Surfing has the power to turn a man into an egotistical, inconsiderate monster, and fantasy surfing — a phenomenon I considered pointless, pathetic even, until my recent initiation — can enact a similar transformation, turning him into an egotistical, inconsiderate monster by proxy, as it were.
It’s disconcerting to witness the process at work in oneself. Matt Wilkinson wasn’t in my team, but I didn’t want him to lose in Round 2 for the second time in a row, and especially not against Alex Ribeiro, for such a defeat seemed likely to trigger the kind of nervous breakdown he might never recover from. When Wilko fell on his first turn of the heat after waiting with priority for 10 minutes, and then Ribeiro scored his second 5, I had the unpleasant feeling we were about to see the most humiliating dispossession of a yellow jersey since the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. By all means let Ribeiro win a heat at some point, God, but not now, not like this.
And yet as soon as I remembered that my closest rivals in our league had picked Wilko for their teams — fools! — I began positively to savour his demise, and to look forward to his televised interview with Oprah. Then he began his comeback, and I turned irritable and sour, and by the time it became clear that Wilko would be spared the existential despair of losing the heat, I was in a murderously bad mood.
So Ribeiro remains winless, but for the first time this year a heat win seemed to be an actual possibility rather than just a theoretical one, and this will have been heartening. No doubt he can surf much better than he has so far surfed on the world tour; and in his post-heat interview with Rosy he sounded like such a likeable, genuinely nice guy… One takes no delight in the thought that he might not win a heat all year. And yet, at the same time, I feel sure the experience will be character-building. Just look at Ricky Basnett.