Fiji lived up to its reputation this year, albeit without a repeat of the biblical proportions of 2012. Cloudbreak and Restaurants were on fire just before the competition began, but kept aside some serious screamers for the heats. At this tour stop, even during the flat days pros didn’t dare whinge about their plight in this sick-ass 5* resort.
Fiji, fourth stop of the season, big or small, usually signifies the start of the actual “Dream Tour”, saturated with cartoony waves, palm trees, tropical waters, tube orgies.
The three successive events of Fiji, Bali and Tahiti are by far the best leg of the season, so it’s not surprising to see that this is the leg chosen by Paul SPEAKER, new President of the ASP, to bring in American network colossus NBC to start shooting.
Sure it’s a bit sexier than rainy brown Rio 2013… The ZoSea revolution is underway.
No flashing primary school kids for Mitch! Just surfin!
Fiji, in all its perfection, also serves as the ultimate guardrail, resetting the standards, thereby purifying pro surfing of many of its sins (beach crowd obsession, aerial repetition, oversurfing, claim overdoses… ) and stripping it down to its very core: basic, fucking good ol’ fashioned proper surfing, tubes and power turns.
This is where experience makes the difference, placement, wave selection, choosing the only good line because any wrong path here is tolerated by neither shallow reef or judges.
Knowledge, technique… being able to adapt surfing and surfboards to the two bipolar waves of the venue, reading their rhythms, the way they trick you into faceplanting on what seemed to be a simple-but-mutated-into-a-vicious-double-up section requires multiple stays on the heart-shaped island.
This explains the constant in these reef events: you can put your money, house and wife on the holy quintet (Kelly-Mick-Parko-Hobgoods) reaching the finals, proving that the WCT Island leg belongs to the vets.
Fiji 2013 was also packed with action, drama, twists and plenty of other awesome stuff
Massive false starts: NO Top 10 surfer going through the first round (put aside the absences of Parko and Slater) leaving empty field for a proper left-foot-forward domination (8/12 of Rd1 winners are goofies), domination which will be ephemeral though, as C.J is the only survivor out of Rd5.
Brazil’s Epic Fail: 4 out of 6 surfers do not even pass the first round and go straight back home with a mediocre group average of 9.06pts for all their heats. PUPO and ALVES will follow shortly after Rd3. Massive blow for the Brazilian contingent after such a strong early season.
Bad boards (tails too thick) poor preparation, lack of experience … Watching Gabriel – 2nd in 2012 – and Adriano – rankings leader before Fiji – getting bounced out of this ocean can only spice up the second part of the season to come.
So pay attention to the Brazilian revenge on Bali before a possible bis repetita placent of the same fiasco in Teahupoo if they fail to learn from their Fijian mistakes.
The come backs: Both with ankles strapped, John John and Freddie P marked a promising return in the contest rashies. Parko is finally waking up after a few months of uncertainty, and Jeremy finally found the way to good scores, almost giving the impression of have fun… almost.
Injuries: Glenn HALL and Travis LOGIE joyfully faceplanted onto the reef last week, the former scoring three fractured vertebrae in a dubious attempt of a frontside-Colt-Seavers-barrel-roll-to-Gordon-Ramsey’s-underwater-scorpion-omelette on dry reef, while the latter treated himself with a serious post-gastro full exfoliating scrub, being dragged on the rather unwelcoming bottom for several meters.
Speedy recovery for them both, but let’s face it: Fiji without injury is way less exciting, so thank you guys for your sacrifices.
Perfection: unreal waves triggered an avalanche of excellence scores, John John put on the expected show, and it’s no surprise that Kelly Slater scored his second perfect heat score of 20/20 (his second), the fifth in the history of professional surfing.
Here are your “Power Wankings” for Fiji, do not hesitate to post comments, insults, threats.
# 31 Kieren PERROW – Fiji # 13 – # 32 ASP:
With this 2nd last place, KP signs his best result of the season, which reflects its current form and above it all his level in comparison with the rest of the Tour. Unsurprisingly, great commitment and control in the tube, but when the Australian is left with an open face to hit, his surfing turns winded, outdated, unflattering, contrasting even more painfully while opposed to a firing Jordy Smith. KP will therefore have to settle for straight-ahead into the tubes if he expects to go through at least one more round this season, but could very well requalify (yes) and monopolize again a spot on the Tour next year if the next stops (Bali, Tahiti, France, Peniche, Hawaii) cooperate and offer him the only combination that allows him to shine again: drop + barrel + kick-out.
# 30 Alejo Muniz – Fiji # 25 – # 28 ASP:
First heat was catastrophic for the Brazilian who seemed to be struggling to find a good line with a board that was visibly having hard time to advance properly. Too slow in his bottoms and having a lot of trouble to turn quickly, his trajectories were approximate, borderline out of control. Some good moments in the vertical part of his maneuvers during his Rd2 against Julian, but it was still very pale and sketchy in comparison with the rest of the regular-footers (Slater / Parko / Taj / Jordy …) who obviously did not have much difficulties in managing the chop and the speed of the wave.
# 29 Adam MELLING – Fiji # 25 – # 25 ASP:
Carbon copy of his Rio event for surfing’s doppelgänger of “How I met your mother”‘s awesome Barney STINSON. The Australian surfed EXACTLY the same competition in Brazil, with a dual performance in Rd1 (an excellent 9.63 pts complete a weak 3.73) and a 0.11 pts elimination against Taj in a Rd2 heat marred by difficult conditions. Mello is the equivalent of Brett Simpson: an incredible talent hampered by horrifying irregularity. Hope for him that luck eventually turns on for the next stops so he could garner some points before being unfortunately driven out of the WCT.
# 28 Freddie Patacchia Jr – Fiji # 25 – # 32 ASP:
The Hawaiian veteran (qualified in 2005) will have surfed only a couple of times before putting back on the old contest vest, but seemed pretty confident about the strength of his ankle. Visibly at ease in this Fijian garden he has been visiting for nearly 15 years, Freddie P. dominates a risky Rd1 (Jordy and Seabass) thanks to his wave selection and impeccable reading of the tube, before falling on the Rd3 against an unstoppable Taj on the best waves. Let’s see if the ankle is also okay on maneuvers in Bali before potentially reach the final rounds in Tahiti (5th in 2010).
# 27 Miguel PUPO – Fiji # 13 – # 28 ASP:
Gradually returned to competition after his badly fractured fibula + ankle, Miguie cruised through his first round – sans Kelly – without forcing, and despite a serious 40°C tropical fever, he has shown a lot of finesse in his wave entries. Very patient in his duel against Jeremy and plagued by particularly low scores, Miguel fails to find waves with scoring potential and ends up bowing before stronger than him. Keep an eye on him in Bali, where the goofy will juggle with his backside tuberiding skills and the air game is already famous for.
# 26 Travis LOGIE – Fiji # 13 – # 20 ASP:
Competition in half-tone for the Saffa, who after a brief glimpse of his talent in the tube (8.83 pts) and encouraging win in Rd1, was sent home after certainly one of the worst days of his career against C.J aka The Specialist: already weakened by a nasty gastro flu, Travis is seriously eating sh*t on the dry reef on his very first wave and will never find back the rhythm of a heat yet within his reach (9.67 against 7.87 pts). Bitter 13th place finish for Travis, who will definitely stick to the sheets until Bali where he hopes to regain some of his early season momentum before returning to Tahiti where he already reached the quarters.
# 25 Glen HALL – Fiji # 13 – # 25 ASP
The Aussie-cum-Irisher had a ball during Rd1 with a smart, precise surfing. Excellent reading of the tube and its adjustments, good surf on the rail and very few errors. Nevertheless relayed to second place by C.J, he meets Jordy in Rd2, whose giant feet already kicked his micro butt twice in Bells and Rio, and as the expression goes, all Jordy beatings come in threes. A heat however his scope, which could have turned in his favor if he had managed to get out the tricky, steppy tube that threw him first on the reef, then in the medical plane, then in the MRI and now to 6 weeks of forced bed-rest with three lumbar vertebrae fractured. Fiji has served to thwart two preconceptions: 1) Glen HALL has the level to be on the Tour. 2) Even the smallest things can be folded in half.
# 24 Damien HOBGOOD – Fiji # 13 – # 28 ASP
Insulting result to one of the best surfers in the world at Fiji. Kelly and the Hobgoods (cool bluegrass music band name btw) are the only ones to surf that far up the spot. Two decades of experience on the spot give a unique confidence, catalyzing a unique wave entry and quasi-organic adjustments in the trajectories. Opposed to Double John in Rd3, both specialists compete in the tubes, but where the Floridian focuses primarily on riding the barrel and puts the faceturns far down his priority list, John John scores with commitment on both sides, sending the two-times event champion out prematurely, despite a total of more than 16pts. Revenge on Tahiti.
# 23 Brett Simpson – Fiji # 13 – # 20 ASP
Great start of the event for the Californian, showing a truly strong and confident surfing in Rd1 against Ace and JJF. Performance that, despite timid scores (judges probably keeping some scale space for a possible fireworks from his two opponents) proved to gossips that Brett is capable of excellence. Taking advantage of every opportunity, he surfed brilliantly and with authority, sneaking his way out from extremely complex tubes and punctuating each section of the wave with huge vertical and controlled maneuvers. Unfortunately this good form has been short but intense, the Huntington local finding no good waves against Josh Kerr, escaping to Rd4 with just an average score. Watch out for Bali, Brett seems to be on a good phase and if he surfs with as much gusto as his Rd1 in Fiji, he can do some damage as he masters the entire repertoire of maneuvers.
# 22 Bede Durbidge – Fiji # 25 – # 19 ASP:
Last of a really boring heat in the first round, White Fijian has never worn his nickname so badly, missing completely this Fiji Pro 2013. Below-par wave selection and chaotic heat management lead to a painful last place for Bede, who on top of that got dismembered by JJF with 3 waves scored above 9.4 pts including a 10 … Things may be complicated against the flying youth in Bali, and, as mid-season is approaching, Bede needs to start getting a second good result to ensure a place in 2014.
# 21 Michel BOUREZ – Fiji # 25 – # 12 ASP
Frustrating competition for Michel, who reissued his last place of 2012. The ocean was a cheating mistress with the Spartan, who after a first round unsurprisingly dominated by C.J, found himself in Rd2 against Wilko, in conditions close to what he finds in his backyard, and that should logically favor his experience on backhand tuberiding reefs. Greedy on its sections, certainly trying to hard too, the Tahitian ends up by losing his nerve and surfs his heat not against the Australian, who’s smartly gathering scores on the easiest waves; but against the ocean, trying to force out scores of excellence on waves too complicated. Big contrast between the peacefulness that fired him up back in Snapper and the apparent frustration and impatience he showed on Fiji. Michel needs to restore confidence, regain that feeling of victory, of overwhelming dominance at the end of his heats that is consistently fading away for a few months now. Watch out in Bali where his power surfing may very well cause damage, and then Tahiti, with the support of his family and where eventually his planets should align.
Spartan… frustrated with a poor finish in Fiji.
# 20 Matt Wilkinson – Fiji # 13 – # 23 ASP
Average results but still a good event for Wilko, whose decapitation at the end of Rd1 visibly (finally) shook his ideas back into place and led him to focus on an option that pays: wave selection (usually the second of the set) with the maximum potential of feasibility, quietly “building foundation” on several 7 or 8 point-waves instead of chasing the elusive 10pts, often unmake-able. Wilko the strategist, very methodical and in rhythm with the spot, minimizing his lines to the simplest: solid carving off the tops, clean tubes. Nat YOUNG used the same strategy against him in Rd3, constantly on the best waves while Wilko struggled to find waves with potential. His backside surfing in Keramas and his commitment to Tahiti (where he has already scored a 10) are promising two good events for Wilko.
# 19 Adrian Buchan – Fiji # 25 – # 17 ASP
Jinx continues to pursue Ace after the discgate fiasco in Rio. Surfed his usual solidness in round one, using variety and complete waves to balance out the rare tubes of the bad tide, however, he’s still the victim of the oh-so-compact Glen HALL and faces the unpredictable Seabass in Rd2. Ace then dominated his heat with the frontside tuberiding maestria he is known for, and was about to set foot in Rd3 when Zietz stole his victory in the dying seconds with an impossible hail mary tube. Good surfing and bad result for Ace, who fails without remorse at 0.04 pts from the third Round. May do well at Teahupoo, but will first have to seriously get to work in Bali to overpass the limits of the variety of his backhand repertoire on the Balinese skatepark-waves.
# 18 Kai OTTON – Fiji # 13 – # 15 ASP:
Excellent performance for Kai in the first round, which, based on his training on Tavarua past week, puts on a clinic against Dusty and Gabriel. While his competitors panic and struggle to find the waves with potential, Kai, patient, will stand up only three times: great reading of the conditions, intuitive placement in the tube punctuated by insane carves, he scores above 17 points and flies quietly to the third Round. Opposed to Seabass in an average-scored duel, he surprises by his priority mistake at the end of the heat and lets his ticket to Rd4 slip away to the benefit of the Hawaiian, who tends to collect last minute turnovers. Watch out for his backside off the lip in Bali, before a possible place in the final rounds in Tahiti.
Otto cuts his snake back to the future.
# 17 Julian Wilson – Fiji # 13 – # 15 ASP:
An average of lousy scores for this event (9.48 pts) that does not reflect the quality of his surfing in Fiji. As in Rio, by far one of the best bottom turns backside of the event, he fades deeper than everyone to better fit to the section, whether to hit the lip the more vertically possible, or to stall the earlier possible within the tube, closest to the foamball. Excellent drawing of his lines for Julian, who will unfortunately suffer a crappy timing throughout the entire event, having to surf each one of his heats in the worst tide and wind conditions: few real tubes, rough wave faces and lots of close outs. Prepare for fireworks in Keramas Julian will want to break this series of three penultimate results.
# 16 C.J HOBGOOD – Fiji # 3 – # 8 ASP
Not really a surprise to see at least a 50% ratio of Hobgoods in the final stages when you’re in Fidj. This year it was CJ, who again pushes up to the semis, stage of the competition he accessed in each edition since his tour inception (with the exception of 2002: 9th). Like his brother and Kelly, an empirical knowledge of the reef gives the inestimable advantage of being in charted territory on a spot where positioning at the line up and wave selection decide who’s making the rounds and who’s licking his wounds. Amazing tube riding, excellence in feeling and matching the wave’s tempo, C.J fades and stalls with genius, winning all his heats with deep tubes and huge Archy-carves. His prowesses in the water outshine a low 12.51pts average in Fiji (4.3 points less than John John, also on the third step of the podium) which also proves the strategic intelligence of the Floridian. Bali may be a little more complicated for the veteran, before he lands in Tahiti and does his same freak-tube thingy-thing and qualifies for the fifteenth season of his career.
Now go to Part 2 Power Wankings.