Today, the inaugural Oakley Pro Bali fired up at Keramas Beach, and I was on hand to observe much of the action. In lieu of explaining through words how people surf on top of waves while wearing contest jerseys, I wanted to share a few observations from being here in Bali. Nine to be exact.
Say a little prayer. Before the contest began this morning, the entire Top 34 donned traditional Balinese garb as a shaman blessed each of them – dappling their foreheads with water as they sat cross-legged on the black sand in front of Keramas. I appreciated the integration of culture into the competition. Then I quickly imagined that happening in the NFL. Ha.
There is a distinct, multi-stage anxiety involved with the start of World Tour events. A nervous energy pulses through the beach, because nothing feels quite right. Spectators and surfers mill about, wondering if the contest will run, and the event staff sweats. Literally. It’s not the simplest of tasks to coordinate a live global webcast from Bali. Especially when the wireless Internet doesn’t work. Then the power turns off.
“It’s back on!”
Sampoernas. That’s what they’re called. The clove cigarettes responsible for the sweet, sticky cinnamon smoke that permeates the air here. That and the distinct smell of burning wood far off in the distance. That’s Bali. It’s singular in scent.
It was nice to see Bruce Irons in a contest jersey. He didn’t win his first heat, but the wildcard was fully present, even a little nervous. “I said I wasn’t going to be [nervous],” said Bruce. “But I had my nerves. I just wanted to do really good.” As for returning to the Tour? Don’t hold your breath, surf fans. “I don’t miss it,” said Bruce. “I like the camaraderie, though…There’s a heavy energy there and progression, and people are surfing really good and appreciate each other.”
Gabriel Medina has a tattoo that says “Keep It Real” on his right wrist. I’d like to know more about that.
Be nice to kids. During a freesurf last night at Keramas, I watched Mick Fanning spontaneously push a ten-year-old tow-headed Brazilian into a solid wave. The kid smiled ear-to-ear as he charged down the line, and every surfer present expelled a collective, endearing sigh of approval. Then, this morning, minutes after dusting off Kelly Slater and Jack Robinson in Round One, Damien Hobgood was in the pool launching his daughter into backflips. Give back to the kids, and karma boomerangs abound. Ask Mick and Damien. Which brings up an interesting proposition for Mr. Kelly Slater’s heat tomorrow…
There is a 26-year spread in age between 41-year-old Kelly Slater and 15 year-old wildcard Jack Robinson. That is crazy. They did battle today, and they’ll square off once more first thing when competition resumes. Wildcards have proven tricky for Slater in the past, but if a perfect heat in Fiji and the World Tour lead are any indicators of momentum, expect it to continue.
Adriano De Souza is on a mission. The day after he lost at the Volcom Fiji Pro, he booked a flight to Indonesia determined to rebound quickly, and he’s been sharpening his knife at Keramas ever since. De Souza is out for blood.
John John Florence returns. Recently back after returning from an ankle injury, Mr. Florence landed what some claim to be “the biggest aerial ever in competition.” Have a look. You decide.
Tune in to the Oakley Pro live webcast (probably tomorrow) as Kelly Slater will take on Jack Robinson in Heat One of Round Two.
Full results from round one on the next page.