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WORLD TITLE PICKS   Leave a comment

In the midst of a firing January in Orange County, a video of Joel Parkinson putting in the hard yards on the Gold Coast has brought this single reality to the forefront of my mind. The tour is getting ready to kick back into high gear. Guys are ordering boards in bulk, knocking out russian twists with medicine balls, and booking flights a la the team manager of (insert surf company here). Thankfully there’s been a lot of changes. No more mid year cut. Kolohe is on tour two years earlier than we’d thought and if he’s not a world champ soon he’s at least a champ at jump rope (you’ve all seen the video of him in South Africa). Yadin’s injury is healed completely so he’s on tour. So the prognostications begin. I’ve mulled this over  for a while now so without further delay…here are my picks for the world champion this next year.

#1 KELLY SLATER->No surprise here. The world title is a marathon and not a sprint. There are way too many guys who get off to a slow start, lag in the middle, or tank at the end of the year. Unless he’s completely disinterested and attempting to ride a door, Kelly maintains pace EVERYWHERE. He’s one of few guys who is a threat everywhere and AARP do not come in here with “he’s forty freaking years old”. That means nothing. The guy eats lights out and has no apparent vices aside from not keeping his alcohol tolerance up. As said post title no. 10, until someone puts him out to pasture, why should he stop?

#2 OWEN WRIGHT->Owen reflects what modern surfing should and will be. He’s a freak of nature that weaves eloquently through LOST ATLAS and can still throw on a jersey and show up huge at every spot. Encompassing it all from power to speed, quickness, variety, and fearlessness, he’s going to have an even better year. Adding Fiji (thanks to Volcom) only helps him since he’s already proven himself in heaving, hollow reef breaks. His true test will come mid year. Seizing momentum in France will be huge because Kelly hasn’t won there since his first year on tour and Owen’s maiden WCT victory was at a beach break. This year could be closer than we think.

#3 JULIAN WILSON->Soft spoken. Grounded. Immensely talented. Julian deserves a place in this conversation. While he didn’t win an event, he placed 9th in his first year on tour does not do justice to how well rounded he is. Clips of him punting huge airs and torso torquing reverses shadow his solid approach in point breaks and courage in grinding reef breaks. His final appearance with Medina in France could have gone either way but the impression was made. I don’t expect him to start with two 25ths this year and Fiji may prove to be a huge result for him close to mid year. I for one would not mind seeing him in another beach break battle with Medina.

#4 JOEL PARKINSON->I want Parko to win a world title so badly. After the heartbreak of 2009, he has steadily started to gain confidence. Judges will continue to write him off because his style is so effortless. Colleagues continue to be baffled at why he still hasn’t won one. This is a guy willing to put in the hard yards coupled with brilliant talent but the shine disappears in small waves. He can link powerful hooks, snaps, and carves in overhead waves but anything under head high and he appears mortal. Soft sand runs and trunk rotation work outs won’t help him there. Tell Wes to mix in some jump rope, suicides, and ladder drills.

#5 TAJ BURROW->Taj is notorious for disappearing after the first three events. We’ve seen it before. He flares up at Snapper, they carry him up the sand, he makes the declaration, and we’re thinking “this could be the year!!!!” Then he loses to Bobby Martinez in round three at Bells, comes up short to a flailing Adriano, and we don’t hear from him anymore. His delayed coronation is a complete mystery. Thanks to John Gannon he’s got the power to match his incredible speed and quickness but now it’s just a matter of consistent heat strategy. There’s no way Taj should ever lose to Bobby at Bells let alone when it’s incredible Bells.

-T

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Posted January 18, 2012 by travstradewinds in Uncategorized

a step in the right direction   Leave a comment

The last week or so in surfing has been marked by a few odd events. The first was the resignation of ASP President Brodie Carr. Citing the miscalculation of the clinching of the world title by Kelly Slater, Carr tendered his resignation and a replacement has not yet been found. I have mixed feelings because I believe the failed math was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. First, you had the controversial heat between Owen Wright and Adriano De Souza where De Souza was “pushed” by judges when he was given an 8 for a floater. Then came the bizarre decision to stop the clock in the heat between Jordy Smith and Travis Logie when Jordy dislocated his shoulder. Then there was the dissent from Freddy Pattachia and the utter melt down of Bobby Martinez for the advocating of the reseeding in the middle of the season. In Carr’s defense, the tour is in a better place than it was six years ago. There is more money. There are more events in quality waves. Each surfer is covered by health insurance. Events run faster. Better heats are surfed by more exciting surfers. Credit is due for being classy and taking the blame. In a day and age where we hardly see any corporate accountability at all, it’s nice to see it coming from the forefront of my favorite sport.

The second stunning event was the announcement that the ASP would introduce drug testing at each event. And no…I don’t think this is a bad idea. It’s a great idea. Clearly, it’s a possibility the tour and its administration had been pondering for awhile. The guys on tour don’t have a problem with it. The organization couldn’t push it forward without their approval. Going back as far as 2007, many of the top surfers were in favor of it. Joel Parkinson told the Sun Herald, “If it’s going to get real serious, I think for sure. If the money goes up in the sport – and the prize money goes up by $600 next year for each place – then there should be testing.” Parkinson has been the model of professionalism coming into each season looking like an iron man resulting from a healthier lifestyle. Others have certainly followed suit before and after him. Whether it’s at the CHEK facility in Australia or the Boar’s Nest in Oahu, surfers are taking better car of themselves via diet and exercise and this latest development has confirmed their willingness to accept that position as role models. “They (pro surfers) are public figures,” he said. “If they’re doing drugs, it’s a bad example. If you’re being paid to be a performing athlete, you can’t have people being stoned. It sets a bad example for the sport.”

Now …LOST may hate this along with the other salty dogs of the seventies, eighties, and nineties. Don’t get me wrong. Have a pint or two when the event is over but even Occy couldn’t overcome his demons without dismissing booze for a long while and steering clear of drugs. It’s important to note that the penalties will be slightly different. Bong rips won’t carry the same punishment as coke or heroin. Regardless of the severity of each drug, rest assured this will help dozens maybe hundreds of surfer reach their potential and increase the longevity of their career and the quality of their surfing. Who knows…had this been in place a year or two it may have done the same for Andy Irons.

 

-TP

Posted November 17, 2011 by travstradewinds in Uncategorized

ke11y   Leave a comment

I’m not a huge numbers guy but I did call this stat in the beginning of the year and I stand by it. When Slater wins one of the first events of the year in Australia, be it Manly, Bells, or Snapper, he wins the world title…all the time…every time…100% of the time. He won Snapper and now he’s clinched no. 11. Face it. The guy is like a fine wine. He keeps getting better with age.

For all the Slater haters out there who claim he gets pushed by judges, who think his degree of difficulty in maneuvers is masked by his overly flexible spinal column, and even his peers who resent him for not hanging it up…well, sorry. He’s just better than you. Taj Burrow conceded to that fact when Jimmy Slade lofted a full rotation 360 on what we all thought was a close out in New York. Owen had to face it twice when he realized Kelly owns Lowers with no time left and surfs Tahiti better on his backside than Owen’s frontside. The worst part is that Kelly proved he could still take a lesser finish in Brazil and a 33rd at J-Bay and still be in it. Good for him but now I’m calling out the other thirty something guys at every event with him and I’m saying MAN UP AND BEAT HIM.

Kelly said it himself that he’s not leaving until someone puts him out to pasture. There was a point where I thought this was good for surfing but that ship has sailed. With Kelly on tour, we’re looking at MAYBE two guys who will contend for the title. Now picture this. Without that balding, intelligent, well spoken, all around performer…we’re talking four or five guys going back and forth throughout the year to raise the cup over their head come Hawaii. Ten wasn’t bad for the sport. Eleven the world can live with. Twelve would be excessive and the most gigantic middle finger to the rest of the globe. Streaks are great but it’s time for parody and that doesn’t come until the king falls.

Taj looked off to another promising start but cannot finish to save his life let alone in a place where he won last year (Snapper) and a punchy beach break (his bread and butter) against a warring, stumpy, allegedly roided out garden gnome who claims threes. That’s not passion by the way. That’s idiotic. Joel rebounded from an early exit to claim the bell but realized he still can’t surf small waves. Mick…wait, where was Mick this year? Aside from a finals finish in terrible J-Bay, did Mick make the cut? Is he still on tour? It’s frightening to think how insignificant he was considering he’s one of two guys to win not one but two world titles with Kelly on tour. Jordy lurked around somewhere in the background after an effortless performance against Mick but one controversial decision at Tahiti and a few broken ribs later and his year was effectively over. And that garden gnome…I mean Adriano…well, Adriano is Adriano and he can claim like no one else but he should probably take a page out of Gabriel Medina’s book and surf BETTER and claim less. Furthermore, I’m pretty convinced that without a little pushing from judges he doesn’t even make finals because let’s face it a floater does not earn you an eight. Clearly, I have little to no faith in the last four guys.

Owen Wright is our Luke Skywalker. He is the last hope. NO ONE has drawn Kelly three events in a row and come that close each time to beating him and even taken one from him. The kid has it all. Style, grace, power, speed, quickness, competitive savvy to navigate through the world’s best, and the repertoire to find himself in LOST ATLAS. He’s the equivalent of Andrew Luck: talent ridden, unflappable, and a gem of a person. Owen had his shot to catch Kelly in France because Hossegor is Kelly’s Achilles heel. It has been since the dawn of his career. He’ll make quarters and semis but he’ll never win it. But, alas, my dream was dashed when Owen ducked out in round five and Kelly made the quarterfinals.

At some point, Kelly will start losing. Gravity will take its toll. His kryptonite will be revealed. There will be blood in the water and sharks will feast BUT…someone has to do it. Someone needs to take him to task. Someone needs to get quarters or better everywhere in the world. Someone needs to axe him at Lowers with a wave that would make it impossible for him to come back from. The problem is…the way he’s looking now…I have no idea when that will happen.

 

-T

Posted November 17, 2011 by travstradewinds in Uncategorized

An old dog and the value of old tricks   Leave a comment

I consider myself a pretty old school guy when it comes to surfing. I don’t use a deck pad. All of my boards have glass on fins. I even employ the use of a back zip wet suit. Technology? Ha! That’s just what appeals to me in the art of riding waves. I marveled at Occy’s rail burying turns and his facial contortions that accompanied them as if it caused him pain to push that hard. I admired Tom Carroll’s courage when he gouged a huge snap in the pocket at massive Pipeline en route to his world title. I got lost in watching Curren weave through corduroy like J-Bay and holding his lines through the powerful offshore bowls. Call it what you will but no one can deny its place permanently cemented in surfing.

So when the rest of the Quiksilver Pro France contest concluded there was something else that caught my eye. Yes, I commended Julian Wilson’s well-rounded approach and his refreshing blend of carves and aerial blasts. Yes, I was mesmerized by Gabriel Medina’s seemingly effortless boosts and the fact that he seemed to use his entire board. My favorite part is when he stuck a gigantic reverse on a left with his front foot nearly at the nose and he somehow managed to distribute his weight evenly enough to ferociously blast the lip one more time. Who does that?! No, check that…who CAN do that?

Yes, the freak show is entertaining. There’s no denying that. It’s viscerally pleasing to people that don’t even know what good surfing is but I get bored after the first ten minutes in “Lost Atlas”. So while I will congratulate Medina I was even more delighted to see the handle bar moustache laden Taylor Knox taking names with his old school but powerful, quick, and decisive approach. At age forty, he’s still throwing more spray than most of the top ten. He may not be the guy to look to for the most tweaked out air reverse but he still sets the standard for the most buried rail and, this includes Slater, potentially the most technically perfect style in the world. There’s not a raised arm or bent knee or extended leg that seems out of place and did I mention he’s 40?!

While Knox isn’t expected to contend for the title this year or maybe even an event this year, he is contending for the iron man award. I’m not sure he’s consciously trying to break Occy’s record but when you look at how much work he’s put into taking care of his body and his mind he’s probably going to. It’s a mystery to most why Knox doesn’t own places like J-Bay, Bells, and Lowers where his style and skill set translates almost too well. However, it’s more rewarding to see him schooling the next generation in punchy beach breaks where his approach doesn’t fit in but he’s capable of making it work. He gets a third in Brazil last year and a third in France this year and both come at the expense of the ultra competitive, overly prepared, silent assassin that is his white haired, fast twitched good friend Mick Fanning. Fort Knox over the White Lightning? Interesting.

This time next year Owen Wright will be attempting to ward off the new generation of Smith, Wilson, and Medina and fans will be enamored with a potential Kelly-less tour and much more parody. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be paying close attention to that but I’ll still be waving that Bear flag and pulling for the guy sporting amber alert provoking facial hair and sickening man hacks. Party on, Knox!

Posted November 17, 2011 by travstradewinds in Uncategorized

A new hope…   Leave a comment

It’s only been a week since the quest began but after Tahiti we were all searching for someone who would put Kelly Slater “out to pasture” as he so eloquently put it. Well…we found our guy in that of Owen Wright. The same guy whom Kelly barely edged out in Tahiti is maybe the only guy in the world at this point who can take Kelly on and keep him from 2011. I know that’s a bold statement but I’m standing by it. This is a guy in his second year on tour and in less than two weeks he’s demonstrated something that no one else on tour has: a balance of well rounded capacity in the tour’s waves and an unflappable mental approach.

Credit first to the fact that he’s shown he can show up in any stop on tour and be a difference maker. He has two 13ths that are throwaways coming from J-Bay and Snapper BUT he also garnered a 5th at Bells, another 5th at Brazil (where he got taken out by a fist pumping garden gnome), a 2nd in dredging Tahiti (against the greatest surfer of all time), and then claims his maiden victory in a sleeper performance beach break against the very same greatest surfer of all time. Owen’s one of only a few guys who can go from two foot Brazil to ten foot Tahiti and snag at least a quarters finish. He can loft stupid airs and bury his rail. He can hack point breaks on his backhand and stand tall in the barrel. More importantly…he can lose close to the ten-time world champ…and shake it off a week later.

Unlike Taj Burrow, all formalities and politeness aside, Kelly Slater is just another guy to Owen Wright when he draws him in a heat. Maybe the week turnover in waiting periods helped but Owen bounced back faster than Rory Mcilroy after the U.S Open meltdown. Especially after Kelly smacked Taj late in that semi-final heat with a ten, I kept thinking that he was just laying in wait to break Owen’s heart in the dying minutes but it never happened. Cold as ice, Owen went to work early with solid surfing and scores and took the world champ to task in New York. He’s a cold-blooded killer in the water and all smiles out of it. NO ONE and I mean NO ONE matches up with Kelly mentally and tactically but Owen comes very close. Maybe he doesn’t want to rip Kelly’s head off the same way Andy Irons once did BUT he does know how to keep Kelly out of his own.

Maybe we wait to crown Owen until he closes at the end of the year. Maybe we wait until he gets his second tour win. Maybe we wait until he jumps Kelly in the ratings BUT…it’s clear that there’s at least one guy who’s not afraid of Kelly. It’s clear that there’s at least one guy who is willing to stare down Kelly in the dying seconds of a final and not blink and it’s clear that it’s going to take that kind of guy to “put Kelly out to pasture”.

-Trav

Posted September 12, 2011 by travstradewinds in Uncategorized

no. 11 on the horizon   Leave a comment

Remember that theory everyone had about one ten time world champion becoming disinterested and disenchanted with the world tour and his competitive legacy? Well that went right out the window within the last month. That notion can’t hold true when you consider that he bulldozed through ninety-six plus guys (most of whom weren’t even on the world tour). We’re talking scrapping qualifiers, dynamic free surfers, heavily totted amateurs, and even a few legends…and Kelly carved them all up. Poor Yadin Nichols discovered what nearly every one of his former opponents has discovered in that final on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier. Get to work early and keep Kelly off good scoring waves and hope he doesn’t scrap out scores in decent looking waves. Yeah…I don’t think that strategy took.

Going into Tahiti, despite Parko holding on to a slim lead above Jordy, he needed to scratch a result. I was calling quarters and he’s absolutely capable of that. Instead, he floundered in round one and his fate was sealed when he couldn’t find an exit from a frothy tube that most would have scored an eleven. Good for Jordy, right? Well, not really. You couldn’t have created a more perfect storm literally or figuratively for Kelly because no more than twenty-four hours after assuming the number one position Jordy lost. Ditto for Taj, Mick, and Adriano. Even though Kelly was sitting in sixth, the other five guys ahead of him were dropping like flies and easing his path to the final against an in form Owen Wright. Credit where it’s due because there’s not many guys in the world who could shred two foot Brazil and then come out and man handle eight to ten foot Tahiti. The final proved to be a great shoot out but the end it was Kelly’s ability to get deeper on his backhand that got him the win. Even though his lead is slim, he still finds himself in a very familiar place…number one.

It’s no secret that to some extent there’s a fair bit of resentment for Jimmy Slade on tour. When is the guy going to hand his skates up? Will he retire this year? Judging by a quote in his post tenth world title interview, he’s not going away anytime soon. Not until someone starts “putting him out to pasture”. Well the last guy with that capability suffered a life altering mental and physical meltdown a year ago (RIP). Don’t get me wrong. I was banging the retirement drum post no. 10 just like everyone else in the hopes of more parity and intrigue on tour. However, when he’s constantly evolving his game to match and often times exceed the level of performance of the best surfers in the world then this isn’t a guy we should be going in on. This is a guy we should be celebrating.

 

-Trav

Posted September 12, 2011 by travstradewinds in Uncategorized

J-Bay Recap   Leave a comment

As I said before, I had very little faith in Adriano’s ability to hold the lead through J-Bay and not only did he lose it but he went down a spot to third. Let’s be honest. Brazil was his best shot at a victory on tour and it will probably be his only one for the season. That being said…congratulations to Jordy Smith for defending his title from last year. While it wasn’t proper J-Bay where you get barreled five times with swooping arcs in between, Jordy and Mick made good use of the shifty conditions and teed off on the crumbling lips with lip blasts, reverses, and airs. Credit goes to Joel for making the best of the conditions that didn’t exactly favor him and to Ace for leading the charge of the goofy foots. In the end, Jordy’s progressive approach mixed with power turns earned him the win and put him into second place.

Despite not winning the contest, Joel continues to do what he needs to do in order to remain front runner for the world title. He needs to own the spots the he owns and scratch results at the places that he doesn’t. Winning Bells and getting a third at J-Bay is owning what he should and scratching a 5th in small lefts in Brazil is a good compliment. Aside from his 13th at the beginning of the year, he has no more throw aways…yet. The road doesn’t get easier. Gone will be the winding points he’s favored at but the peaky perfection of Lowers and bone crunching sand bottom barrels of Portugal (where he got 3rd two years ago) await.

A few questions remain. How interested and locked in is Kelly for 11? Will we see Dane surf another WCT heat? First off, Kelly’s focus is waning right before our eyes. He would rather miss an event in sub par conditions than miss a legendary swell at Cloudbreak. He’s realigning his priorities and resigned himself the fact that he may not get 11 this year…and maybe he shouldn’t try. Second, the tour’s allure is lost on Dane. His knee is fine and even if he wins Tahiti he’ll miss the cut. He’s fine with it and so was Quiksilver, who supposedly included some Jamie O’Brien clauses in his new five year contract giving him the freedom to do what he wants (jersey or no jersey). The only place we could see him is as a wild card at lowers but even this is a stretch.

Regardless, if all these theories hold true, this means an exciting second half of the year with more parody than we’ve potentially ever seen!

AND NOW YOUR MOMENT OF MEDITATION…

“They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.”-Ghandi

-Trav

Posted August 2, 2011 by travstradewinds in Uncategorized