Were you watching?

Feeling the excitement, the adrenaline, the fairy tale absurdity of having the winner of the 2020 Mike Stewart Pipeline Pro decided in the very last seconds, on the very last wave of the event.

Now that the dust has settled, I’d like to turn the blowtorch onto Iain Campbell’s winning wave. The only ten of the event, just about the only score that could have usurped birthday boy Tanner McDaniel for the victory.

Our reaction to sport is often a visceral thing, a gut feeling rather than a cognitive, rational dissection of events. There were two waves that where my gut screamed ten, neither were Campbell’s.

The first was a super deep, super long barrel that McDaniel scored in his round 4 heat. He had no right to come out of that one.

The second came in his Semi-Final with a come from behind pipe pit to full rotation air rev out of the bowl. Not quite as “Whoa” as the first, but perfectly executed.

When you’ve invested long hours observing an activity, you know when you’re seeing the uncommon, rather than the norm. Both waves from Tanner seemed to evoke that reaction.

Conversely, despite the dramatics of the countdown, the final on the line and being arguably the biggest and heaviest wave of the heat, Iain’s ride didn’t invoke the same response that I had early to Tanners waves.

In commentary, Mike Stewart alluded to the fact that a rider can often receive a little bump up in the numbers when a wave comes at the end of a heat and may provide a potential winning score.

Perhaps it was the angle of the wave on the broadcast.

Perhaps it was an unconscious bias towards seeing the rider in McDaniel, who I thought was the stand-out competitor of the event, pipped at the post.

Perhaps I’d just make a shit judge, but Campbell’s ride didn’t give me the immediate tingle in the vitals I want when feeling a 10.

High 9’s sure, but not a perfect score.

A perfectly ridden wave, but not a perfect 10.


P.S. If you can track down the footage on Ayaka Suzuki’s blog on Youtube, check out the air reverse Hubb didn’t ride out of at Backdoor in the final that the online stream missed. Would have defiantly been a heat changer.

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