Five aficionados parley their thoughts going into the most high performance event of the year.
Ten years ago, almost to the day!, your ol pal DR was gifted a map to Keramas by the photographer Dustin Humphrey. I was instructed on pain of death not to show anyone except my travel buddy the map ("I will kill you. Know this," warned Hump). Me and my pal spent a day bumping down this track and that track, making wave-like motions to smiling men with machetes, starting at imperfect reefs and saying things like… I'm positive this is how it looks in the photos… before finally seeing a wave that was, oh so very clearly, the righthander of dreams. In 2003 it was still somewhat of a secret. But now! A hotel! A pool! Traffic jams hither and thither! Localism! Fights! And…a world tour event. Who know what tomorrow may bring but I predict Keramas in Bali will become the hottest event on tour surpassing even the buttery lips of Trestles in San Clemente, California. Now let me tell you how it'll all pan out…
—Derek Rielly, Editor, STAB
Winner, Winner: Jordy Smith. There ain't so much confusion and noise in Jordy Smith's head now that he has edited his boards down to one, a wide-tailed CI Rookie, and has gotten all pally with that most breezy of men, Josh Kerr. The highest scoring rides at Keramas will involve feeding the tube, placing the entire ship on rail shortly after the exit and punctuating it all with an end-of-wave interpretation of a frontside air. Frontside? But…ain't there screwfoots in the event, too? Why, yes! But all will be crucified very early. Backhand re-entries ain't gonna get a man far at Keramas. Gabriel is the one possible exception.
The Final: Jordy Smith vs Julian Wilson. I see the heat draw and I see that Jordy and Julian are on opposite sides and then I see the predictability of the wave – wave choice isn't Julian's greatest strength. Julian will cripple the wave and he will cripple Taj Burrow, Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson. Jordy will bring his gunstock down upon the heads of John John and Josh Kerr.
The Darkhorse You'll Ride to the Podium: Adriano de Souza. A last place (in Fiji) isn't something Adriano likes to lug around. Adriano will swat three rounds of underserving affluent white Christians and he will do it with…zest!
The Big Name to Stay Away From: Adrian Buchan. Keramas is unkind to backsiders, in a competitive sense anyway. That thick carve section that will serve as a third of a wave's total score (think of Keramas in three parts: tube, face and end section) will prove impossible to the screwfoots. What are you going to? Frontside, y'bury everything. On your backhand? Bury your nose?
Surprising Rookie: Felipe Toledo. Those wide dark liquid eyes! What secrets do they hold? The world got to bite into this little dancing master at Bells (that oop!) but he has been invisible since. At Keramas he will just… synch… with everything: the crowd, the terrific sun, the ramps and the bowls.
Surprising Vet: Jeremy Flores. So persecuted! So much anguish! I want Jeremy to win just so he can see that the world really vibrates like a huge friendly neon cicada universe.
Lewis Samuels, Surf Journalist/Alchemist
Winner, Winner: John John. Years ago, I posed the following riddle to Kelly Slater: If every contest was held in perfect surf, and each competitor caught the exact same perfect waves in each heat, would the same guy win every time? Kelly was hesitant to answer yes, I recall - perhaps because the implication would have been that he’d win every event. Flash forward to 2013, and ask yourself the same question. If Keramas gets good, it’s hard to picture anyone not named Dane out-surfing John John.
The Final: JJ vs. Kerr It’s tough to bet against the old guard after they beat up on those youngsters in Fiji, pulling out everything from dutch ovens to swirlies. But Keramas is not Cloudbreak, and as everyone already knows, airs will garner excellent scores just as often as barrels. Did someone say airs and barrels? Little know fact: each time someone says that phrase, statistically speaking, Josh Kerr gets spit out of a barrell and launches a giant punt.
The Darkhorse You'll Ride to the Podium: Felipe Toledo. The less you know, the better, sometimes. In all honesty, I don’t know much about this kid - I’m not keeping up with this shit like I used to - and that’s exciting. Who knows what the fuck Felipe will do when given launch ramps. But I bet you it’s gonna be something.
Big Name to Stay Away From: Bruce Irons. Back in 2008, I stood with Kaiborg on the cliffs above Ulus, with a backpack full of Bintangs, watching Bruce march to victory in the last ASP event held in Bali. Each time Bruce got a banger, I’d hand Kaiborg a beer and he’d down it. Andy had locked himself in his hotel room and wouldn’t come out. A lot has changed since then. Andy’s gone, Kaiborg’s fit and sober, and Bruce... well,he’s a wildcard, isn’t he?
A Rook and a Vet Who'll Surprise: Kolohe and Bede When I first started in this game, an Australian surf mag editor took me aside at an industry party, and knowingly lectured me on journalistic etiquette. “You can’t be friends with them,” he told me, nodding towards the pros. At the time, it seemed to me that everyone who wrote about pro surfing, except me, was friends with the pros. And therefore they weren’t objective.
Travis Ferré, Editor — What Youth
Winner, Winner: I know I’ve made some extreme claims in regards to my predictions with Kelly Slater, saying I’ll never bet against him as long as he’s on tour. And I just want to come out once and for all and say that I’ve never been more sure of that than I am right now. I’m going to pick Kelly Slater again and here is why — aside from the fact that there is no way he will lose. Kelly Slater has a glow about him right now. The past three years, he’s dominated, but with a hum-glum approach at times. Wavering, playing mind-games etc, but right now, he’s smiling, he’s surfing enthusiastically and with pep. The dude has the spirit and creativity of a mod. He’s more fun, more entertaining and more on point right now than I’ve ever seen him, and we all know we’ve seen him at pretty high lvels. Sure, Keramas looks like a good opportunity for the Modern Collective generation to snatch one from the champ, but Kelly is just too good in good waves and Keramas is just that. Kelly Slater, lights out.
The Final: Kelly Slater will be joined in the final by Jordy Smith. Keramas is good, playful wave to be sure, but it also offers of some mammoth hack sections. Jordy Smith’s surfing, especially as of late, is geared for this. He’s put video parts together here for years, he looks comfortable in Bali. His girl loves Bali. We all love Bali. Jordy Smith comes of age and keeps smiling right through this event.
The Dark Horse You'll Ride to the Podium: I feel weird even writing this, but I’m going with Julian Wilson as a dark horse. He’s rated 15th after Fiji, with three straight 13th finishes. Last year he showed moments of brilliance and looks like he was made to compete on the tour, but so far he’s fallen to some unlucky moments and tactical errors. Julian has made a side career freesurfing at Keramas and this event it will all come to fruition. Not many guys can match his style, strength, creativity and flair at this wave.
The Big Name to Stay Away From: Mick Fanning is going to look ultra sharp at Keramas, but come the 5th round and into the finals rounds, he is going to run out of tricks. We don’t want to see him attempting to keep pace with the kids like he had to in Brazil. It’s just not a good look for him. Mick will look impressive until those rounds and the kids gain momentum. This wave is the younger generation’s version of Fiji: it has power, but also offers several wildcard opportunities for modern tricks that the Parkos and Fannings just cant compete with, especially with the polished and refined rail games of Jordy Smith, Adriano DeSouza and John John Florence.
Rookie and a Vet Who'll Surprise: Sebastian Zietz has to be — along with Nat Young — the most welcome surprises to the tour. “Win or lose we booze,” is a mentality that Seabass both coined and celebrates in a way that is neither destructive or frowned upon. It’s modern. It’s real. And it’s fun. It’s why we all surf and he deserves all the success he’s found. He’s got the tricks, the rail game and has quickly learned the game of competing. The vet you really can’t ignore here is Parko. Keramas has enough face for him to open up and do those turns that make us freak out. He filmed an entire video part at this wave a few years ago in an afternoon. He knows how to solve the riddle out there. He may not have all the tricks but he’s got Keramas on speed dial and knows the cheat codes.
Chris Binns, Former Editor — Surfing Life
Winner, Winner: Taj Freaking Burrow. He’s gotta win an event every year, right? Coming from West Oz he’s the closest guy to a local in the draw, he spends every spare moment he can find in the Island Of The Gods, and alongside Andy Irons he practically invented the term hi-fi on the black sand and coral of Keramas. If it’s overhead and piping or three-foot and onshore TB is deadly.
The Final: Joel Parkinson. Has spent an absurd amount of time in Bali, rips performance rights to shreds, and owes Keramas a thing or two since it basically cost him the 2009 world title. Has made a ton of finals over the past few years but often seems to peak in the quarters and semis. Look for Parko’s title run to start in Bali.
The Darkhorse You'll Ride to the Podium: Is Brett Simpson a darkhorse? Probably. After surprising a lot of people with a sharp backhand performance at Cloudbreak watch for Simpo to keep the roll, er, rolling in a wave that sits more comfortably in his wheelhouse.
The Big Name To Stay Away From: Kelly Slater. If he misses his flight or breaks a leg. Actually, only if he misses his flight.*
*won Bells in 2010 with a broken foot.
A Rookie Who’ll Surprise: Sebastian Zietz has stunned many, but not others who knew, with his entry to the Major Leagues. Has spent a lot of time surfing this wave. Has the unpredictable quirks to his game that keep the judges guessing. Has the unpredictable quirks to his game that keep the judges impressed.
A Vet Who'll Surprise: Tiago Pires. Not that the Search event at Uluwatu has any bearing whatsoever on this contest, but Saca beat Kelly the last time the ASP visited Indonesia. He’s a natural footer, has surfed Keramas a ton, and even owns property in Bali.
Chas Smith, Writer/Sommelier
Winner, Winner: I called the final in Fiji (Kelly beats Mick). I called the winner in Rio (Jordy). And now Las Vegas is calling me. “Come handicap for us,” they beg. “Come and call the shots!” Vivaaaaaa Las Vegas! So, if you want to make some money, honey, you will choose Julian Wilson to win in Bali because I do too. He is Australian, for one. He loves the air, for two. He is hungry as a hippo, for three. He is handsome, for four. Contrary to popular belief he is not losing his hair, for five. And he will not lose this event. Vivaaaaa Jules Wilson!
The Final: Julian will paddle out, singlet still smoking hot from his semi final victory over Joshua Kerr and fight Adriano de la Souza to the death. Both will fly. Both will fly so high. But Julian Wilson will fly just a touch higher and get the better score and that means he will win, win, winner!
The Dark Horse: Josh Kerr ain’t dark. He is almost even money to win the golden Oakley Frogskins. The real dark horse is the bridesmaid, Taj “TB” Burrow. He is second place’s first choice but maybe at this event Taj Burrow will put it all together and get the win, propelling him from fourth in the rankings all the way to second place. Second place’s first choice!
The Big Name to Stay Away From: Joel. I hate to keep saying it but it is true. Stay away!
The Rookie Who’ll Surprise: Filipe Toledo. Nathanial Young is the puncher’s first choice but I just don’t see it here. I see a sneaky Brazilian sneaking right in to the blonde boy club and turning heads.
The Vet Who’ll Surprise: Kelly Slater. Damn him, he can do no wrong.