"When things aren't going well you start to search for motivation," said the 1988 World Champion and WSL Analyst Barton Lynch. "It's great to see Josh search inside himself and go to his family. It worked, because that performance had a spark and edge to it and there was some real emotion in there."
Barton Lynch was talking after Josh Kerr had defeated Connor O'Leary in Round Two of the Hurley Pro at Trestles. It was only the second Championship Tour (CT) heat win of the year for the San Clemente-based Aussie, who has had by far his toughest year since cementing his place on the CT in 2011.
"This year has been rough. I was super stoked to have my family on the beach and show my kids I can still surf," Kerr said afterwards, his voice cracking with emotion. "So it has been tough, and to have them here and watch me do a good performance means a lot."
Before this year, Kerr had been a mainstay in the upper echelons of the CT. The naturalfooter finished in the top 10 from 2011 to 2014, 11th in 2015 and 13th last year. However, at the end of last year he lost his longterm major sponsor. That was significant financially, but as they had also provided his surfboards throughout most of his career, it also affected his equipment.
At the start of the year he told the WSL, however, that this would only serve as a further motivation. "The theory is that when times get tough, you get tougher, right?," he said, just before the start of the Quik Pro Gold Coast. "So that's what I am going to do."
However, even Kerr could not have foreseen just how difficult the year would pan out. Apart from one heat win in Rio, Kerr has lost all of his Round Two heats this season. He is a surfer who thrives on momentum and the early losses have killed that dead, leading to a loss of confidence. The result has been that suddenly he has been thrown into a fight to save his career.
"I've swallowed my pride and done a run on the QS to try to back myself up when I go to Hawaii," he said, recognizing the seriousness of his current predicament. "I'm just psyched to get this ball rolling."
His Round Two performance seemed to be a huge step in that direction. With his wife and two kids cheering on the cobblestones not far from their home, Kerr surfed with the sharpness and fizz that has seen him as one of the sport's greats. He nearly teared up during his post-heat interview, talking about how special it was to compete in front of them. Unfortunately for Kerr, he was eliminated by 2015 World Champion Adriano de Souza in the next round, which means he'll need to spend more time away from his family, as he chases Qualifying Series points to keep his career on track. Kerr's family and fans are now hoping that inspired Round Two performance lit the fuse for a comeback run.