Thirty-two of the world's best tube riders have gathered in Padang Padang, Bali, for this year's Rip Curl Cup -- an invitational tube-riding contest with a rather unusual format: the field of surfers is split down the middle between 16 of Indonesia's all-time great surfers and 16 of the world's best barrel riders.
Organizers devised the heat drawing so that each four-man heat features two Indonesian surfers and two international surfers. Rip Curl has also left four spots open in the contest for two mystery wildcards, to be announced later in the waiting period, and the two winners of the locals-only Bukit Trials. After the draw was complete, two-time Rip Curl Cup champion Made “Bol” Adi Putra found himself in Heat 8 with one of the mystery international wildcards.
“I have no idea who it is,” Bol said of the mystery competitor, “but for sure it's going to be someone dangerous. This contest is invite-only. Everyone in this event is the best-of-the-best tuberiders, so they are probably saving that spot for a really gnarly guy.”
The competition's opening ceremony was held on Sunday, and sun-up on Monday initiated the (epic) 42-day-long waiting period. When the contest directors see the ideal swell on the forecast, they will give the green light and the 32 competitors will have 24 hours to return to the Bukit Peninsula.
Forecasters have already identified a series of formidable Indian Ocean Swells headed for Bail. The first swell is set to arrive on Tuesday when the trials will begin at either Padang or the dream break at Uluwatu. The Tuesday swell could be followed in short order by a far larger swell on Thursday.
The list of international surfers is impressive. While the chargers on the ASP World Tour aren't able to make the event, likely because of the US Open of Surfing and other World Tour scheduling conflicts, the roster is still extraordinary: Benji Weatherly, Laurie Towner, Dan Morrison, Bruno Santos, Flynn Novak and Dean Brady have all made the trip. Red Bull's Jamie O'Brien is also in town. If you're picking a winner, O'Brien seems like a smart choice; the 29 year old grew up on the North Shore of Hawaii surfing the Banzai Pipeline -- he won the 2004 Pipeline Masters -- and claimed the Rip Curl Cup in 2009.
Earlier this month, Red Bull's excellent YouTube series "Who is J.O.B 2.0" featured Jamie's endless journey to Indonesia -- a 10-hour flight to Korea, a layover, a flight to Bali, then Bali to Jakarata and from Jakarta to Pedang (shown above). There are car rides and ferries. It's a multi-day journey. Sweaty. Hot. Stale. Exhausting. With those waves on the way, Jamie had better get packing. According to his Twitter feed, he was fishing off Niihau this morning.