Words: Dave Campbell
Photos: ASP/Rowland & Kirstin
The Hurley Pro, at Lower Trestles, is the more educated, hot sister of the American surf comps. She isn’t into the muscled studs, the party time drunks or the gimmicky showboats, she is all about results and performance, and always has a special place in her heart for the hometown heroes. At two-foot she looks cute and wonderful and fun as heck, at six-foot she is divine.
We expect a higher level of performance every year. I agree with all the potential that should be exposed at this particular event, and do love this contest along with this stretch of beach, but the long lulls on the final day made it hard to watch at times. Nevertheless this year’s contest brought us a much-deserved champion: Taj Burrow. His surfing was as snappy and electric as we’ve come to expect from Taj and hopefully he can get enough podium finishes to get himself that long awaited, and much deserved, title.
The crowd had a lot of ponies in this race, guys like Kolohe Andino, Patrick Gudauskas, Nate Yeomans, Ian Crane and Brett Simpson. Every time a local went down the people felt as though they had lost one of their own offspring to a much superior predator. Maybe there’s a curse, and maybe the curse has something to do with Kelly Slater signing his contract on this very beach 23 years ago, it just makes sense!
When the better sets came you saw the surfers split the peak, which made for some serious nail biting action. Where else do you get that kind of beach entertainment? You can only hope that the surfer you picked to follow is the one that is getting all the hoots and hollers. Afterwards you hear from the announcers that the surfer you chose to not watch got the better score. You are left feeling that you picked the wrong dog to bet on.
The A-frames coming in got everyone on the cobblestones excited and jazzed up. The folks that attend the Lowers Pro are not just the tourists on their family vacations stumbling upon one of those wave-riding shows. This is a close-knit group of diehard fans that have been coming to this event for years. Many know each other by first names and are locals to the surf as well. Which makes this a major difference compared to the US Open and its corporate crap show wackiness, or the Quiksilver Pro France with all those Euros wearing Crocs in the sand. You can’t just end up at Trestles by accident. You have to walk quite a ways to this event and you have to care about surfing, cause that is all there is here. Pure Surfing.
For some reason surf comps have adapted a bunch of sideshow garbage that has nothing to do with surfing, but seems to all fit under this giant banner of extreme action sports. I suppose that this is good for those people who stupidly walk upon a surf contest and are expecting some giant wave spectacle. Instead they end up watching someone that is ranked fifth in the world, not named Kelly Slater, slay the shit out of a two-foot wave. This form of entertainment just witnessed goes unappreciated; it doesn’t do it for them. They need that other form of show that involves adrenaline, chains, helmets and lots of extreme, oversized, big stuff. The folks here care about the surfing, and that is an enjoyable part of this contest. It’s mellow. Not many folks rushing away from the beach to get to the after party, most of them brought their boards and their families.
There were times that the contest was tough to watch due to lulls causing a couple heats to be restarted. These delays didn’t stop the contest director Patrick O’Connell from making the call to move forward, finishing the contest in the first four days of the waiting period. And why not? The waves weren't gonna get any better. The fans were a bit bummed about the downtime in between sets, but they didn’t push any blame on anyone or anything. Pat runs this event every year and is a very well respected man in this community. He knows what’s best. Everyone understood what he had to do and that this is how a surf comp goes. You hope and wish for the waves but that’s all you can do. The best surfer had to out-surf the others, he didn’t just get lucky. Taj scrambled for every wave he could get and got rewarded for his efforts. You didn’t hear many people on the beach complaining, sure they wished to themselves that there were more waves during some of the heats, but hey it was entertaining and the performances equalled all the hype that we are force fed prior to the Lowers Pro.
The mass of people on the beach who made the pilgrimage weren't the arrogant type. No complaints about things that were out of human control or a group of ungrateful bastards wondering why it wasn’t like last year. Which, believe it or not, made this crowd kind of a boring bunch. No one was getting belligerently drunk for that matter or openly whining about the judge’s scores and making asses of themselves. You had to dig deep to see who was in alliance with which surfers, as most were here for the sake of the sport. Though I sensed a feeling that if you aren’t rooting for the local kids then you better just keep your charlatan mouth shut. We surfing fanatics need entertainment, this contest was for the real diehard fans of surfing. Sometimes this is not enough for some folk that are only partial fans: possibly not as loyal to the sport as you previously thought. When a contest has all that other bullshit like that of the carnival coming to town, you can guarantee that they are trying to attract a different type of kook. This was all about surfing and I don’t think Trestles would have it any other way.