“At 41 and still ranked No 2 in the world, Slater would appear to match the profile of a textbook doping suspect”. Will Swanton, The Australian. Mar 11, 2013.
Don’t know how you read that statement published in Murdoch’s flagship australian broadsheet but I see it as one scrotal hair away from a direct allegation. It was published devoid of context, sitting out there like an asteroid blazing through the evidence- free atmosphere of mainstream press sensationalism.
Earlier Slater had been hatcheted in Murdoch’s flagship low rent rag the Daily Terror-graph, with his statements about rec drug use being rampant on Tour being taken out of context. That journalist, Greg Stolz blamed his editor for that and later apologised profusely to Slater.
I’d been hanging with Will Swanton in the press room during the event. He’s the kind of happy go lucky guy with an easy smile that is instantly likeable. The kind of guy that would never dog a shout. I asked him this morning if he would be attending the Slater post heat press scrum after he easily accounted for Dusty Payne. He ummned and ahhhed something about deadline.
“Mate, you reckon he might be a bit pissed off? What’s been published is tantamount to accusing him of being a drug cheat.”
Like Stolzy earlier Will was flustered. “Mate in the Armstrong age it’s not unreasonable to say that, that’s what I meant”.
“There was no context about it being in the Armstrong Age, just a lone sentence saying he matched the profile of a doping suspect. Seeya down there?”
Will did not attend the press scrum with Slater. But this Murdoch War on Slater and Pro surfing could have some legs. Especially if Fox Group is one of the bidders for the media rights that underpin any future for Pro surfing. That could set up a serious battle for Pro surfing supremacy between the worlds biggest media Baron and the King of Pro surfing. Would Slater be able to muzzle Murdoch’s famous attack dogs?Time will tell shipmates. Will arrived and put in a very understated appearance at the final press scrum for the day. Slater appeared not to notice.
This whole media situation surrounding Pro surfing is frankly insane. Surfing mags used to writing advertorial now forced to deal with a new media landscape, a feral Murdoch press reviving surfy druggie stereotypes without evidence and the ASP itself vainly trying to control the narrative by publishing it’s own content. The genie is so far out of the bottle now it’s laughable. What other sporting governing body deigns fit to report on itself? It’s cuckoo.
Somehow amongst the assembled media hacks Josh Kerr had been prized as a genuine contender here. That was despite a very low completion rate on his aerials in the expression sessions. I thought that was crazy talk. He was never going to beat Matt Wilkinson on top turns; Wilko’s backhand had mesmerised the judges and Kerrzy was going to have to win the battle for air supremacy. Just as in the expression sessions though, he couldn’t stick a big one and his trump card now looks shaky.
Medina walked past me on the boardwalk. You think he’s some lightweight aerialist but he’s tall timber and you wouldn’t get much change from 80kilos these days. There was no noticeable limp but I asked him how the ankle was. He tilted his hand sideways and rocked it up and down, so so. Quite clearly it was screwed. You can’t fake your way through an ankle injury. Team Medina must have clearly thought there was nothing to lose and a sneaky victory against Brett Simpson might have changed the world title calculation by years end. Those inches add up by Pipeline.
The surf got scrappy as the tide drained and the swell rose. There shouldn’t be a possible universe where Jordy Smith gets beaten by Trav Logie at a head high right Pointbreak. No offence to Trav but the firepower is overwhelmingly in Jordy’s favour. Jordy caught a wave on the buzzer, to try and construct a come from behind win but it was too little too late. He must lose the Mop before Bells or suffer further consequences.
With John John and Gabriel out injured and the risk of aerial injury imperilling title campaigns it was a 41 yr old man who did the highest air of the day. When asked about injury Slater claimed to be carrying three niggling injuries: a patella tendon strain, lower back strain and ongoing hip soreness. He also claimed his energy levels were low. Despite this he surfed the best heat of the day to get a walk through into the Quarters defeating Wilko and Durbidge.
The heat started with a furious paddle battle with Bede. Earlier Slater had claimed watching Dane paddle battle with De Souza could make the paddle battle cool. He laughed the battle off later, saying he was laughing with Bede……but he won it anyway. After a few nondescript rides where his board seemed to be surfing flat he was losing ground to Wilko and Bede. He couldn’t hold the landing on a massive slob air and was being well beaten. In the last seven minutes he constructed two heat winning rides amongst a flurry of high scoring waves. It was one of the finest examples of peak performance in the clutch moment so far this event. At 41? Get the swab and the sample jar ready Will and drag him out the back of the dunnies. No mortal man could be this good.
Should Pro surfing bow to mainstream community expectations with regard to drug use or should it stay true to it’s roots and hold to something less onerous?
Just hold that thought for a minute.
But rewind the tape for a brief moment. Parko had looked superb in the Rd4 heat with a series of power moves that were showing a new radical edge to his surfing. He seemed to have the heat on lockdown but Julian Wilson, who like Kerrzy was having trouble with a low make rate on the hi-fi moves, suddenly found an extra gear and completed. It could’ve gone either way but Wilson took it. Of course Baldy was there licking his chops. J-dubs is my off broadway pick to take the event out.
I asked him a couple of quick questions.
Along with the official world title there seems to be this unofficial world title by video, has that changed the equation for you or entered your consciousness?
Yeah, it’s exciting, everyone loves to watch it. I love freesurfing and filming clips but there’s nothing better than the challenge of putting on a rashie and overcoming the nerves and anticipation and delivering in front of a large amount of people. It’s what gets me excited. But I love freesurfing and I love doing trips. John John’s on Tour, he loves competing; he had a crack at the Title last year. It’s hard with Dane not on the Tour but John John’s here and surfing like there is no tomorrow.
Despite the win in Portugal last year, you weren’t really in the world title mix coming into Pipe and as a result you seemed to fly below the radar last year, is that an advantage for you now?
Actually, it was exciting because after Portugal I did have an outside chance of a World Title. My goal last year was to win an event, not so much to go for a Title because I didn’t think I had the experience. I ticked the boxes I wanted to last year and I tried my hardest at Pipe but it’s a difficult wave and I haven’t had any luck out there so I’m just paying my dues. It’s definitely a good position to come into the year from with the camera taken off you for a bit but at the same time this is the hardest event of the year for me. I feel so much pressure. It’s as close to a home event as I get and I want to do my family proud so to get through that round is really good. I feel comfortable now and I can focus on my surfing.
You’ve always had the surfing chops but you’ve made some crucial judgement errors with the interference calls. Are you happy with your judgement now?
Yeah, a hundred percent. It’s all experience. I’m learning lessons at each and every event. I’ve learned some really hard ones: that France Final, the semi-finals at Trestles where i got the interference call and I thought I could have won both events. it’s about having an understanding about what kind of head space you need to be in to make the correct decisions at the time. Look at Slater, he makes the correct decision every time.
So you can put yourself in that headspace at will?
Ah, once I get past Snapper I’ll be fine (laughs). This year is easier than past years for me. It’s getting easier to deal with the pressure.
The Round 4 heats had all been entertaining. Fanning closed it out, looking sharp and flawless through his basic power repertoire, and a bit shaky when pushing the high performance envelope above the lip.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the strange psychological tone of the Tour. Slater had come out last year and said he didn’t care if surfing went mainstream which was at odds with the ZoSea premise to push it to a global media buyer. Surfers kept clamouring that surfing was one of the cleanest sports yet the drug testing regime was carried out under a bizarre and inept veil of secrecy. Uncertainty is the dominant feeling amongst the pros and the people who surround them.
I asked Mick if surfers were prepared, as the cost of going mainstream, to have more scrutiny applied to them in terms of drug use. His defence was unequivocal.
” I think surfing is one the most professional sports there is. Have a look at every guy, they’re fit as. We’ve been there for a few years now (drug testing?) and I think with the ZoSea deal it’s great and it’s exciting for surfing and we’re ready to go forwards.”
“Yeah, but in terms of recreational drugs: you see a guy like Wendell Sailor test positive for cocaine and get a two year ban. Do you think surfing is ready to go to that level?”
“I can’t comment on anyone else about that sort of stuff. I personally don’t do it and I can’t comment on anyone else”.
Hmm….it seemed a bit bizarre to me too. They want the benefits of the mainstream without the extra scrutiny and community expectations that go with it. Maybe Pro surfing really is the cleanest sport in the world. Maybe we should just get Kelly and old Rupert Murdoch (and you can’t tell me he isn’t gobbling Human Growth Hormone like candy*) into the ring and let ‘em sort it out once and for all. It’s a strange old world this one sports fans. One thing is for certain: there is nothing certain.
*Sorry what I meant to say was: At 82 and with a wife half his age and controlling a media empire that exerts undue influence on the political process Rupert Mudoch would appear to fit the profile of a textbook power mad media baron and doping suspect.