Surfer swept out to sea near Margaret River in Western Australia

“Medina is up five places to number seven. Those above him must sense the reaper at the door.”

Well, friends, I must apologise for my tardiness. For the first time in three (?) seasons of reporting, yesterday I failed to deliver a report on a day of professional surfing. A good innings, surely, but also personally disappointing, even if you don’t give a shit. But I’ll make up for it.

Excuses? Many and varied.

Life is one extended floater, closer to dropping into the flats and shattering kneecaps than anything else.

The good: I delivered my creative nonfiction writing workshop in a local bookshop whilst the world’s best surfers began to hack and joust with Punta Roca.

The (publishable) bad: I lost 3k worth of carbon foil on a downwind run last night. I’d winged upwind for five miles, and was nearly home, cruising back on shin to knee high windswell (the efficiency of a foil is mindblowing, friends and foil doubters) when the mast snapped midway through a gybe with a sound like a gunshot. A half mile or so paddle to shore was by far secondary to the thought of all that cash sinking into the depths.

But my sermon, ahem, ‘workshop’, on writing went really well, thanks for asking.

Eight brave souls paid the princely sum of forty Pounds Sterling to be there. All were keen of pen and gracious of ear, and I must confess to having rather enjoyed it.

I began with an anecdote (but of course), one I had conceived during my fifteen minute bike ride to town, three beers down, helmetless, and sucking hard on a passionfruit ice vape pen.

Leaving the house again, barely having arrived, the boys had wondered where dad was going this time?

“I’m off to pretend to be a writer!” I called from halfway out the front door.

I was unsure whether it was a joke or not.

So I told this to the group, and I said that we all suffer from the internal agonies of purpose and ability. All artists need validation, because art cannot exist in a void. Creation needs an audience, writing more than most.

I brought excerpts from John McPhee, John Vaillant, Kae Tempest, William McIlvanney, J A Baker.

These diverse voices reflected those in front of me.

There was Gwin, a stout man in his fifties or sixties, owner of a local shop selling art curiosities and tourist tat. Gwin used to be a geologist, and though his writing lacks flair, this is compensated by the orderly detail with which he describes things.

There was Jemma, a girl in her twenties who wrote about her grandparents’s house, and the comforting hum of their fishtank. She was embarrassed to admit that she had searched for this sound of this particular brand of fishtank on YouTube, adding it to a playlist that she listens to regularly. But there was no need to be embarrassed, because this perspective was unique, and beautiful as a result.

Similarly, Alasdair, a young man with rich red hair and a wizardy beard that masks his shyness, was slightly hesitant to reveal that the most precious thing he’d ever lost was a gaming code. His hands shook as he told us the code allowed him to access an online world to which he’d dedicated hours, days and months of his life. His friends were in there, he said, real people confined to the virtual world in which he’d known them. Years later, when he managed to get back in, all were gone. Moved on, he said. Without him. It was a poignant glimpse into a world I know nothing of.

And there was Ian the arborist, immersed in a very different world, an ancient, living world that few of us will ever know. He spends his days clambering branches, exploring root systems, and grafting life from one thing to another.

I took something from all of them.

We talked about finding your niche and purpose, and why it’s vital to search for meaning as a writer.

Then I came home and watched pro surfing from El Salvador on my phone in my kitchen til 3am (replays in real time, because I’m a sicko) and tried to think about what I might write about it.

Do as I say, not as I do.

So the surfing, as surely one or two of you are here for…

What I’ve seen has been dynamic and highly entertaining. An entirely different competition to the one just past, obviously, but a beautiful diversity and juxtaposition of skills, like the writer’s group.

Punta Roca has served up two consistent days of waves in the head high range. A little warbly at times, not nearly perfect, but a fine canvas for some tight heats.

Several in the opening round were solid entertainment. Surfers traded waves, often subsequent waves of each set at a frantic pace for the judges to try and keep up with.

The beauty of Punta Roca is that we might watch two surfers on screen together on scoring waves. This is advantageous as a spectator, but also adds a little edge for the competitors, who might kick out in joy or disappointment to see their adversary detonating the wave behind them.

In the booth, Cote, Salazar and Wasileski, have provided a soundtrack sponsored by amphetamine sulphate and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Not entirely unlistenable. I have a little soft spot for Strider and Cote. Their relentless positivity may not reflect the real world, but you can’t fault them for the approach.

Mitch Salazar, on the other hand.

Play a drinking game for the finals. Take a drink every time he mentions he surfed on the QS, or intimates that he’s actually a really, really good surfer. You’ll be buckled in no time.

But again, if I were in his position, with his face and taste in shirts, I might do the same. So no judgement really.

The other benefit of these late season comps is that the chaff has well and truly been scythed. Few heats are without interest, and when wildcards like Bryan Perez show up and show out, it’s even better.

There have been some significant ratings jumps already (credit where due to WSL for introducing the live rankings).

Medina is up five places to number seven. Those above him must sense the reaper at the door.

Crosby Colapinto will surf a quarter final against an in-form Florence in which he has a chance. But even a loss sees him jump five places to ninth, with a sniff at a finals berth at his home break. Griff vs Crosby at Trestles? I’m down for that.

And Yago Dora, the standout at Punta Roca so far, leaps six places to eleventh. He’ll match-up with Robinson in a titillating quarter final prospect. Win or lose, he’ll head to Rio as defending event champion with a damn good shot of cracking the top five.

We might not like the Trestles finish, but if we play it where it lies, you can’t argue that a top five of say, Griffin Colapinto, Jack Robinson, Italo Ferreira, Gabriel Medina and Yago Dora would be as good as you might hope for.

Of course I’ve missed a ton of what’s happened in a frantic couple of days, but I promise to get into the weeds and trenches again for finals day, if that’s even what you want.

And I’ll endeavour to give you a little extra something in the coming days to make up for it. A virtual fluffing, say. A happy ending that makes us all feel good for a moment before the guilt descends again like a low-slung cloud.

Now I’m off to search the literal murky depths of the low tide to look for my foil. Wish me luck.

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