It is the known duty of any local to face and defend local pride when a visiting hotshot paddles out into their line-up. And on this day that duty fell onto the shoulders of Ben Benson. And in this case the visiting hotshot was Jordy Smith. And the spot was our very own Keramas. A surf spot that lists under the weight of international recognition. As if the Corona Bali Pro is not enough, clearing the line-up on the best days of the year for the WSL pansies, these days this once bucolic reef is now a target for absolutely every visiting hot surfer on earth. Still, feelings are mixed when a giant surf star paddles out into your break. A combination of respect, pride, jealousy and rivalry.
Respect in that the hotshot is just such a red hot surfer. Pride in that he has deemed your spot, your world, worthy of his world class abilities.And jealousy because the guy has had it so damn easy. Jordy Smith has been groomed, delivered to the best surf in the world, he’s f*cking rich, and all he has to do is show up and surf perfect waves, usually empty perfect waves, usually with only one other guy out, at the most perfect surf spots in the most perfect countries in the Universe.
And rivalry because, goddammit, this is YOUR spot. How dare he show everybody up, making us feel inadequate, like children to his man. And all the smiles and “hey bru’s” and handshakes and autographs on the beach ain’t never gonna change that. So what is the local to do? Just like a boxer who knows his opponent is superior, you get in the ring anyway and start swinging. Until you are down on your knees, sure, but swinging. Marvin Hagler, 12 time World Middleweight boxing champion famously said of his rare losses “I never lost a fight in my life…I didn’t stop those fights, someone else did”.
And so Ben Benson figured he had to step into the ring against a far superior opponent. An opponent with years of experience on him. A grown, large man. A WSL Champion. A guy that can do backflips. No matter, Ben poured it on, determined not to be cute. Pressing the guy for waves, just enough not to be an asshole, but plenty enough to let him know we don’t lay down here like they do in California.
And so the uneasy session progressed. Ben completing the best airs of his life and Jordy Smith, feeling the annoyance, putting a little extra ooomph and style into his airs. At one point even flooring it like an F1 driver and boosting into ankle breaking heights. At the end of the session, on his way up the beach to the parking lot, Jordy nodded at Ben. And Ben nodded back. But Ben did not smile. Ben knew he had been wildly outclassed. And so about the only thing Ben had left was his smile. And he wasn’t going to give the guy everything.
No. Ben held on to that.