“I’m just taking it heat by heat… My boards are feeling amazing… [Insert average surfer] is such a tough opponent… I’ve been training really hard… Everyone’s so good these days that you can’t take any heat for granted… It’s always great coming to France, I just love the culture…"
And so on and so forth. Interviews with surfers, particularly live broadcast interviews, tend to follow a predictable and dreary pattern, a series of generic, not particularly probing questions patted away with a selection of stock responses.
But isn’t it fun when a surfer switches off the filter, rips up the script, and says what he or she is really thinking?
Fred Patacchia Jr
“They’ve got his testicles so far up their mouths that this is bullshit."
It’s not the most coherent metaphor, in fairness, from a physiological point of view. At what point, when a pair of testicles is introduced into someone's mouth, does it become bullshit? How does this transformation occur? And what kind of pillock puts testicles up his mouth? Down, surely. Fred and I must move in very different circles.
But it was a weirdly striking image. Patacchia used it to illustrate the perceived bias of the beach announcers towards his opponent Owen Wright at the 2010 Bells contest — like Martinez, below, he’d actually just won his heat — and was landed with a $1000 fine.
Presumably by now you’ve seen 11-year-old Sabre Norris’s headline-grabbing appearance on Australian telly last week. What, no? It was wonderful. After being awarded a wildcard entry into the Sydney International Women’s Pro, a QS event worth 6000 points, she took advantage of an interview with Australia’s The Today Show to rip into her overweight father, a former Olympic swimmer. And to proclaim her love for donuts, naturally.
She full-on shreds, so we're likely to see her give many more such interviews. Allow us to quote from a recent profile by Sean Doherty, which opens with the admission that he’s just been “outsurfed by a 10-year-old girl":
She’s too damn good to be cute. A searing, grab railed, laid over cutback isn’t “cute". Steph Gilmore describes Sabre’s surfing as “badass", and this was a badass turn. Halfway through the turn, somewhere, surely, a single tear was rolling down Matt Hoy’s cheek. On Sabre’s next wave she threw a forehand air reverse. Then she got tubed. Blam! Blam! Blam! Between waves she was effervescent company. She never stopped moving and there was no dead air. “How sick was my last one!" “How much fun is this!" And, finally, “That last turn of yours was really, err… interesting."
She’s also pretty handy on a skatey, landing a 540 on a vert ramp aged 9. “That was my 75th attempt of the day," she said after finally riding away cleanly for the first time. “Every time I tried one and didn't land it I put a rock on the table. It ended up being my 75th rock. I was frothing."
Dane, Pat and Tanner Gudauskas
Is there such a thing as too much stoke? Can a man be guilty of frothing too hard? Do some people just need to cheer the fuck down?
It would be fashionable to say yes — fashionable and mean and cold-hearted. Admittedly it would be nice to see one of the Gudauskas brothers lose his shit and kick a domestic animal in rage. But who needs anger and resentment when you have live televised interviews that descend, for no apparent reason, into uncontrollable fits of laughter, like this one given by Dane, Pat, and Tanner during this year’s US Open?
Bobby’s outburst at the 2011 Pro New York remains the benchmark against which all other surfer interviews are gauged, in fact it’s unlikely ever to be superseded. If such an interview were to be given again today, would you trust the FDWTT (Fucking Dumb Wannabe Tennis Tour) not to pull the plug immediately? Todd Klein did exactly the right thing in stepping back and allowing Martinez room to swing — compare Klein’s reaction to Mel’s, below — but Todd and his cheeky schoolboy grin, alas, are no longer part of the WSL.
Nor is Bobby Martinez, indeed he never was, having dropped off tour three years before the ASP’s name change (the interview would effectively be Bobby’s retirement speech). The actual content of the interview was a little puzzling -- Bob was clearly ignorant of the workings of the Association of Tennis Professionals -- but he struck a chord among those skeptical of pro surfing’s direction of travel, and five years down the track his words seem vaguely prophetic, in a roundabout sort of way.
"Funny Surfer Dude"
Numerous attempts have been made over the years to translate into words the blissful experience of surfing — to eff, as Beckett once put it, the ineffable. Few of them have been very successful. Oh sure, Willy Finnegan writes some very nice sentences, but as a general rule, visceral grunts and atavistic cries strike closest to the heart of the matter. Has anybody ever articulated the thrill of riding a wave quite as memorably as this nameless hero?
“Oh brah it’s just like, dude, you get the best barrels ever dude, it’s just like, you pull in, and you just get spit right out of them, and you just drop in, and you just smack the lip — ‘whupah!' — drop down — ‘snbaaaaah’ — and then after that, you just drop in and ride the barrel and get pitted, so pitted. Like that."
Gabriel Medina has begun every response in every interview he’s ever given with the words: “Errr yeeaah." They are generally spoken with a vacant sort of air that borders on haughtiness. The intonation varies, but it’s impossible to work out from this alone which way the interview’s going to go — is this the polite, unassuming, magnanimous Gabby we are about to encounter, or the raging, conspiratorial, more entertaining version?
If he’s just lost a heat under controversial circumstances, you know there’s a reasonable chance of it being the latter. When interviewed after his Round 2 loss to Glen Hall at last year’s Quik Pro Gold Coast, he started out calmly enough. But he grew more and more agitated, like a kettle on the stove gradually rising in temperature, until he finally came out with what he’d been waiting to say all along: “Next time Glen say ‘fuck you’ to me, I’ll teach him some bad words in Portuguese." At which point Pete Mel took him off the boil.
Mason Ho’s unconventional, unrehearsed, and hopelessly maladroit dance with the English language, each stepping constantly on the other’s toes, is a joy to behold.
Mason’s in the contest? You go to the Heat Analyzer, you check John John’s heat, you check Kelly’s, maybe see if Filipe or Gabby did anything noteworthy, then you go to Mason’s post-heat interview to hear what he came up with this time. Here's one from Pipe last year.
It's refreshing, every now and then, to hear from someone who knows exactly what they want to do with their money and isn't afraid to tell everyone. Sabre Norris had her sights firmly set on donuts; Hiroto Ohhara, surprise package at last year's US Open, was equally single-minded, albeit on a bigger scale.
Asked by Joe Turpel what he planned to with his $100,000 prize purse -- the biggest in surfing -- Hiroto responded, in broken English, that he simply wanted to get his driving license and then "get some cars," before breaking into guffaws of laughter. Internet stardom ensued. Most 18-year-olds would diversify a little -- maybe get one car, redecorate the bathroom, invest in some furnishings, buy some garden tools, put what's left in a savings account. But nope, Hiroto wanted automobiles, plural. The crazy bastard.