NORTH SHORE, Hawaii/USA (Sunday, December 4, 2011) – It always takes me longer to pack for Hawaii than anywhere else in the world. About three hours most times actually. But it’s always the best hours of packing in your life.
No matter how many times you go there – and I’m on my 12th visit – Hawaii always draws out so many images and memories, and then
anticipation, as you get into that space of actually going there.
I’ve been doing that as I get ready to fly out of the Gold Coast today for the last WT event of the tour – the Billabong Pipe Master. We’ve had a ridiculous flat spell on the Goldie for weeks now and I can’t wait to feel some moving water under my feet. That it’s Hawaii and the Pipe Masters I’m flying into – and with an amazing quiver of boards with me – is only heightening the expectations I have of myself.
In many other years, I’d have been in Hawaii earlier than this and would be doing the entire Triple Crown, but 2011 has been a challenging season in that it was the first time since I qualified for the tour that I have found myself in a full form slump.
I believe I’m out of that slump now. Reaching the Semis in Portugal and taking out Mick and Joel in important heats before that reinforced the principles I need to stick to ensure 2012 marks a return to the upper rankings. Back to that in a minute.
To some degree, that starts with the Pipe event even though it’s technically the closer to a 2011 season that Kelly is already first
past the post for.
The best (consistent) results of my career have bridged calendar seasons when I had a 3rd, a 1st and 2nd. A good finish to a year can give a lot of momentum into the next. Taj is the most recent obvious example. So I wanted to concentrate on the WT event only, and spending a few extra weeks on the Goldie with my family, my shaper and some key guys in my support crew who know me best.
We actually began that work ahead of the European leg, isolating the factors that we felt were contributing to my slump and what we had to do to get out of it.
I had my own views on what those things were and it was cool to have my key guys tell me ahead of me opening up to them what they thought was going wrong.
I’m not going to go into too much detail because there’re some key insights that can go down in that environment. But the main thing is these guys have never blown smoke up my arse at any time of my career. They see through bullshit and they call it how it is. I’m talking about guys like “Elko” (Gary Elkerton), Wayne McKewen my shaper, Nick, my mentor at Mt Woodgee, Dadee Taylor who helps with my coaching and Wes who helps with my training. They quickly got me to understand some key things. One was that form slumps are temporary. If you’re good enough, they come to an end. Every athlete has them. The key is to learn from the experience and channel it.
It’s so true. There’s been talk just about every year since I qualified for the tour about the “changing of the guard”. It’s never
happened. And then we’ve had 2012. The current Top 10 is full of new faces (except for the constant of Kelly of course!). Guys you never expect to see equal 17ths against their name such as Mick, Parko and Taj are suddenly finding themselves in that space.
I’m hardly alone in being challenged for a ranking in the upper echelon that I’ve held onto for five years now. I think the so-called “changing of the guard” is more about the “narrowing of the line” than any other cliché that people might want to pin on what is happening right now. By that, I mean the narrowing of the line between winning and losing. I’ve been experiencing it all year and Europe was also a microcosm of it. In France, I had Gabriel Medina in Round 3. Ahead of Europe, I’d identified a subtle drop-off in my aggression levels in early heats as a problem. I pride myself on how I safeguard and use priority.
That’s why I love the man-on-man format. Those of you who follow my results closely will know I have a crap record in three-man heats. I like to keep it to just one guy you need to cross. Having two rivals and no priority system doesn’t bring out the best in me in the way the two-man format does.
I don’t stress about it, but it means being on your guard and using priority well. I was leading with about four minutes to go and with Gabriel needing a six plus, which was actually going to be quite difficult in the conditions we were facing. I let him slip onto what I thought was going to be a close-out and he pulled a massive air and got his score. He pretty much used that template from how he rode that wave to go all the way and even beat Kelly en route to a win. But that was of little consolation to me. I had learned the hard way that my aggression levels need to stay up.
I took that into Portugal and it helped immensely Against Mick, when I scored the third 10-point ride of my career, I knew as soon as I saw the wave that it was a 10. I’d put myself in the best position to get it. I knew what I had to do on it and I knew I could make it.
Nailing those opportunities reinforced and reminded me that I have what it takes to compete at the highest level. Wayne and I have been working on some subtle changes to my equipment and I’m frothing over the thought of how they’re going to go. Elko has been training me hard and applying the psychology and other things are coming together too.
Here’s to a December to remember for all.
For more on BEDE DURBIDGE, check out his ASP WORLD TOUR PROFILE
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