Grajagan’s back on the circuit. Best thing since coloured undies or worse than the Enola Gay circling your favourite surf spot?

Ever since I pioneered data driven surf journalism in 2016 after a bass fishing accident with Nate Silver from 538 blog I’ve noticed copy cat journalists coming out of the woodwork to “claim the numbers”.

WSL site itself being the worst offender.

Problem is: when it comes to analysing pro surfing the numbers do lie, or at least they don’t tell the story you think they do. Only one that doesn’t (lie) is the rankings and I think it’s appropriate, at this half way point in the Tour, to run our eye along the ruler and see how the numbers are stacking up.

The back half of the Tour is brutal for anyone on the slide. Judges smell blood and the whole thing plays out like a slow motion execution. Even the great Jeremy Flores who it seems has been in the top ten forever couldn’t make up the ground in the back half of the year after a bad start and had to back himself up on the QS in 2016.

Very badly, as it turns out, for the rookies and sophomores of the Tour, with scant exceptions. Deep on the wrong side of the cut is the worst place to be with Teahupoo dead ahead followed by Surf Ranch, Europe and Pipe. It’s not quite abandon hope all ye who enter here, but it ain’t far off

The back half of the Tour is brutal for anyone on the slide. Judges smell blood and the whole thing plays out like a slow motion execution. Even the great Jeremy Flores who it seems has been in the top ten forever couldn’t make up the ground in the back half of the year after a bad start and had to back himself up on the QS in 2016.

It’s a cruel sport. Maybe the cruelest.

The longer I watch it the more impressed by that inherent cruelty I become. It’s not the cruelty alone but the false positivity that frames it and makes it even starker.

You can see a competitor slowly spinning like Virgina Woolf’s Dying Moth while Rosie and Pottz wax lyrical about how grand life is for them. Only in pro surfing has such elaborate artifice been erected to make losing seem like winning.

My favourite examples have been Ethan Ewing (hopelessly undercooked to surf at CT level), Keanu Asing (truncated skill set- woeful in heavy water and OH point surf), Matt Wilkinson (bad luck, bad judging: a vortex that led to a self-fulfiling prophecy).

Still, it would be disingenuous to suggest or even hope that the bizarre fantasy world the WSL has created and showcased, where losing seems a secret shame that somehow defies even the most basic transparency, would ever change.

Anyone on the wrong side of the cut post J-Bay is doomed, barring a red hot run that not a single surfer in the last five years has managed. Even random good results that might offer hope, like Mike February’s fifth place at Teahupoo last year and Asing’s French victory in 2016,  end up being mirages in the desert.

Anyone on the wrong side of the cut post J-Bay is doomed, barring a red hot run that not a single surfer in the last five years has managed. Even random good results that might offer hope, like Mike February’s fifth place at Teahupoo last year and Asing’s French victory in 2016, end up being mirages in the desert.

The five cruellest events lay ahead.

Nowhere to hide at Teahupoo. Even less so at Kelly’s Tub. It doesn’t make the viewing anymore exciting but the undeniable precision of the cut and the way it ruthlessly dispenses with the backmarkers has to be admired. Europe is luck, even the great Kelly Slater ends up on the wrong side of thirty minutes of close-outs and Pipe is Pipe.

Seth Moniz looks safe, a rookie’s best chance is a strong start at the Gold Coast, traditionally the best chance for a rookie to stampede through. Ryan Callinan’s rejigged campaign looks solid, if unspectacular. He’ll rue letting Medina off the hook at J-Bay but luck went his way in France last year so even-stevens.

The injury wildcard will be the major X in the 2020 equation.

John John Florence is a guarantee, obvs.

Who gets the other one? Mikey Wright? Leonardo Fioravanti? Adriano De Souza? I see three round pegs trying to squeeze into one square hole. A great, if over-used plot-line for adult cinema, a recipe for tragedy in the world of pro surfing.

The TLDR version: no surprises this year. Colapinto stuck in the swamp of the sophomore slump but is on the road to pull himself out via the QS. Everyone else unwilling or unable to learn the lesson from your 2020 Olympic Gold Medallist Kanoa Igarashi: discard the cult of likeability, no matter how pantomime and back your motherfucking ass up on the Q’ey.

Now, G-Land. It’s back on the tour.

Where do you sit?

Best thing since coloured undies or worse than the Enola Gay circling your favourite surf spot?

Me: horrified but excited as hell. I got the 6’6” Desert Storm packed, a half pack of Gudam Gurangs in the carry-on.

I’m going, even if I have to beg Ricardo Christie for his email list so I can personally shakedown his crowdfunders for a gold coin donation to get there.

You’ll chup in cuzzy bro, eh? I mean you Neg.



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