A.K.A. The Surf Europe Poll Awards
Words by Norman Bellingdon
“What’s all this about a poll?” we hear you ask. “I was never asked to vote for anything, you fascist bastards.” That’s because it isn’t strictly speaking a poll. No, the winners have all been chosen by former Premier League referee and new addition to the ASP judging panel, Graham Poll. You didn’t know he was into surfing? Neither did we, but he seems to know his stuff.
THE STANLEY MATTHEWS AWARD FOR THE BEST SURFER OVER THE AGE OF FIFTY: TOM CURREN
Curren’s style and drive were always going to be ideally suited to J-Bay’s long and muscular walls, but for years their acquaintance had been put on hold as Curren refused to travel to South Africa in protest against apartheid. He finally made it there in 1992, and his first surf at what many consider the ultimate point break was immortalized in Sunny Miller’s now legendary movie, Searching For Tom Curren. It has become perhaps the single most iconic surf session in history.
Which made his 10-point ride in the Heritage Series heat at this year’s J-Bay Open, over twenty years later, aged 50, all the more special. “I’ve always been a great fan of Curren’s,” said Graham. “I think he was marginally offside for this one, but we’ll give him the benefit off the doubt.” Curren’s claim upon making the barrel may have been out of keeping with his famously understated manner, but we will give him the benefit of the doubt here too. If ever a wave was worthy of a claim it was this one, and the fact that Curren thought so too conveys some idea of the dream-like perfection of this moment.
THE STEVEN GERRARD ‘NO PRIZES FOR 2ND PLACE’ AWARD FOR THE MOST 2ND PLACES: JOEL PARKINSON
The most stylish regular-foot since Tom Curren, Parko was narrowly edged out in the final of the year’s first event by future World Champ Gabriel Medina. Joel had probably been the best surfer over the course of the Quik Pro at Snapper, but Medina surfed a smart heat and posted two high scores in the last 10 minutes to nick the win by a margin of 0.06. “It could have gone either way,” said Graham. “Really it was six of one, half a dozen of the other, and the judges just call it as they see it.”
His semi-final against Matto Wilky at J-Bay came directly after the Heritage Series heat, and Parko took the baton from Curren almost as seamlessly as he transitioned between turns. He backed up his 8.83, which featured possibly the longest cutback ever seen in competition, with a perfect 10 of his own, shown below. He struggled, however, to reproduce the same kind of form in the final, where he was beaten by chum Mick Fanning.
THE ZINEDINE ZIDANE AWARD FOR POETRY IN MOTION (HEADBUTT OPTIONAL): STEPHANIE GILMORE
Stephanie Gilmore won her sixth world title this year, aged just 26, and did so with the elegance of a virgin swan gliding across a still lake, the majesty and power of a lioness balanced by the nimble grace of a ballerina. “I am hopelessly, unbearably, irrevocably in love,” said Graham. Undisputed Queen of the Jungle, Gilmore is one of the most pleasing surfers to watch in the world, male or female.
And here, why not, is her perfectly-surfed 10-point ride at the Swatch Pro at Trestles.