Sean Doherty: Lemoore to Lorenzo

6 Oct 2019 1 Share

Sean Doherty

Senior Writer

Photo: WSL/Masurel

Photo: WSL/Masurel

COASTALWATCH | SEAN DOHERTY

2019 Quiksilver and Roxy Pros France, The Early Rounds

And so we land in France.

Watching wobbly, concrete shorebreaks at La Grav this morning consigned last week’s futuristic wavepool event in the Californian Onion Belt to ancient history. A week later we’ve well and truly moved on from Lemoore… how it will be chronicled in the great tapestry of pro surf history is yet to be determined. At the moment, depending on who you speak to, it’s sitting somewhere between the moon landing and Allentown in terms of historical significance.

Lemoore ran with an apocalyptic vibe. Between the wild machinery and a pool of precious water surrounded by hundreds of miles of dust, it looked like a fitting final outpost for the survivors of the Great Collapse when Man finally shows Nature who’s boss.

Heading to France at least we could free ourselves from thoughts of the impending ecological End of Days. That was until Hurricane Lorenzo formed in the Atlantic and tracked east. When it hit Category five it was 600 miles further east than any other Cat five storm in a hundred years of recorded data. Cat fives usually wipe out small low lying Caribbean sand cays and tax havens, but this thing had broken loose and headed the other way, kicking the Azores in the nuts before lumbering off toward Europe. It’s freaky weather that has resulted in some freaky surf for this event.

Elimination rounds this morning and it was nines and twos in the cement mixer shorey. You made tubes for a nine of you got buried into the sand for a two. It was mostly twos.

I missed the first two heats after indulging in some fine dining in downtown Byron Bay at Abrakebabra, Byron’s premier late-night kebab joint that came with dinner and a show… a street punch up between a dozen bristling teenagers. I made it home with garlic reflux in time to see Byron’s favourite son, Soli Bailey surfing for his skin. His rookie year hasn’t been a failure… he hasn’t looked out of place, but if anything has surfed too conservatively. He’s had a whole year of fives and sixes, and suddenly finds himself needing eights or nines to requalify. He found an eight this morning, deep on a gurgling OTW right, kicking out on dry sand.

October 5 and shit is getting real.

Third-last event of the season and moves need to be made at both ends of the ratings. I think we’ve collectively given Medina the world title already, right? That leaves Olympic qualification as the next most fertile storyline… and that leaves Kelly. The top two Americans at the end of the year go to the Olympics. Kolohe will be one of them. He’s sleeping under a Stars and Stripes doona already and drifting off with dreams of the Star Spangled Banner playing as he climbs the podium. 

Kelly is in the hot seat. He comes to France rated tenth – which presuming we don’t see the injured John Florence again this year, would be enough to take Kelly to Tokyo. He’s just got to hold off Seth Moniz (11th), Conner Coffin (17th) and Griff Colapinto (20th) over the last three events. Kelly’s got Pipe covered but needs to hustle in Europe.

Conner and Griff need a result in France. Griff survived a Code Brown emergency in the first round; Conner needed to survive the loser’s round this morning. He caught the best wave of the morning freesurf then got vaporised paddling out for his heat, snapping his board clean. Somewhere in Capbreton watching the broadcast, Kelly took a slow, deliberate sip of an activated almond milk cappuccino. Conner looked in trouble until he sideslipped into a long left. Joe channelled Brian Wilson: “I can hear music as he surfs down the line!” The sweet, sweet music of Conner Coffin rolled into the next round.

The women were fed to the shorebreak next. On cue the sun disappeared to add a sinister vibe. Host Shannon Hughes sunnily added there was “hardly a cloud in the sky”, but I couldn’t see any blue sky. It didn’t look fun at all and was even less fun for Steph Gilmore. She’d had trouble in Lemoore on the perfect replicant wave, and now had trouble in the seasick North Atlantic shorey. The three girls traded threes all heat, and with three minutes to go Steph needed a three. She took off with 10 seconds to go, but the feed froze. She’d fallen, and we’ll only see her this week in Roxy ads. An eighth world title is now mathematical only.

They canned the contest soon after, sending the flyboys out. It looks like a day off tomorrow, before Lorenzo rolls into town Monday.

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