What We Learnt of The New ASP At The Quiksilver & Roxy Pro Gold Coast

13 Mar 2014 17 Share

Sean Doherty

Senior Writer

Four Things From The Quiksilver & Roxy Pro Gold Coast
By Sean Doherty

The new ASP brought the sort of temporary building to Snapper usually reserved for Formula 1 events. Photo: Potts

The new ASP brought the sort of temporary building to Snapper usually reserved for Formula 1 events. Photo: Potts

The new guys are in charge. The first event of the ASP tour under its new private owners, Zosea Media Holdings, demonstrated it’s going to be run very differently than it did under the old model where the surfers and the brands co-owned the sport. The old way saw competing interests (the brands competing with brands, surfers competing with surfers, surfers competing with brands) thrown into a room together to make decisions on how the sport was going to be run. While it was reasonably transparent and democratic, it also made making real change almost impossible. What do they say, a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Well, it was made clear on day one here at Snapper that the new bosses were in town, and they were going to run pro surfing like a boss.

There were a couple of fails. The handling of the media accreditation was poor. They went in armed to the teeth with fine print, and any voices of dissent were quickly dispatched from the contest site. But as they publicly maintained a hard line on anyone who wouldn’t sign, they were quietly rewording the fine print to something far more reasonable. The other interesting one happened on finals day. Half way through the day I noticed that whenever any surfer in the water stood up and actually surfed, the beach commentary fell deathly silent. Stone cold dead air, and the thousands of people were left scratching their heads. Turns out someone from the ASP brass had run upstairs in a panic an instructed them to stop talking while anyone surfed. The reason? Dane Reynolds had just Instagrammed a comment about how the voices of the beach announcers hyping him up as he took off had gotten inside his head and created a Costanza-like neurosis. Dane wasn’t calling for someone’s head, Dane was just thought bubbling, but the commentary was shut down within minutes despite Dane being on a plane over the Pacific at the time. It was reactionary and just a little mad. If The ASP is going to be Jedi mind tricked by Instagram or Twitter, it’s in trouble.

But the upside to the new guys being in charge is that firm decisions can be made right there, on the spot. The day the girls’ round ran in perfect Snapper was a clear example. In years past that decision would have involved a rabble of 50 people, all throwing in their two cents, all looking for a decision that would suit them. Lunatics running the asylum. Instead the decision was made that the girls would surf that day and, in the bigger picture of pro surfing, it was the right call to make. What will be interesting now will be what other decisions get made and how much dismantling of the old owners handiwork gets done. I’m betting there are already being plans drawn up to make the format more workable, in particular regard to non-elimination rounds. It seems the surfers still can’t get their heads around why they surf them, and if the surfers can’t what chance does the punter have? The guys’ non-elimination round on finals day was totally underwhelming in terms of surfing and storylines. It was so boring I watched over and saw a guy lying prone on the beach, covered in beach towels except for his belly on which he had placed a handful of potato chips. Kelly Slater was in the water and this guy was catching seagulls.

The Instagram post that changed the course of beach commentary at the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro this year, and possibly for the rest of the ASP season.

The Instagram post that changed the course of beach commentary at the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro this year, and possibly for the rest of the ASP season.

The girls’ tour is legit. For so long it has been towed around behind the men’s tour as a freakshow novelty, unloved and misunderstood. Well, wouldn’t the great irony be now that it could be the women’s tour that could break pro surfing into the bigger market it has always craved. And this could very well happen after what we saw here at Snapper. The new owners showed faith in the girls and they stepped it right up… and the story wasn’t just Steph and Carissa. When Bianca Buitendag accepted her runner-up prize cheque of $25,000 she promptly announced she was giving it all away to charities she’s involved with back home in South Africa. The new owners of pro surfing are telling us they’re all about telling stories, and the girls are giving them a real story to tell. 

Carissa Moore put on a performance at this event that some were calling the greatest ever. Photo: ASP/Cestari

Carissa Moore put on a performance at this event that some were calling the greatest ever. Photo: ASP/Cestari

There is a real appetite for change. And it goes from the new owners to the surfers to the fans… to the judges. The only problem is that while everything else seemed shiny and new at Snapper, we got to the quarterfinals and the nebulus of an old galaxy had formed once again. This is the 14th year of this event here at Snapper Rocks, and in the quarters you had the guy who won the very first Quiksilver Pro in 2001, the guy won the second Quiksilver Pro in 2002, the guy who won in 2005… and a guy who’d already retired before the first Quiksilver Pro was even surfed. Between Taj, Joel, Mick and Kelly they’d won 11 of the 13 Quiksilver Pros contested. It was positively ancient, but on form through the event, thoroughly right that they were there.

At this stage there was no hint of an upset and everything was falling into a comfortable, familiar groove. Same as it ever was. Under the old way here at Snapper, with it breaking behind the rock as it was on final day, it was almost impossible for a backhander like Gabe Medina to win, and almost impossible for a guy like Parko, who can surf behind the rock in his sleep, to lose. That’s the nature of this event.

But we saw a judging shift throughout this event to create some equilibrium here and open this event up. The Little Marley section was being scored and backhanders were suddenly given a real chance. The goofies have been beaten down for so long at Snapper they were suddenly liberated. Five of the final 12 surfers were goofies, and the surfing in particular of Miggy Pupo and Gabe Medina lifted as big numbers started getting thrown at them. In fact, the scale swung back to the goofies so far it almost seemed like positive discrimination. The goofies could suddenly get away with something the regularfooters couldn’t… ­ they could repeat the same turn, over and over.

The final provided the perfect microcosm of the change that had gone down this week in the scoring scale. Both Parko’s scores came from barrels behind the rock, both Gabe’s scores came from backhand blasts down the point. The judges went with Gabe. Nobody had breathed a word about the judging all week, which tells you they were doing their job admirably. They had a good week at Snapper, but the Gabe decision, five minutes from the end, is the one that will be remembered. What you can take out of the judging though is that the appetite for change in pro surfing also extends to the judges, and Snapper might not be the last old world order to be broken this year. With Margarets and Bells next – two old world contests – we’ll see how far those changes might go.

Gabriel Medina won the final down the line at Snapper with a lethal backhand snap, songs of change? Photo: Dunbar

Gabriel Medina won the final down the line at Snapper with a lethal backhand snap, songs of change? Photo: Dunbar

Gabe Medina could very well become world champ. Tripping over ourselves in our haste to anoint Jordy and Julian and John John as the future of pro surfing we’ve forgotten about Gabe. After the initial hullabaloo when Gabe burst onto tour in 2011 and won those two events, the hype has cooled. In that time he’s grown up – he’s grown into his body, and also matured radically. Cast your mind back to him storming off through the sand dunes when he got torched in the Portugal final two years, not even wanting to get on stage for the presentation. Well this is a very different Gabe Medina – relaxed, happier, that cold intensity that characterized his first years on tour has been supplanted by a looser, more free-spirited vibe. I surfed with him out at Snapper yesterday (which was smoking by the way, by far the best day of the waiting period), and Gabe was a guy without a care in the world. If he can get through Bells and Margarets with decent results, he’s got form in the Pacific, has an event at home, and has owned the back half of the tour before. And if that happens you’ll hear the voices from over the horizon, coming all the way from Brazil.

Will this man be the 2014 ASP World Champion? Photo: Dunbar

Will this man be the 2014 ASP World Champion? Photo: Dunbar

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