You can see just about everything you need to see from the beach announcers booth at the Corona Bali Protected event at Keramas. You can see a doctor hovering over a very dry looking Caroline Marks. She is laid out on a small couch back behind the media booth with a small towel covering her chest. The needle of an IV bag full of saline solution is stuck into the inside of her right arm. She looks overheated but she cannot sweat. The first signs of heat exhaustion. Even the yellow jersey cannot keep you safe from an attack of travelers diarrhea. Still a novice traveler, she had over done it with the sun and the local food and she was just dizzy as hell. It would cost her that yellow jersey, paddling out weakened and lackluster. But still game, she promised to take it easy on the Nasi Goreng. She also told Stephanie Gilmore that Steph would have to give the jersey back after the upcoming Margaret River Pro. And you can see that miracle happening.

You can also see Kelly Slater in the competitors area, alone, fiddling with his phone and keeping an eye on the heats. You can see his presence emanating like heat off black asphalt. Kelly is, after all, made of miracles.This guy was on an almighty tear. The way he was surfing, uninjured, unencumbered, on boards that were finally working and physically looking like a 25 year old, there were whispers from those in the know that he could take the whole damn thing. So people were giving him space. Alot of space. Including Felipe Toledo, who would have to face him in an upcoming quarter final. You could see Toledo looked a bit dry mouthed and quiet about that. A whole hell of alot of reputation was hanging in the air. Getting beaten by a 47year old man? Ouch. You can see the crowds below the scaffolding holding their phones up, straining to get some kind of shot of King Kelly. He can make even a plastic chair look like a throne. No crowd was bigger than when Kelly was surfing. He still is the biggest draw. You can remember hearing from Martin Potter that Kelly should retire already. But you can see also that Kelly is still better than 90% of the field. And is still a peer of the top three. Why quit when you have always surfed and won for a living? Why quit when you are still one of the top five best in the world? You can see Kelly calculating this with a fire in his eye you haven’t seen in years.And you can understand how that might scare some people.

You can see Stephanie Gilmore quietly preparing. Slipping on a blue jersey with seven years worth of World Titles printed on the back. That would have to be intimidating. You can see Lakey Peterson and Sally Fitzgibbons, still in the running, taking a few furtive glances over at the Gold Coast Goddess. From a deep warm-up crouch Stephanie stands and, powerful shoulders back, chin up, she reaches her full height. You can see that this too is intimidating. She strides over to Kelly and you can see that she is taller than him. Interesting. You never knew. Kelly and Steph, comfortable with each other, look out at the surf together, speaking quietly. And you can see Sally and Lakey watching that too. Kelly is pointing out to the surf and Stephanie is listening closely. And then they laugh together and share those famous smiles and pat each other on the back. And with the miracle of eighteen World Titles between Kelly and Steph, you can see that they have just scared the hell out of Sally and Lakey.

You can see the judges in the booth right next to you. Those anonymous heroes. Who despite all the whining and armchair derision, are as good at their job as any of the surfers. Probably better. But that they are also the ghosts of the tour. No one knows their names. They eat, sleep, love and party separately. An entirely different tribe. And surfers all, pretty good surfers, when any one of them paddle out into the freesurfs, you can see that it changes the whole dynamic of the line-up. Complain as you will about these guys as a top competitor, but with your salary in their hands, are you gonna drop in on one of these characters? So “The Judges” surf and live in a cocoon on the pro tour. The most important, yet the most unglamorous job around. And you can see that they are smart and professional and that they are good people with good hearts and that the criticisms hurt them and wear them down. But you also see that they have to take it. Because they too are the best in the world at what they do. And that is the moment when you can see their miracle. That they are never wrong.

You can see Kailani Johnson sitting with her sister Pua. They are radiant and beautiful together under the sponsors umbrellas of the competitors area. You can see that Kailani, the first Indonesian woman to ever surf in a CT event, is wounded. She had two shots at it and was defeated both times. Her surfing looked hog-tied with anxiety. On the live broadcast the world did not see even half her skills. The center ring of the circus just seemed too overwhelming for the young beauty. And she is a stunner, at least the world was able to see that. Of course going up against Steph didn’t help. But you can also see a grit in Kailani’s eyes. That she is not done yet. You heard that the family has moved to Keramas to get her into more powerful surf. And that she is on her way to South Africa for another contest. And you can see miracles in her future. Guaranteed. She will either get strong and break into the pro ranks, or go the Alana Blanchard route. Trading anxiety for glamour. Either way, you can see that the world is going to know who she is.

And as another heat ends and you hand the mic over to the next guest speaker, you can see that, despite all the growing pains and and groaning pains of pro surfing that our world is going to keep spinning. And that our world is not going end. And that we are all doing f*cking great. And that the courage it takes to keep a world tour alive is a miracle. And that it always has been. And as you look out onto the next heat you can see Kanoa Igarashi screaming down the line. But what hits you most is not Kanoa. It’s the wave. Because you can see that they will always be here too. Just for us. And you can sigh a big amen to that.


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