HOGDOG HEAVEN AT THE GLOBE WCT FIJI
News provided by ASP World Tour on 30 May 2005
HEAVEN knows, a goofy’s glory is invariably bestowed in the churning guts of a large lefthander, and that’s what went down today as Australia’s Nathan Hedge was bestowed a knighthood by his peers after a stunningly perfect 10 point ride out at Cloudbreak as round three of the Globe WCT Fiji continued to unfold in 4-6’++ perfect conditions, that eventually maxed out at an intolerable onshore wind-torn 10-12’. Through it all, we saw the world’s best stand up and be counted. The count was 32, the remaining soldiers standing amongst the Foster’s Top 45. They blew doors.
There were two ten point rides bestowed today, one to Nathan ‘Hog’ Hedge, and one to surfing’s perennial ambassador Kelly Slater. Slater’s 10 was a matter of refinement, a measure of his mastery, two sick deep pits connected on a typically beautiful Cloudbreak wave with his characteristic savvy and style. Anything is possible with Slater.
On the other hand, with all due respect to surfing’s Superman Slater, Nathan Hedge’s ten was an impossibility. He pulled into a sheet glass Mack-truck set, a good 30 metres behind an already thunderously cascading lip. As the plummeting lip of the monster gave him no alternative but to set a line and drive thinking on natural instinct “This is mine, do or die!” it looked to all watching as a ‘nice try’ scenario.
Busting through chandeliers of plunging white water from the thick funnelling roof above came by instinct, a confrontation to be overcome. Something like five seconds later, totally obscured, all assuming he was undergoing a thrashing below sea level, Nathan Hedge re-emerged into the daylight to the absolute astonishment of all.
Dropping to the bottom of the still foiling 8-10’ wall, hooting and screaming in his ears, he paused momentarily to stand back-arched facing the judges tower, restraining from raising his arms to claim victory, as he would have been well excused for doing.
On with the job he ricocheted off the bottom and carved not one but two and a half swathes through the wall still on offer with style and conviction that would have done his juggernaut heroes Occy and Luke Egan proud. There was never a doubt it was a ten…except for the fact that even the judges had given him up for dead after the lip took him from view, impossibly deep.
As it says in life’s textbook, experience is actually the pain of delayed plans and ambitions. Nathan John Hedge is one ambitious dog, aka Da Hog, stubborn as a wild pig (besides the fact that Hog is a natural derivative of the surname Hedge …hence the HedgeHOG!).
Look at what the stumpy little power pack from North Narrabeen has gone through in the last 12 months and two weeks. He kicked the doors in on surfing’s considered greats in Tahiti last year to make the final, only to dislocate his shoulder seven minutes into the final. Thrust from the pack of surfing hopefuls, he got a glimpse of what he was capable of if he applied himself and intensified his focus.
He missed Fiji recuperating, before coming back less than six weeks later to be the surfer of the event at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa. The sport’s apprentice freak and reigning world champion Andy Irons got the trophy there after harnessing the best pit of the week at the start of the final. Hog denied again. In Hawaii four months later he reefed his shoulder from its socket again, sticking his arm in the wall on a Pipeline express. Still denied.
He fell just one step short of his 2004 Tahitian conquest, finishing third two weeks ago at Teahupoo, and declaring once and for all that he is a serious world title contender. Today’s ten only confirms that. The worker’s hero! Nathan Hedge received a standing ovation from all on the event’s tender ship, world champs and all, after the completion of his heat that, by the way, was gallantly opposed by his Brazilian adversary Paulo Moura.
What else happened today? Nothing compared to that wave, but there were obvious highlights, Slater’s ten and multiple nines from Andy Irons were remarkable, as was the ocean itself. Bruce Irons was a standout too. From the mid-morning shake of some early wobbles, the surf was pristine and majestic by nature and stature. This Globe WCT Fiji event is turning out to be something very special.
After rating next to no knots for most of the day, the onshore came up with radical and instant force from around 2.30pm. Mick Fanning and Neco Padaratz were paddling out for their heat 11 at the time. The famed Coolangatta Kids trio lost its first member when Neco got the 8.5 he was hunting 90 seconds from the hooter.
Dingo Morrison took out stormy onshore expert Jake Paterson in the next showdown with astute tactics, and then Joel Parkinson relegated fellow countryman Luke Stedman to a 17th placing. By that stage the Cloudbreak set-up was getting to wash-thru stage, with solid 10-12’+ sets looking downright dangerous. Proceedings were canned for the day.
Anything could happen tomorrow. With the ‘Perfect Storm’ swell bearing down on the enchanted Fijian Islands, it may very well be too big and gnarly to surf anywhere tomorrow. Meteorologists gauge their forecasts by comparing computer models of previous weather systems and patterns, but there has never been a Southern Hemisphere low-pressure system like this one in modern recorded history.
This may very well be the last ASP press release from this journalist, and the last Foster’s Men’s World Tour event of the year for the current personnel. We may wake up in the morning in a churning cauldron of white water. The island of Namotu is only about five foot above sea level…but, what a way to go. Hog will go down smiling.
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