Well, it's about damn time. Regarded by some as the redheaded stepchildren of the ASP World Tour, goofyfooters (surfers who ride with their right foot forward) ruled the lineup at Cloudbreak on the final day of the 2014 Fiji Pro. After finishing one-two in the final, Gabriel Medina and Nat Young ended a run of regularfooters sitting atop the winner's podium at Cloudbreak. But it wasn't easy. Medina had to get past a rampaging Kolohe Andino (regularfoot), and Nat Young battled past Michel Bourez (you guessed it, regularfoot), arguably the hottest surfer on the World Tour at the moment.
The last goofyfooter to win at Cloudbreak was Damien Hobgood, way back in 2006. The last right-foot-forward world champ? That would be CJ Hobgood, way back in 2001—a drought of 13 years!
Back to Medina and Young: How did they manage to break the regularfooters' stranglehold on first place?
Two factors played a huge role in the right-foot-forward domination: 3-foot Cloudbreak and a little nuance in the judging criteria that calls for and rewards variety of maneuvers.
In 2012 and 2013, the Fiji Pro was held in giant 8- to 10-foot gaping barrels. Waves of that size have plenty of space for backsiders to sit in the barrel, aim for the exit, and get spit out of the tube like a wet cannonball.
This year, not so much.
The contest was held in head-high surf that made it tough on those with their left foot leading the way. Even Kelly Slater—a four-time winner at Cloudbreak—couldn't navigate his way through the tube and routinely got clipped by the lip. And if King Kelly is having trouble, everyone else is doomed. While the regularfoots were struggling, the goofys were able to compress themselves into a tight ball and pump through the barrel all the while eyeballing and dodging the cascading lip. Advantage goofyfoots.
The other factor that got the goofys to the top of the podium was the aforementioned "variety of maneuver" judging criteria. The guys going backside at Cloudbreak basically had three maneuvers to choose from: an off-the-lip, a floater, or a barrel ride. With barrels few and far between, the regularfooters' surfing looked repetitive. All they could really do was float sections and do the same backside turn over and over. On the other hand, the goofy footers had more of a canvas to work with; they could duck into quick barrels, do big, wrapping cutbacks, and throw the tail around in a variety of ways. Again, advantage goofyfoots.
The big question now is this: Can Gabriel Medina hold onto his ratings lead and become the first goofyfoot to win a world title in 13 years? Coming from this proud right-foot-forward surfer, I sure as hell hope so!
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