Back at the start of the year, small yet brave embers of optimism glowed fiercely in the pot bellied stove of our stoke cottage.
John John was back, and on a tear (before his ACL did).
Slater was about to embark on perhaps his last ever lap of the Tour, giving fans a chance to both celebrate and grieve him at the same time.
Big wave surfing was probing all new heights, with a fresh young breed of men and women wresting primacy from stiff legged ol’ farts.
It was the last year of a big decade that gave much, but also took much away.
So did 2019 fulfil our lofty expectations? Now that we have Olympic qualifications names more or less settled, are we not ever more entertained than ever before?
“Atmospheric vorticity, tidal ebb and flow, local sea states and perhaps above all, your own day to day lifestyle choices, along with a multitude of other variables will all come into play, meaning your surfing fate is fickle. It’s in the wind, literally” went our predictions article from early in the year, with WL’s typical blend of science and mysticism.
Using that article’s foresights as a guide, let us review the resolution of the WL crystal ball, then, and see how we fared.
1. Big Waves
“Big Waves Win Hearts & Minds, Justine Dupont Becomes Best Big Wave Surfer in the World
Justine Dupont continues her charge and becomes the best pound for pound big wave surfer in the world, with Lucas ‘Chumbo’ Chianca close behind.”
Justine, invited into Nazaré Tow Challenge along with Maya Gabeira, would claim the XXL Award in spring, validating our claim for her primacy in huge surf. To bookend things nicely, she just became ISA World Champ for Stand Up Paddling in El Salvador in December.
Chumbo continues to do ridiculous stuff in huge surf, turning survival into outrageous performance. Don’t be surprised if he hits a closeout section at Naz sometime very soon.
Verdict: Safe-ish predictions, maybe, but solid.
2. Mikey Wright’s Hair & Profile
“Mikey Wright Trims His Mullet, Fades out of Sight
In a few years, when the top is thinning savagely the way of Owen’s, even curating a super ironic Jim from Neighbours island at the front won’t be enough to arrest the slide into obscurity”
Am I obsessed with hair? In particular, those losing theirs? Maybe. In these politically correct times, it’s one of the last refuges of the heckler. Mikey’s hair is intact, but he has gone rather quiet for most of 2019.
Sure, that’s actually down to injury, in his case head and spinal injury.
All joking aside, concussions are serious, and we wish Mikey the best for his recovery. After extended periods out of the water, he’s hoping to be back surfing just before the New Year.
We wish him all the best for a full recovery. With Tyler back for Maui, Owen surfing another solid CT year, let’s hope Mikey gets back asap to help surfing’s foremost sibling triumvirate dominate.
Verdict: Wright-(ish), but for the wrong reasons
3. Griff Cola’s Brit Sports Personality Spirit Animal
“Elite Surfers Continue To Bromance Sportspeople Who Are Essentially An Extension of Their Own True Selves
In 2019, Griffin Colapinto will spending a lot of time in the nets with Joe Root, while Andrew Cotton and Eddie the Eagle Edwards will be rolling so tight they’ll only be distinguishable by close friends and family or by DNA extracted from Cotty’s Union Jack knee brace”
Big enough and ugly enough to admit we were wrong about Griff with the Joe Root call… Should’ve foreseen his joining of the sport legends poo accident club (see Quik Pro France interview); what we should have said was Paula Radcliffe or Gary Lineker.
Cotty, meanwhile, has bounced back from his nuclear bouncing at Nazaré and has got himself fit enough to team up for the Nazaré Tow Challenge as part of Team GB alongside Tom Butler. Forget Eddie the Eagle, he’s Andy Murray.
Verdict: Bit off
4. Ocean Plastic Still Green Washing Surfing’s Ecocide?
“People Will Continue to Congratulate Themselves Publicly for Picking Up Plastic, Before Hopping on Long Haul Flights To Go Surfing & Guzzling King Prawns”
Ocean plastic will still be a cause celebre, and quite rightly so. Sky News, not usually at the vanguard of environmental activism, will forge boldly on with Sky Ocean Rescue, which, if it sounds like it was workshopped over take out sushi in a London PR agency, well, that’s because it was.
“Elsewhere, random acts of offshore paddling etc etc go down under the guise of somehow helping clean the seas, three strapping, posh, postgraduates will row the Pacific, which cynics among you will incorrectly label an ego trip/publicity stunt, when it is actually a deadly strike to the very heart of rampant consumer capitalism, obvs.
The non-endurance athletes you can still virtue signal your strong eco-credentials by Instagramming your beach clean efforts, before promptly flying to Indo on a surf trip, eating king prawns, maybe sending another Congolese 7-year-old down a mine for your new ‘device’ etc, etc.”
Ooooh so much to unpick here. Back in June, World Ocean’s Day was broadly celebrated by the surf community without a single mention of over-fishing, the no.1 threat to our oceans, anywhere.
As a response to surfing’s bizarre and yet universal silence on the issue of fishing (once again, just in case you missed it, the no.1 issue threatening our oceans according to the largest UN study ever undertaken on the state of the planet ) we wrote this article, which upset one Cornwall-based environmental organisation.
We asked to interview them on the subject, alas without success.
Plastic is still horrific and getting worse, by the way. The most recent storms in SW France have left the beaches in a worse state than ever previously witnessed.
But above all, we need to keep up the fight on all fronts, rather than selective outrage.
Verdict: Absolutely nailed it, sadly.
5. Slater’s Long Kiss Goodnight
“Robbie Slater See You Later
His season with either be fascinating or very similar to the last 5, with those vaguely tragic, uncle that won’t leave the party feels.”
2019’s been a bit of an odd one regarding Kelly. Inconclusive. He’s done ok at times, but looked weirdly out of sorts at others. He should’ve been shoe-in for Tokyo, getting the 2nd USA Team spot behind Kolohe but alas, despite John John being absent since May, Slater still couldn’t overtake him in the ratings before Pipe, where John made his comeback to surf for his spot in Tokyo.
Rather than anything revealing, fresh or revelatory to muse on in the off season, we’re left to wonder whether Slater will or won’t do the Tour next year, something that’s been going on since the early 2000’s.
Or, perhaps most tragically, not really wonder that much; barely notice either way.
Verdict: Not a tough call to make, that a 47-year-old would have an unspectacular season on Tour. Doesn’t mean we weren’t right though.
p.s. If you love revisionism, be sure to tune into Wavelength’s It’s Not The Length Podcast Ep 10: 2019’s Best Bits