2023 Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang Warm Up Session
A healthy dose of Indian Ocean swell saw the mythical wave at Padang Padang roar to life on Friday afternoon for the Rip Curl Cup Warm-Up presented by Samudera Indonesia, a three-hour surfing exhibition featuring 18 of the 24 invited surfers in this year’s Ultimate Tuberiding Contest at Padang Padang.
Powerful five-foot sets stormed across the Padang reef as the tide began to drop from the afternoon high, but contest directors and invited surfers agreed that the waves were neither big enough nor consistent enough – nor was the brief tide window long enough – to run both the men’s and women’s divisions of the 20-Year Anniversary of the Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang presented by Samudera Indonesia.
Instead, with most of the international invited surfers already in Bali for this “red light swell,” the elite crew of world-class barrel riders surfed in three separate groups out at Padang Padang, each session lasting one hour. No judging. No scores. No priority. Just a handful of the world’s best tube specialists and the top Padang Padang locals pushing the limits of how deep a human can surf inside the barrel.
“This was the best Padang swell to hit Bali during the waiting period so far,” said Event Director James Hendy, “but because of a variety of factors we were skeptical that this swell would provide enough size over a full day of competition, and that's exactly how it played out today. It's going to take a truly epic swell for us to give the green light to run the 20-Year Anniversary of the Rip Curl Cup.”
With almost a full month still remaining in the waiting period, which runs from Aug. 1st to Aug. 31st, most of the contestants seemed confident they will get the “perfect swell” to deliver awe-inspiring tube-rides at Padang in the near future.
“That's the beauty of having a month-long waiting period during the height of the big swell season,” said two-time Rip Curl Cup Champion Mega Semadhi. “We can be patient and selective, and wait for the perfect swell. We're in no rush.”
The action opened with Group 1, The Women’s Warm-up, just as Padang Padang began to light up on the dropping tide. Local Indonesian women’s surfer Kailani Johnson put the women’s field on notice with perhaps the best overall performance of the session. Fellow Indonesian invitee Jasmine Studer also claimed a pair of impressive spitting tubes. But it was Johnson who capitalized on the rehearsal opportunity, racking up so many good rides, she said she actually lost count.
“As soon as I found out I received an invite to the contest this year, I couldn’t stop thinking about this opportunity,” said Johnson after the warm-up session. “To perform well in the warm-up gives me a lot of confidence heading into the main event. If the waves are this good for the warm-up, then I can’t wait until it’s on!”
In Group 2, it was defending champion Clay Marzo (Maui, Hawaii) who had a field day, picking off countless throating tubes along the inside section of reef. Marzo seemed to pick up right where he left off last year at Padang Padang, disappearing behind impossibly deep and heavy water curtains, only to somehow get spat out all the way down the reef, to the utter disbelief of everyone watching. Fellow Hawaiian Koa Smith also expertly stalled and weaved through several gaping 6-footers. Meanwhile, former WCT legend Taj Burrow (AUS) opted to wait patiently for the biggest set waves and wowed the crowd with his impeccable backside tuberiding skills, clinging to the wall on his backhand deep in the shadows of several kegs and logging some of the longest tube time of the day.
“I just had one of the best afternoons of surfing I’ve ever had in Bali!” said an incredulous Burrow after his Group 2 Warm-up Heat. “I was here (in Bali) for the (Rip Curl Pro Search WCT) contest in 2008 but I never got to surf Padang Padang properly before. My very first wave today was an absolute gem and it put me in rhythm from there. I still can’t believe I got to surf absolutely pumping Padang with just a handful of friends.”
Finally, in Group 3, the eight Indonesian surfers in this year's Rip Curl Cup paddled out for a golden-hour freesurf and proved that they will once again be a force to be reckoned with in this year’s main event. The exhibition included incredible performances by fellow two-time champions Bol Adi Putra (2004, 2005) and Mega Semadhi (2013, 2016), as well as local Padang Padang Boardriders entrant Wayan Plekut.