Of the great Round Four battles that were waged on Sunday one of the most intriguing pitted Tour legends Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson against the electric Brazilian wildcard Yago Dora, the high-flying kid who'd already knocked out World No. 1 John John Florence and World No. 5 Kolohe Andino earlier in the event.
Now, while Dora's no slouch on the face, he's an absolute ace in the air, which is where he's been mercilessly decimating the Jeep Leaderboard from this week. Meanwhile, as every surf fan knows, Fanning and Parkinson each exemplify the pinnacle of surfing's timeless pillars: Speed, power and flow.
When this trio hit the water in Saquarema's small surf it was easy to assume Dora's lighter feet and loftier wings gave him the advantage. Yet, as it turned out, high-quality launch pads were hard to find, so this war was waged on the face, where Fanning and Parko got busy showcasing the fine art of precision hacking.
Now, this contrast in styles can spark some pretty heated chat rooms, as fans love debating nuance. But the most impressive thing about how Fanning and Parko surf is how unimpressive they can make their seamless surfing look, and that's an issue. These masters of flow make everything look easy-- often times too easy, which overshadows the more impressive speed and power elements that are so hard to execute. As a result, they're often accused of being predictable.
Yet predictability cuts both ways. When Dora finally found a little left runner he sprinted straight for the end section, and everyone, including the judges, knew what was coming.
Everyone loves fireworks, and in pro surfing there's nothing flashier than today's acrobatic airs. Yet landmark performances can also be graceful and hypnotic, rich in finer details, like flying through bumps and backwash with effortless form, timing power with power, and cutting as deep and cleanly as a cosmetic surgeon.
While the scales will continue to tilt back and forth between timeless and tricky, in the end that's something worth celebrating. We're always going to want the best of both.