“The End Of The Road” Blog: Day 5
A brush with the police and some major paddle battles.
I spent the first half of the day in the channel hopping from boat to boat. It wasn’t the Tahiti you see in postcards, either. There was a blustery wind mingling with steady rain and the odd ten-footer that kept contestants on edge and the Tahitian Water Patrol busy. Sitting on the media boat where the surfers go after their heat, it’s an experience you don’t get at any other contest. For instance, where else would you be sitting there, turn around, and Joel Parkinson is handing you three of his surfboards. You can imagine the ease in which I set those into the boat—God forbid I’m the idiot who breaks the fin off his magic 6’6”.
Here are a few observations from right in the thick of it…
-Jadson Andre As a rainsquall rounded the corner of Tahiti Iti and a ten-foot set thundered through the channel, Brazil’s Jadson Andre only halfway joked to Luke Egan, “Luke! Call a lay day, Luke!” While I’m not sure why he was asking Luke Egan (who’s the former contest director) Jadson’s prayers were answered and he was granted a ten-minute stay of execution when the comp went on hold for a bit.
-Ricardo Dos Santos I’m staying at the same house as the Brazilian trials winner and not for one second did I doubt that he was going to beat Taj Burrow out there today. He charges like a madman, has contest smarts, and has much more experience at Teahupo‘o than Taj Burrow. He’ll surf against Kelly Slater in round three, which figures to be a way tougher task than Taj. Ricardo told me that he and Taj were chatting during the heat, “I’m not paddling for the bombs,” he said to Taj. “You can have ‘em!” Taj wanted no part of the big ones either, “So heavy mate, no way!” In a heat like that you’re almost looking out for the other guy as opposed to wanting to rip his throat out, like, at say, the US Open.
-Simpo over Parko The upset of the day occurred when Brett Simpson took down Joel Parkinson who is currently ranked #1 in the world. “You can’t listen to the crowd when you’re out there,” said Simpo of his strategy. “They’re just looking for people to eat shit.” To his credit, Parko took off on one of the biggest and thickest waves of the day, just made the drop, then pulled into a monster barrel, just getting clipped at the end. “That would’ve been an 11 if he made it!” exclaimed Josh Kerr. While Parko is obviously unhappy with the result, he didn’t smash his board up or splash water all over the place. He simply conferred with his coach (Luke Egan), did an interview, and shook Simpo’s hand. For Simpo it was a huge win and confidence builder as he fights for his spot on the World Tour.
-I went in at about noon, had a feed, then paddled my trusty kayak from the house to the scaffolding, which is about a mile away. Dragging the small anchor (idiot!) and battling the wind and current, it took about 45 minutes to get there. Freddy P. saw me struggling and instead of offering a tow, remarked, “Brah, looks pretty nuts paddling against the wind!”
-I made it to the scaffolding and kept paddling the yakker right up to the edge of the reef. The contest announcer yelled at me in French. I made a “Je ne parle pas français” gesture and watched my Jadson Andre somehow advance past Pat Gudauskas with a pair of 3’s. The guy on the mic then warned me in English that the waves were big and I could get taken out at a moments notice. Instead of saying, “No shit Sherlock” in French I stroked into a little reform and kayaked back toward the pass.
-I was nearly to the flotilla of boats when the gendarmerie (police) motored up to my little yakker and started babbling in French. It was something about the channel being closed to those who chose to go green and paddle out on canoes, kayaks, and surfboards. Thwarted, I paddled back in and hung out with my buddy “Papara Steve” on shore and had a beer while watching the contest from ½ mile away. It’s a funny thing being here for the contest—you can’t just post up and watch it. You gotta have your own boat or weasel your way onto the scaffolding. You’re probably sick of reading about how tough it is here in Tahiti (and I’m starting to ramble) so without further adieu, see the press release from the ASP below…—Justin Coté