It’s one thing to win a heat, but putting on a performance that will be remembered forever is another thing entirely. We took a look at three game-changing performances to see what set these surfers apart.
Channel yourself. Small in stature, Tom Carroll transformed into a beast when he donned a jersey. Long before Kelly Slater made mind-games his trademark, Carroll would psyche out his competition before they even hit the water. “I remember having Tom Carroll in a heat and seeing him on the beach before we paddled out,” recalls Mike Parsons. “One look at him and I instantly knew that he was going to win the heat.” According to Carroll, his intensity wasn’t necessarily meant to intimidate his competition, but was rather a means to focus himself. “I can clearly remember the need to bring myself into focus, as I wasn’t a natural competitive surfer. I had trouble getting distracted. I could never truly relax into the role of clever strategist,” recalls Carroll. “So to cut through my never-ending distractions, I became very intense and focused and sometimes I had trouble gauging it. But overall, I believe my intensity was very important in me gaining higher performance levels in my surfing.”
Feed off others. There’s no denying that at the recent Lowers Pro, Gabriel Medina was surfing like a man possessed. It was one of the most dominant performances we’ve seen in recent years with Medina posting five of the event’s top 10 heat scores, five of the top 10 wave scores, and an 18-point average heat total. So what’s it take to put on a truly legendary performance like this? Medina credits his family and fellow countrymen, who pushed him to excel. “That win at Lowers was really different for me. I don’t know, the wave is so fun and everything, but there was something else happening. All of my family was there at the event cheering me on and I felt like all of Brazil was really there with me. I truly believe they helped me win the event.”
Never surrender. What made Andy Irons a three-time world champion was his unyielding perseverance and refusal to back down. Whenever Andy took to the lineup, you knew you could expect fireworks. At the 2006 Pipe Masters final, in what was arguably the greatest heat in professional surfing, Slater had the entire field comboed. Andy had already put up an 8- and a 9-point ride, but still needed a miracle to win the heat. And with just a few moments left, Andy bumped shoulders with Slater on the takeoff and slipped into a 10-point ride at Backdoor to turn the impossible into reality and take the win over the then eight-time world champ. “I fought back and then that last wave in the end, that 10 I got, Kelly almost got it and if he would have caught that he would have got me…he would have won,” Andy had said. “I’m just glad I didn’t back off at all. That was my last laugh. He [Kelly] knows I don’t go away quietly…”