Superbank Super Session
The Superbank Came Alive After the Quik Pro
Superbank, Gold Coast, Australia – March 12, 2014
“Holy s--t, look at the f--king waves!?” screams Kolohe Andino at a higher-than-normal decibel level, seemingly to no one at all. Sun-bleached and smiling in a manner that Andino doesn’t regularly smile and paddling like he’s scratching for the wave that might win him a world title. But there is no clock or judging panel or critics or urgency at all.
Andino was eliminated from the Quiksilver Pro three days prior. In fact, he was no where to be seen in the dramatic and exciting hours leading up to goofyfooter Gabriel Medina's astonishing event win the day prior. Some thought he'd already caught a flight back home or over to West Oz for the next stop on the World Tour.
But here he is. Screaming and racing back out to the lineup, glowing. Just seconds ago he was tucked in a sparkling blue-green barrel heading into the Greenmount bank. Minutes later, he's back on a head-high wave, racing down the line, stalling with his right arm, sliding in picture-perfect framing and lighting, passing several delighted water photographers. While his enthusiasm level may be slightly unique to the setting, Andino's experiences on this day are not: the Superbank – or at least the stretch from Snapper Rocks through Kirra, nearly a half-mile of coastline – is firing.
Long, racy walls, ranging from head high to a few feet overhead, perfect for big gouges, barrels and maybe the occasional air. Regardless of performance preference, the one unanimous sentiment is this: these waves are beautiful. Just perfectly groomed. The type of perfection you might draw in the margins of a notebook or see in some artists' dreamscape lineup; the type of perfection that has the most jaded of pro surfers howling with enthusiasm and glee. The sand banks are in perfect union with the windswell, which arrived courtesy of Cyclone Lusi. It is a swell that saved the contest organizers from running a contest at one of the most iconic waves in waist-high dribble and changed what was almost a dreary introduction to the “new ASP" to a dramatic start to the newly minted Samsung Galaxy World Championship Tour.
(For the record: it was a contest Medina wasn't supposed to win. A goofyfooter hadn't won since 2004 and Medina's path included two Snapper locals and another perennial world title contender. It was a wave that didn't cater to Medina's trademark aerial style, but, as it turned out, was one that allowed Medina to unveil and assert a new element of his repertoire: a backhand power game.)
With the pressures and demands of the contest behind them, the pros, team managers, announcers, writers, the occasional photographer, contest staff and anyone else who could skip out of work mid-week are in the water. It's a Lower Trestles-like gladiator pit from tip to tip. But the waves keep coming. If you're patient or lucky or both, you can score your own wave of the day.
There's Gabriel Medina, the 20-year-old newly-crowned Quik Pro champ unleashing a few of those ferocious backhand snaps through the Little Marley section, the same section that presented the platform on which he staged consecutive come-from-behind upsets in the semifinals and finals. The young Brazilian is looking fast and fleet of foot, despite having continued his celebration late into the evening, renting out an entire bar with part of his $100K winnings. While Medina is paddling back up the point, posse in tow, Mick Fanning, the reigning world champ, paddles up to Medina, puts his arm around his shoulder and offers a few words of praise: “You earned it, buddy; you were killing it."
“Thanks, Mick," Medina responds, a huge smile stretching across his face. Fanning has always been one of Medina's favorite surfers.
The Superbank is firing. The type of perfection you might draw in the margins of a notebook or see in some artists’ dreamscape lineup.
Though Fanning had seemed less than pleased with a quarterfinal exit at his homebreak the day prior (at the hands of Medina), any and all displeasure appears washed away with the delight a full day of free-surfing tends to bring. He's greeting friends and long-time locals, picking-off inside runners and some of the choice waves of the day, all the while exchanging the occasional barb with fellow WCTers.
As he's known to do when waves remain, Kelly Slater is still in town and finding a few waves as well. Even Fanning, the hometown hero, has to deal with the occasional shoulder-hopper, but Slater is somehow allowed to ride unimpeded. Most just stop and watch because, well, he's the 11-time world champ, a defiance of all age-based performance theories and still happens to be one of the frothiest, most exciting guys to watch ride waves.
The gaze of the ASP may have already turned toward Margaret River, the second stop on the new-and-improved Tour, but there's no one rushing to leave the Gold Coast. Sebastian “Seabass" Zietz is still posted up in his room overlooking Greenmount. He's been putting in three to five sessions per day since being eliminated early in the event, grinding on a diet of donuts, cheeseburgers, meat pies and coffee (with the occasional healthy meal courtesy of his travel companion, Krisy). Seabass is one of many not jonesing to head across the continent.
“Jack Robinson was telling me there's been more sharks than waves over there, so I think I'm good hanging here for a while," Seabass says with an uncomfortable laugh.
On this day, the sun sets and the lineup remains full. Hundreds hope to find a set wave they can ride and remember for days to come. It's a battle of attrition at this point, but few seem to want to surrender. There is one of bit of good news for those who don't succeed in nabbing that wave they've been waiting for – there's more swell coming.