Gone Fishin’

Round 1 of the Fiji Pro was held at perfect Cloudbreak, with Slater and Parko nowhere to be found

| posted on June 04, 2013

While Kelly and Parko were missing in action, those in attendance were treated to perfect left barrels. Photo: Joli

Well, can’t say I saw that coming.

Kelly sure didn’t.

And definitely not Joel.

In light of today’s events in Fiji your correspondent might refrain in the future from calling laydays in advance. Kelly might make his entrances in the future more fashionable than late. Parko, meanwhile, might keep the number of long-range deep-sea fishing adventures he embarks on in the middle of World Tour contests to the bare minimum.

The Volcom Pro Fiji started today in near flawless surf at Cloudbreak, and before we plunge too deeply into what went down, let’s examine for a minute what didn’t. Kelly and Parko for starters. The defending champ and the defending World Champ were no-shows when the contest was called on at 9:30 this morning, both of them caught off-guard by the early landfall of a swell pulse that most everyone thought would see the contest start on Thursday…Wednesday at the earliest. Before we hear their respective stories, the interesting thing to note here is that of all the surfers in the field they are the two with the most experience here at Cloudbreak—Joel first surfing here 17 years ago, Kelly 23. If Joel and Kelly—with the aid of the every forecasting particle collider known to man—are this unsure of what’s going to be out on the reefs tomorrow morning, that tells you it’s a tough read. Today was forecast to be small on a long period. This generally means long waits, not conducive to three-man heats. What got both Joel and Kelly however is the glut of swell on its way. This looked a warm-up day at best, and plans were made accordingly.

Kelly is due to fly into Fiji tonight, a day late and a buck short. He’s been back in Florida playing a game of brinkmanship, juggling the birth of his nephew/niece with the arrival of the Fiji swell. You’re all familiar with Kelly’s MO of bombing in late after the waiting period. Over the past eight years he’s refined it to an artform, and unless the waves are firing leading into a contest, his first sighting at most events is in a contest rashie. He’s even bailed from contests during waiting periods and chased a swell in some other far-flung state/country/dimension, only to make it back in time to surf his next heat. Well, this time it caught up with him. Those who’ve spoken with him on the phone over the past couple of days have intimated he’s far from twisting himself in knots over it. To paraphrase the conversations: “If I make it in time, I make it.” Remember Kelly only needs to safely set foot on Fijian soil and this contest changes immediately.

While Kelly was mid air above Palm Springs when the hooter blew on his heat, Joel was in the middle of the Pacific, a hundred miles from Cloudbreak, gone fishin’. Before we offer a forensic examination of the comedy of errors occurred that led him here, in Joel’s defense, he’s been on fire with the fish. He’s been live-baiting off the back of Wilkes Pass and the Spaniards have been literally jumping in the boat to keep him company. He’s been having the time of his life. And the great battle here in Fiji, when you come to surf this contest, is that there seems to be no battle. The red mist of competition just blows away on the trades. You feel on holiday. The drinks have swizzle sticks. The palm trees sway. And if someone offers to take you fishing, it can be goddamn hard to say no.

So when Joel was offered the chance to do an overnight 24-hour deep-sea fish to the wahoo grounds off the south of Viti Levu, he scoured the charts, made a couple of calls, and was soon packing his rods. The famous last words, spoken shortly before he got on the boat at 1 a.m. this morning, went something like: “There’s no way the contest is gonna run tomorrow.”

Joel’s phone finally stumbled into phone range some time around 9 a.m. and somewhere well out of sight of the Fijian mainland. The line was scratchy as I spoke to him.

“Mate, the contest is on!”

Fffff… yeah, right!”

“I’m not bullshitting ya, mate.”

“Stop wasting my fishing time with your dumb jokes.”

“It’s no joke, mate. Cloudbreak’s four-to-six and pumping. Your heat’s on in 90 minutes.”

“Bullshit. Give me someone else.”

I handed the phone to Kieren Perrow, the Commissioner, the Big Cheese.

“Mate,” said KP, with a note of resignation. “It’s on. It’s pumping.”

I couldn’t quite make out what Parko said in reply, but Kieren had to hold the phone away from his ear and grimaced. There were futile talks about helicopters, but nothing short of the Tardis was going to get Joel to his heat on time. Kieren handed me the phone back and I asked Joel whether he’d caught anything. He’d hung up.

Joel will not want to watch the highlights of today. What appeared on the forecast to be the least inspiring day of the next six, was one sent from the Gods. One after the other they marched in: long blue wormholes in the Pacific, backbreathing, drop-perfect. When the opening heat between Jordy, Fred and Seabass found themselves staring at a magazine poster they’ve collectively had on their walls since kids, the signs were there it was going to be quite a day. In the channel, Kelly’s minder Stephen Bell crossed paths with Joel’s equivalent, Wes Berg. Belly asks, “Is Joel really fishing?” Wes replies, “Is Kelly really flying in tonight?” Both shake their heads and laugh, incredulous their boys are missing this for nephews and fish.

Someone not unhappy about Parko’s deep sea adventures was Matt Wilkinson, who was drawn against him. On the boat on the way out to Cloudbreak, Wilko is joking that Parko had seen him freesurf yesterday and had decided to sit it out and maintain his dignity. Instead Wilko paddled out and caught the best wave of his life…that came in at a 7.33. He then pulled late under a lip and was guillotined, screaming to the surfers’ boat as he whizzed past on the ski in a tangle of confused hair, “I just got so f–ked up!” He then went on to lose to alternate, Heitor Alves, who caught the most perfect wave of not only this lifetime, but any other lifetimes he may be fortunate enough to have down the track.

The only way Joel’s day was going to get any worse was if they called Kelly’s heat off before Kelly had a chance to miss it. And it so very nearly happened. Mick Fanning was preparing for his heat—the one before Kelly’s—when the wind shifted onshore. And when I say onshore, I mean one knot onshore. The problem with surf this flawless is that a one-knot onshore might as well be 30. It’s like jabbing a lit cigarette into the Mona Lisa. “Wind’s a bit whiffy,” offers Mick to the contest brass. The wind, however, soon light‘n’variabled itself back around trade, Kelly’s heat was surfed without Kelly and he was demoted into Round 2. He and Parko won’t be alone. For the first time in this scribe’s scrubby years on Tour, all eight top seeds lost today, and will all find themselves in round two…whenever that may be. For this eight, the losses and no-shows might be a blessing in disguise. Their round two heats will be held in good surf. The forecast deems it so.

  • gtag

    I thought the official ASP rule was that anyone who isn’t present by the end of their Round 1 heat is demoted to the bottom of the alternates list? Can someone explain what the actual rule is? Maybe there are no more alternates available??

  • Jarrif

    Kelly missing a heat to be there for his brother is pretty understandable considering he has pretty much dedicated his entire life to surfing and competition (and he has a history of no-showing/late-showing in the past). Joel’s absence is a bit more suspect considering he has been staying on the island (Namotu) for multiple days and one would expect that if there was even a slight chance that the event would run he’d know about it and be on hand.

    I guess the event organizers were planning on running the VQS all the way through and that’s what both Kelly and Joel were going off of, but maybe the organizers kind of fucked up by saying “F’sure this, F’sure that…Doin’ the grom event tomorrow, no worries brah” – or something to that effect. It all comes across pretty unprofessional though. Then again, the unpredictability of the ocean is and always will be a major part of surfing and certain mishaps or pleasant surprises will continue to occur.

    Bottom line, two top guys like Kells and Parko missing heats for non injury related reasons is a big deal, but non the less, the event yesterday was incredible. Enjoyable to watch all day, but especially entertaining in those grom heats and the earlier rounds when it was super hollow.

    But still, Kelly missing is one thing – Parko no show, hmm… It’s either he fucked up by not assessing the potential start of the comp, he got bad info from event organizers, or what others have stated on multiple forums – maybe there is something the asp or people in his camp are trying to keep quiet about….

    Apparently, Wassel implied that there was more to the story than the whole “Sorry mate, gone fishin'” thing. The “statement” Parko issued seemed legit and all, but it’s hard to believe a top guy like that missing the entire day. Did he show up during competition, to check it out, or just stay out and fish like he intended? Photos from his mackerel mission would suffice for an explanation, I guess..

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    Volcom played a good trick on surfers and the surf community recently and sold Volcom-“Youth against Establishment”- to the Establishment. They sold Volcom to the very people they were rebelling against (The Establishment). Volcom is now owned by “PPR”- a French, billion dollar women’s fashion company.. “PPR” also owns Gucci-(which makes high end purses and accessories for women) and now they own Volcom. How can “Volcom” – now be “anti-establishment”- when they are now “owned” by “The Establishment”? Maybe this so called contest should be called the Gucci Fiji pro?

  • http://t tony (ty) carson big island

    Well, I guess the “Youth” are smarter than “PPR” or “Volcom” gives them credit for. I guess the word is out on the streets that Volcom is now a sell out . I found posts where a Volcom rep. tried to give out free t-shirts. The kids took the shirts, but then put them in the fire pits at the beach and burnt them. Another post reported that last Christmas, some teens got some “Volcom” tees, they used the tees to clean their motor bikes and then threw the tees away. Youth can be pretty intuitive and I guess can sometimes spot a sell out or fake on the beach. I think they feel Volcom was once core -but now feel Volcom – ( oops, I mean “PPR”)- is a joke.

  • Jarrif

    Core vs. un-core? Nobody really cares about “selling-out” anymore. Yeah, people don’t want to see barned-out companies involved in surfing, but the whole punk ethos thing has seemed to mellow out. Most people are just trying to get by and don’t care/have the time to judge their clothing options based on how core they are.

    If the clothes/products are “instyle” then they will sell, period. Personally, my logo of choice is the non-logo, which is a logo in itself. The brand I want to associate myself with is the non-brand or something that is vaguely “ironic” or un-cool to the point that is isn’t anymore. Surf clothes/brands aren’t all that appealing on the streets, yo. Too bro ed out. I have no problem buying wetsuits though

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    Jarril, I put my reply -on the Fiji Pro day two- blog. Peace..