Back in college, I remember learning about the Sports Illustrated “cover curse” in one of my journalism classes. Rumor has it that any athlete or team featured on the cover of the magazine will be jinxed to lose their next big game, suffer injuries, or even die in a bizarre accident. The strange thing is that there’s an unnervingly long list of examples that seem to back it up, and professional athletes, being a naturally superstitious lot, will sometimes intentionally avoid the cover for fear of the curse, or even panic if they find out that they’re slated to be featured.
Of course, there are plenty of perfectly good rational explanations that negate the “cover curse” phenomenon. From a psychological standpoint, confirmation bias is definitely at play. And from a statistical standpoint, it can all be explained by a combination of regression toward the mean and sheer coincidence. But still, there are those who choose to believe. And here at ESM, we have a little superstition of our own. Luckily, ours is more akin to finding a four-leafed clover than walking under a ladder.
We’re not going to flat out tell you that being featured in an issue of ESM is good luck, but there’s certainly evidence to support it. CJ Hobgood unexpectedly requalified for the 2012 World Tour just two months after being featured as the centerpiece of our November issue. Brett Barley caught the world’s attention at Pipeline after scoring an interview in ESM. And scores of the Right Coast’s best, like Balaram Stack, Jesse Hines, and Gabe Kling have seen their careers take off after scoring one of our coveted Who Da Guy profiles or even just a mention in our Blah Blahs section. And the latest piece of evidence in our 20-year trend of bringing good fortune to East Coast athletes came on May 27th, when hardworking wahine Michaela Partin won the Rip Curl Pro Mentawai.
Michaela, originally from Florida, now lives in Bali helping to run the Asian surfing tours, and she had just been profiled in the Wahine East section of our May 2012 issue, where, when asked what she thought the future held for her, she mentioned, “I’d like to win an event. I still have a bit of competitive fire left myself, so I’d like to win one for sure.” By the end of the month, she found herself atop the podium hoisting a gigantic trophy. Coincidence? We think not. Michaela is living proof that with the right amount of talent and enthusiasm, and perhaps a bit of good luck from your favorite Right Coast mag, anything is possible. EasternSurf.com caught up with her to chat about the contest and the joys of competitive success.
ESM: First of all, congratulations. We’re so excited for you, and we’re sure everyone back home is too.
Michaela Partin: Yeah, it's been nuts! There've been hundreds of comments on Facebook and a lot of support. Even friends I went to middle school and high school with were posting about it and saying, “Congrats for doing it for Florida.” That really made me feel like I accomplished something.
ESM: You definitely did. Could you tell us a bit about the contest?
MP: This was the first event we've ever had at Macaronis. I had been there a few weeks previously to nail down some logistical planning for the event. When you arrive at Macaronis for the first time, it's like a dream. It is literally the most fun wave you could ever imagine. We had perfect head-high to overhead waves for every single day of the event. The vibe was amazing. We had boats in the channel for spectators and surfers. Everyone was hanging out on the boats and cheering each other on. If a massive set was out the back, the boat would be going nuts. When good scores were coming through, you could hear everyone screaming for you. It was the coolest feeling. Plus the weather was beautiful. It was honestly magical.
ESM: Sounds like a good time. But how was the competitive action?
MP: Well, I just knew that, if I was ever meant to win an event, it would be Macaronis. Macas is the kind of wave I froth on. I think that just put my confidence on another level. Every heat was awesome. In the semis, I was losing with three minutes to go, and I needed a good wave. I got so angry, and I scrapped into this wave, and it turned out to be an 8-point wave. I was paddling in the channel when they announced it, and I could hear everyone screaming for me. That was really cool.
Going into the final, I was pretty nervous. My two buddies were freesurfing before, and they gave me advice that basically sealed the win for me. They told me to push the girls deep, and every time a set comes, paddle wide towards the channel. They told me that if I did that, the girls would be too deep on every set. I didn't think it would work, but it did. Every wave I got had some other girl paddling on it, and she either fell or pulled out. It made me pretty relaxed, too, because I wasn’t scrapping or getting aggressive, I just waited for the right ones.
There was an exchange of waves in the last minute between myself and Brenda Lee, who was in 2nd, so I was sitting on my board in the channel waiting for them to call the scores after the heat ended. People started jumping off the boat and paddling my way, and I was like, "Did I win? Did I win?" As soon as it was announced, I was getting splashed, and I was just so happy. To be called “the champion” of anything is pretty cool.
ESM: Well, you definitely deserve it, so enjoy the success. What do you think was the best part of winning?
MP: Everything. The waves. Paddling up to the boat after the heat. Surfing with some of my best friends in the final. Being able to hold that trophy and be called the Rip Curl Pro Mentawai champion next to Lee Wilson. It’s pretty epic. I'm just going to continue to do what I've always done: surf and have fun. I hope another opportunity to compete at a great place like Macas comes my way. But for now, I'm pretty satisfied.