A Study in Scarlet

Reflections from the channel on the second day of competition at Cloudbreak

| posted on June 03, 2012

Embodying the Dream Tour. Photo: Glaser

Driving out in the longboat you can see it, miles away, a giant red triffid floating and shimmering just above the horizon.

The tower at Cloudbreak has clearly had some work done on it since I last saw it a few years ago, when it was a claustrophobic, guano-encrusted bird rookery. The only people you’d consider sending out there back then were surf filmers, but it’s been cleaned up, the Fijian chippies have improvised some extra levels, and the blood-red Volcom livery can be seen not only from the longboat, but also surely from space. From this far away I can also ascertain the swell has hung around and something may well indeed happen today.

I’m a day late to this Volcom Fiji party, having been stuck in every godforsaken airport between Aceh and Nadi while the contest got underway yesterday. I’m in the longboat early this morning with a group of Fijian women heading out to Namotu Island. The girls have just done the morning shopping and have loaded the boat with bread and yams—starchy South Pacific staples. There’s very little of the carb-free variety out here. I chat with Soba, who I remember from the island four years ago, back when she was the most ironically named barkeep in the world, and the busiest person on the whole island keeping the beers up to convict surfers. No such amoral revelry as yet, but the contest is running today and guys will be losing and things may get a little more boisterous by day’s end.

We load the boat full of professional surfers and drive out to Cloudbreak through the bottomless channel that divides the islands of Namotu and Tavarua. The early morning freesurf is a spirited affair but is being clearly owned by Damien Hobgood. Them good ol’ Hobgood boys have a sixth sense with the tube out here and it shows. Damo glides through the tube of the morning, initially drifting high, then rail slipping smoothly down as the thing chambers out on the inside. As flawless as it is, you need a navigation plan for the tube out here as it wormholes down the reef, flaring and compressing, with no two waves the same. It’s a bit of art and a lot of science and Damo is one guy who has it wired.

First heat of the morning sees Kelly Slater up against Fijian triallist, Isei Tokovou. It should be a canter for Kelly—and in the end it is—but the heat has moments. I remember Isei surfing here in years past, surfing his piece of reef with muscular command but lacking the rounded edges that come with surfing more than one wave your whole life. Isei doesn’t have the typical tall, loping Fijian build. He’s built more like a rugby fly-half than a back rower, and the way he moves reminds me of Fiji’s greatest rugby player, Rupeni Caucaunibuca. Kelly builds slowly, using 23 years of knowledge out here to find some sweet corners and clean tubes, but Isei catches the one. He drops in deep, grabs his rail with a couple of giddy-up pumps pulls into the abyss, into the tube of the day. The handful of Fijians in the channel—and everyone else for that matter—erupt, only to deflate when Isei appears in the whitewater halfway down the reef.

Watching in the boat with us is Isei’s good mate, Ulai. He’d surfed two rounds of the local trials himself, but missed the final round because he was busy driving the boat to pay the bills. Ulai tends the outboard motor, occasionally throwing reos off incoming swells, but he also doubles as Isei’s sideline coach. “Shoulda pumped one more time, bro, he would’ve come out. Would’ve been a 10.” If he’d come out it would have been a 12. It was the wave of the day, and when Isei got clipped his goose was cooked and Kelly was safely through to the next round. Kelly proceeded to spend the rest of the day sitting on the bow of the marshalling boat mindsurfing nearly every wave. He’d sit there and watch the sets hiss and slither down the point, his fingers mimicking his board as he threw it into all the sweet spots. He talked about surfing up the point—way up the point—and backdooring the ledge section, popping out of the barrel where everyone else is taking off. Kelly may have surfed waves in his head today that will win him heats—or a contest—later in the week.

When the first 10 finally arrived it came from an unlikely source. Gabriel Medina has never been to Cloudbreak before. When the Brazilian kid pulled into an inside drainer and immediately threw five furious pumps, you figured he knew there was something waiting down the line for him. There was, and he later called it “the best barrel of my life.” Kelly had missed the wave and came running out. “He got a 10 on a three-footer? Was it really the best wave of the contest?” Kelly knows what this wave is capable of doing, and thought the scoreboard powder should be kept dry for later in the week when the real fireworks begin. He went back to his yoga on the bow of the boat, Titanic-style, staying loose for the battles ahead.

But the big dogs may have to cool their jets for a couple of days first. The promised pulse still lies well below the southern horizon and we won’t see the first tickle from it until Thursday. It will be substantial when it gets here, and we could be looking at a weekend finish if local conditions fall into place. In the meantime we could be stuck in worse places. As your correspondent posts we’re sitting in the bar on Namotu, the Celtics and the Heat have just gone into OT, and Parko has just gone chasing wahoo. Kai Otton and Michel Bourez are taking the boat for a late splash at Swimming Pools, and the Fiji Bitter sitting on the counter thinks it’s in a beer commercial as the afternoon sun shines through it, the palm trees sway in the background, and a single drop of condensation rolls down its neck.

Click here for the full results of day two at Cloudbreak.

  • zeno malan

    No mention of Kolohe Andino going postal on his own surfboard.
    Next to Medina’s 10; That had to be the highlight of day two!
    Nike/Target must be proud!?!?

  • Fernando

    So bad we will have Medina x Muniz in round 3.

  • FishboardTwin

    If it was Jonh John´s ten or Kolohe´s ten, Kelly Slater would say that? No. Probably would congratulate them on twitter. The judges evaluated in accordance with the conditions. And at that moment that wave was a 10.

    Funny how Kolohe´s lack of posture was not repeated in the webcast. In Rio Raoni was shot several times upset with the defeat.

    Biased things…

  • adam

    Gotta give credit where credit is due – the judging has been phenomenal. With the possible exception of Wilko getting underscored for some serious hacks, I think that was most consistently scored 2 days of surfing so far this season. How is Mitch Coleborn not on tour? More poise in the barrel than the rest of the field combined. Now let’s see some 15′ bombies!!! Great contest/webcast!

  • Gustavo Pedreira

    Unlikely source = Medina?

    You guys have a lot to learn about this kid.

    1st pipe event and he got 5th.

    Not only Kelly missed Medina’s 10 point ride…the commentators and the camera man from the front also missed!! Hehehe. Suddenly Gabes was out and throwing a big hack when they found him.

    I’m sure it is prohibited to talk about Kolohe Andino 10yearsOld REBEL crisis. How many boards will he break during his career life while competing against Medina/Pupo/JJ?

    I think is prohibi

  • SO

    hahahah WTF Yankees will say now about Gab Medina!? Brilliant!

    P.S – Nice guy, won’t even comment Kolohe A.

  • chrys

    That is NOT Medina’s first time surfing Cloudbreak, he was there earlier this year… Great contest so far!

  • Jack O’Hare

    “When the first 10 finally arrived it came from an unlikely source” Medina’s 10 pt barrel was sick! Kelly suggesting that was overscored is 100% bullshit. By far the best wave of the contest and Medina got a 5th place in the Pipe Masters last year … so he is not a “unlikely source.” one more note: that is not his 1st time at Cloudbreak… he was there with Bruno Santos and Miguel Pupo after Snapper contest. K-Lo 10 points total in 2 rounds and that right hook was funny too.

  • johnstcal

    Kelly’s comment about Medina’s 10 pt is funny…. Medina’s 10 was sooooooo sick! impossible barrel.

  • Chris Alan

    Is it just me, or is it totally wrong to destroy a new, high-performance surfboard Kolohe style?? I understand that tennis players do it, but that doesn’t make it right. There are kids all over the world in places where us surfers regularly travel that would be sooo stocked to get a high performance surfboard. This type of gift could also help a kid dramatically improve his surfing, get recognized or even sponsored.

    And us first-world-ers even have to pay top dollar ($600) for a board and we take care of them. We need to collectively be against this type of spoiled, bratty, elitest, arrogant behavior.


    Dear Kolohe and your Sponsors and Crew/Coaches/Etc: Intentionally destroying high performance, wave riding craft is uncool. We as viewers and fans don’t appreciate this type of disrespect for our sport. It must STOP. Kolohe, next time be a MAN and donate the board to someone less fortunate.

    -On behalf of the Non-Pro Surfer Community.

    For those who missed it:

  • Wes Mantooth

    I was impressed that Kolohe had enough strength to punch a surfboard in half.

  • Adam

    Who else is going to suck Medinas dick today?!
    His 5th place in Pipe don’t mean shit! his 10 at cloudbreak dont’t mean shit! Both times the waves were small … he’s a great small wave surfer but he still got to prove himself when the waves get big…he has time sure, and likely he will get there but until then he’s not the full package

  • Adam

    Medina is essentially a superior brazzo kolohe…both small wave wizards and both unproven in big waves. Put aside brazzo pride and look at Medina’s 10 compared to Coleburn’s waves and understand why Kelly was surprised. Waves were smaller in his heat yes and he surfed that wave amazingly but ….understand why someone would be surprised after seeing waves the previous day.

  • davidp

    im lovin the contest except for one thing that is really driving me mad….it’s when that idiot chris cote shouts “come out come out” like a retard….apart from that pretty amazing comment

  • michael madison

    Hey CHRIS ALAN speak for yourself ok?!
    I loved how Kolohe destroyed that board.

    “Intentionally destroying high performance, wave riding craft is uncool” WRONG! It’s really cool if you do it like Kolohe dit! Bare hands and final death kick haha!

    OH 600 dollars, oh he should donate the board, blahblahblah. SHUT UP CHRIS!

    Kolohe is a kid you’re obviously a grown up and a boring one.

    Adults should know how to forgive, it seems we always forget how.

  • iakona

    Medina’s 10 was sick. Fuck Slater. I hope Freddy P sends him packing.

  • Otavio AB.

    Wanna say just one thing. KELLY WITH MOUTH SHUT UP IS A POET.




  • Scott

    For those of you who think kelly plays favorites you are sadly mistaken. Kelly has and continues to embrace medina as the future and thanks his lucky stars he doesn’t have to deal with the wonder kid for too much longer. As far as the ten goes, I feel kelly is right on. While medina couldn’t have ridden that wave any more perfectly, the wave itself was not perfect. There were much bigger and better waves ridden that day (T. Knox/ Coleborn anyone?). A perfect ten should be exactly that, perfect. Perfect performance on a perfect wave. Medina had the performance just not the wave.

  • Younes Fizazi

    So glad the World Tour is no longer an “US vs OZ + a couple Hawaiians only” thing… So cool to see so many more Fabio Gouveias & Potos. The rest of the world can surf too, I’d like to see more nations in the CT…

  • gustavo

    Scott, I’ve seen a lot of Kelly’s 10 point rides in not perfect waves due to his perfect performance. So, I’m surprise to see him talking about that.

  • rbier

    Medina´s Barrel was amazing. The kid was so fast that the camera man could´t keep up with him ( WCT camera crew suck anyway). Really fast. Kelly comments are just a mental game, and if i was medina i would´t even bother to hear it. But what really impress me is that the press buy whatever bullshit Slater says, even on a boat in the middle of nowhere…

  • lou

    Kolohe combo of right hooks, right knee, right cross was amazing!

  • TIago


  • Ben

    The ten was legit. It was an impossible barrel which only a few people alive could have made. Kelly has done many of them himself.

  • J.P.T

    C`mon KS !!! That was a 10 for sure. Shame on u … bald man.

  • Matt

    Kelly’s knowledge of all things surfing, Cloudbreak, and contests is so much more advanced than anyone who is posting on this blog that to question his observations is embarrassing.