A lot has been said about an amazing Pipeline contest: Mick Fanning’s third World Title. The second Triple Crown by the coolest and blondest kid of the bunch. The seventh Pipe Masters (and 56th tour win) by the most impressive surfer in the history of competition surfing so far.
I watched it all in awe of so much perfection: It couldn’t have been written any better.
What I have been obsessing about lately is the current exciting state of the surfers on tour – mainly the World Title contenders and what could happen in 2014.
Let me preface by saying that I don’t consider myself a good surfer, so whatever I write needs a lot of grains of salt. My understanding of the sport come from observation instead of experience, and observation has the problem of being subjective and sometimes questionable.
There is one person who differs from them all: The old lion, Kelly Slater. He is in a place right now that no one else can even approach. He clearly demonstrated this year that he is the best surfer when the waves are the best. If he can have fun surfing in the conditions, he is ultimately the best. He enjoys being in the most beautiful and biggest waves on tour. This year, he had three wins and a second place in the events that produced the best waves of 2013.
The flip side is that if the waves aren’t good, he is no longer that interested, and understandably so after twenty years. See Portugal and Trestles. He struggles to find the motivation to go past his injuries. He shows that even the healthiest forty-one-year-old does not have the spring and fast reflexes of the young guns. But if the waves are as good as he is, then he will be the king once more.
Then there is the experienced wolf pack. The Aussie bunch of Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, and Taj Burrow.
They show clearly that experience on tour, combined with raw talent and discipline, is still the way to be on top. Mick won this year by being the most consistent. Joel did the same last year. Taj has never been consistent, and therefore never won… In his defense, he still looks like he’s having more fun than the others, but he’s losing ground while Mick and Joel sometimes still look invincible.
They are still going to be on top in 2014. If any of them will win the Title, I am not sure. They are strong, powerful, experienced competitors, and there is very little that they are missing. But they are missing one thing: they are not on the top of the innovation curve. How much that will play a role in their campaigns will depend on the waves we will see in 2014, and of course, on the judging criteria. If the waves are perfect, they are close behind Kelly and ahead of most of the talented youngsters. If the judges look for innovative surfing in not-so-good waves, then they will have a harder time being on top.
That brings us to the we come to the Young Guns. John John Florence and Gabriel Medina; Julian Wilson and Jordy Smith. The new generation Kelly and Andy; the Mick and Joel. They’ve been grouped this way on purpose. JJF and Gabe both have incredible talent and the ability to excite us whenever they’re in the water – some of the same qualities of Kelly and AI. Julian and Jordy are more perfect, more calculated, just like Mick and Joel.
What I see in JJF and Gabe is borderline freaky. They can ride tubes like few others. The way they surf is full of beautiful style with tons of raw instinct. They have it in them to be the new kings of the sport, without struggle.
Julian and Jordy have been destined to win since they were kids. But while Julian sometime tries too hard, Jordy tries too little. They both have the talent and the skills, and they are starting to have enough experience. They both need to tap into the unpredictability aspect and use their instincts. They need to take that last step towards kingdom and become Mick… before they become Taj.
Never before have there been so many surfers in the Top 34 who could win an event – and all this is coming in a transitional year with Zosea’s involvement.
The 2013 dream tour just ended, and I can’t stop dreaming of the next one.