What a nut-up by Kai Otton. This hairy Howard Hughes of a recluse pulled his Spruce Goose out of a season-long tailspin and soared all the way to the semis at J-Bay. Against Parko, he kept believin’ even when Parko opened up with an arguable 10 – Kai answered back with his own arguable 9.8. Here’s the thing that makes this all so amazing: Backside, Otton is simply not at the same level as his peers, and he knows it. I know it. We all know it. Last year, I remarked that Ottz looked like “a man stuck in a lawn chair” when he pumped down the line at J-Bay. This comment had unintended repercussions. (Yes, this is the part where I name-drop, if only to prove name-dropping does not make the Power Rankings more entertaining). Dayyan Neve told me later that Ottz was so shattered by the slight that he avoided going right at Trestles and Hossegor. Slater weighed in at some point with the opinion that I was right, and that it was about time someone told Kai, so that he could correct that lawnchair backside stance. Later, Taj’s trainer nearly clocked me in Mundaka, citing the lawnchair comment as one of the many reasons.
My point is this: Ottz showed up at J-Bay and took it to all comers, despite his shortcomings. He won off placement and pits. He took down Fred, CJ, Dingo and nearly, Parko. Did other beards surf better? Yes. But it was Kai-motherfucking-Otton in the semis at the end of the day, and no one can take that away from him. This is a competitive surfer.
Another bearded clam, and another season turned around. Dingo hasn’t looked particularly good all year, but at J-Bay he worked the kinks out slowly but surely. Morrison edged Lipke in R1, barely edged Flores by .5 in R2, and then opened up against Curran in R3 once the waves got good. Dean’s a surfer’s surfer, in the end - he stays in the water longer than he needs to, loses interest in crap slop, and then burns bright and jives to life in solid pits. Two ridiculous kegs on one wave cleared him a path to the quarters, with a 9.63 and 8.00 to back it up. It harkened back to other legendary Dingo pit efforts: vs. AI in Tahiti, vs. Slater in Chile... Nice to see some irony bleeding in, as well: Dingo is one of the most notorious snakes on tour. On his best wave of the event, a non-competitor burned him way down the line and Morrison called him off before pulling into yet another pit. In the end, something always goes wrong for Dingo, and it did yet again against Otton, as a second score never. At this rate, Dingo may pull a Taylor Knox – loitering on tour for another decade without ever winning a second event.
So, I hate to break it to all the Frenchies reading PostSurf, but I’m getting the distinct impression that Jeremy Flores is not the next Kelly Slater. One sign: Flores has steadily dropped in the ratings since joining the tour – he finished 8th his rookie year, 10th last year, and is currently mired at 16th, with not one memorable performance to his credit. His 9th in Brazil was a relative dissapoint compared to his runner-up finish last year. At J-bay, Flores squared off but didn't find the pits that Dingo found. The big question now is whether his career will mirror that of Haley Joel Osment or Macaulay Culkin. Like many child stars, Flores is finding that his appeal is tied up with the cute quotient, which is rapidly eroding with age. Little Jeremy is STILL the youngest surfer on tour – for the third year running. (That should tell you how talented he is, no matter what I proceed to write here.) Jordy Smith is the only other WT surfer born in 1988 – but with the opposite physique, Jordy is likely to pull an Of Mice and Men and accidently pet both Jeremy and Miky Picon to death, because they’re so soft and adorable. Perhaps sensing this, Flores has been training hard to add bulk to his slight frame. Sadly, there is only so much one can do – at best Flores will end up a muscled miniature freak, a French Danny Bonaduce, instead of a pudgy Corey Feldman.
I feel for Freddy Patacchia. This poor landing-strip lipped lothario started off the season en fuego, with a 9th and 3rd… but ever since the launch of Insurfnews.com, his results have been plummeting. Makes sense to me. Generating daily online surf content is the most soul-draining, mind-numbing task one can toil through in life. Each day, your deadline is today. Each day, no matter what you produce, your effort is met with an instant and deranged deluge of criticism. Doing it as work is questionable; doing it as a hobby is masochistic. It’s an incubator for self destruction – perhaps that’s why Freddy P pulled the ol’ whitewater spin around on Kai Otton in R1 at J-Bay, snaking Kai to the inside and boogieboarding him off a wave Kai had already stood up on. In another era, before surfers high-fived during heats, this type of cutthroat hassling was considered the badge of a dominant competitor. But no longer – only Kelly pulls this shit anymore. No one else is particularly interested in winning. To Fred’s discredit, his shameful deceit did not deliver victory. Karma offered Ottz an 8.5 barrel under Fred’s priority, and Ottz made the semis. Let this be a lesson to you kiddes: Hawaiians are not locals everywhere they go, and too much blogging always ends in tears.
Speaking of great ambassadors for Hawaii: has anyone else noticed that Kekoa Bacalso has the stable, hulking frame of a young James Brown? Part three of my “Great Americans Who Drink at Work:”