Fantasy Heats Round 2
Curren vs. Knox, Nuuhiwa vs. Tudor, Machado vs. Rasta, Andersen vs. Gilmore, White Lightning vs. The Iceman.
Such short-term memories the voters have. All the Round 1 matchups that paired a current tour vet against a competitor from the hazy mists of antiquity saw the digital age pro win easily. Fair enough, but it’s time for many of you to dust off the old DVD player and educate yourself with a surf film history lesson. Dane, perpetually defeated in surf contests staged in reality, remains undefeated in internet-based contests. Parko and Jordy dispatched their elders with ease. Wilko’s competitive struggles extended themselves to fantasy land, as Craig Anderson narrowly took down everybody’s favorite rollerblading, boob-wetsuit-wearing tour pro in a 51% – 49% nail biter. Wilko was leading the vote for most of last week before a final stampede of Ando lovers, probably just after watching Slow Dance , furiously clicked their way to delivering Craig a heat win. It seems that the 2005 version of Slater finally met his match: a 41-year-old Slater. Weird.
Now then, onward to Round 2:
TOM CURREN vs. TAYLOR KNOX
Highest Career Ranking: Curren 3x World Champ (’85, ’86, ’90); Knox No. 4 in 2001
Holy smokes. How much would you pay to see this heat? Seriously, is there a way the surf world can make this happen? Rip Curl, are you reading this? I’d rather watch these two go at it for one heat at overhead Supertubes than watch the rest of the ASP 2013 season, no matter how it plays out. For as much as people like to compare Slater to Curren, Knox’s approach was always far closer to Curren’s sweet-as-a-nut rail game than Slater’s ever was. Plus, Knox kinda does the weird lookback thing that Curren always punctuated his turns with. I’m doing nothing but watching ARC and Searching for Tom Curren the rest of the day.
DAVID NUUHIWA vs. JOEL TUDOR
Highest Career Ranking: Nuuhiwa 2x U.S. Champ (’68, ’71); Tudor 2x World Champ (’98, ’04)
When the final great accounting of surf history is written—or tweeted or uploaded or whatever—let that last poor surf historian remember: there have been no finer goofyfoot longboarders ever to cross-step upon the face of a wave than Nuuhiwa and Tudor. I’m not sure that anything more needs to be said here. Except this—these two also ride shortboards better than you ever will, even 65-year-old Nuuhiwa. Judging a First Point clash between these two stylish, competitive maestros at their peak would be be like choosing the best $1,000 bottle of Scotch. Everybody’s a winner here.
ROB MACHADO vs. DAVID RASTOVICH
Highest Career Ranking: Machado No. 2 in 1995; Rastovich N/A
Venue: Rifles (flipped to a left for Machado—Fantasy heat, remember?)
I’m taking some serious liberties with this one and asking you to imagine that both of these dreadlocked soul rangers get to surf Rifles—that terrifying, majestic, righthand screamer—on their forehands. Machado, with his World Tour experience, seems like he’d have the advantage in a heat here against the Aussie, but don’t let Rasta’s PETA-vibe sway your vote. His dad was in the New Zealand Special Forces (the existence of which was news to me too), he grew up surfing the kill-or-be-killed Gold Coast lineups, and his strict blend of veganism and Buddhism takes discipline. Rasta is a badass. A mind-altering tubefest, this heat might be. Or Rasta and the Mob end up riding every wave together, dreadlocks entangled. I’m not entirely sure which scenario would be cooler.
LISA ANDERSEN vs. STEPHANIE GILMORE
Highest Career Ranking: Andersen 4x World Champ (’94-’97); Gilmore 5x World Champ (’07-’10, ’12)
Yep, that’s nine world titles between them. These graceful, powerful regularfoots are two of the most dominant professional surfers in history and two of the most pleasing to watch surf. Both using an elegant, knock-kneed stance, their style is so similar it seems at times that Gilmore is the twenty-first-century extension of Andersen. But Andersen did something that Gilmore has yet to do—win titles while being a mom. All of Andersen’s championship runs came after giving birth in 1993. She even made the finals of a world tour event a mere five weeks after her first baby was born. Let’s see Slater do that.
MICK FANNING vs. DAMIEN HARDMAN
Highest Career Ranking: Fanning 2x World Champion (’07, ’09); Hardman 2x World Champion (’87, ’91)
Venue: Margaret River
White Lightning vs. The Iceman. Sounds like a low-level WWE bout. This all-Aussie clash would be a lesson in tactics and heat focus by these two heroes of New South Wales, each one twice a World Champ. Fanning, according to hearsay and Red Bull’s 21 Days series, trains harder than any surfer on Tour. You can’t rattle him, you can’t out-paddle him, if you make a mistake in a heat with him, that’s it, you’re finished. Wait, now Fanning sounds like The Iceman. But no, that’s Hardman, the saaviest, no-nonsense pro we’ve ever seen. Surf mag accounts of him from the ‘80s and early ‘90s might lead you to believe that the writers were describing a machine-built surf terminator. Hardman just won heats. That’s all he did. Fun fact: in more than 36 years of surfing, Hardman has never fallen off his board.