP World Junior Championships

Vasco Ribeiro and Mahina Maeda Win Allianz ASP World Junior Championships

The first ever Portuguese World Champ.

30 Oct 2014
Recent

Billabong's Australiana Surf Clip of Gold, Fresh Dane and John John Vids, and a Korean Wave Pool Super Edit!

This Week In Surfing: Ten Things from Surfing & the Internet on the Week That Was October 30 2020

30 Oct 2020
Nick Carroll: Can Rabbit Really Win Burleigh This Saturday?

Nick Carroll: Can Rabbit Really Win Burleigh This Saturday?

2 30 Oct 2020
Watch: The History of the World's Most Elusive and Long Lefthander

Watch: The History of the World's Most Elusive and Long Lefthander

1 29 Oct 2020
Nick Carroll: Maurice Cole and the Surf Coast Showdown

Nick Carroll: Maurice Cole and the Surf Coast Showdown

1 27 Oct 2020
We're Hiring: Camera Operations Technician

We're Hiring: Camera Operations Technician

27 Oct 2020
Latest News

Billabong's Australiana Surf Clip of Gold, Fresh Dane and John John Vids, and a Korean Wave Pool Super Edit!

This Week In Surfing: Ten Things from Surfing & the Internet on the Week That Was October 30 2020

Nick Carroll: Can Rabbit Really Win Burleigh This Saturday?

The Australian surfing icon is on the campaign trail for the Queensland state election

Nick Carroll: Maurice Cole and the Surf Coast Showdown

The Australian Surfing Icon Is Contesting the Torquay Council Elections This Weekend

Popular This Week

The Story of How Surfing Almost Lost Mundaka, Then Didn't

First Sessions: How the Spanish Rivermouth Almost Suffered a Man-Made Death

Remembering Biggest Wednesday, Pumping Empty Cokes, and Can You Go Finless at Teahupo'o?

This Week In Surfing: Ten Things from Surfing & the Internet on the Week That Was October 23 2020

Nick Carroll: Maurice Cole and the Surf Coast Showdown

The Australian Surfing Icon Is Contesting the Torquay Council Elections This Weekend

Go to Top