A Life According to Glenn Hall, Part 1: Micro’s Big Dreams

While the focus of the content on Korduroy mainly revolves around independent surf culture and creativity, when the opportunity comes along to follow a unique and inspiring story, we try to take full advantage. So when writer Jeff DiNunzio came to us with the idea of following ASP World Tour rookie Glenn Hall on his journey through his first year in the ‘big dance’ as one of the oldest rookies the sport has ever seen, we were all ears. Jeff will be checking in with Glenn as he goes from event to event around the globe on the World Tour for the 2013 season. The following is Jeff’s first installment of ten, looking at Glenn’s ascent to making the tour and his showing at the first event of the year at the Quiksilver Pro. Be sure to follow along in the coming months for more of Jeff’s reporting on Glenn ‘Mirco’ Hall’s maiden voyage on the Dream Tour.

Photo courtesy of ASP

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The rookie starts fast. The horn blares and he catches the first wave in the last heat of the first round at the opening contest of 2013. The white letters emblazoned on the black tent that wrap the event scaffolding scream Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Along the shore, below the swaying pines, the tide casually fills in over the rocks on the bank. The rookie takes off on a powerless wave with his back to the breaking face. On the best days, with less cross wind and mightier swell, the wave unravels to the right above the sand and down the point for what feels like forever. They are all small today. He speeds down the line, floats over a weak section. Bubbling foam blurs beneath the rookie’s board. Crafted by the resident hands of Darren Handley, the board looks longer than the rookie is tall. The snug yellow jersey illuminates his diminutive, muscular torso weaving beneath the graying skies to the east, darkened by the sun falling at the continent’s back. He carves and cuts back, throws his tail, and waits for the wave to grow. But it fizzles. Moments later, Jordy Smith and CJ Hobgood—the rookie’s immediate threats—find rides of their own. The judges have seen enough. With a half hour left, the rookie is in the lead. 

In some sports, Glenn “Micro” Hall is too old to be a rookie. At 31, if he were playing in the National Hockey League, he’d have missed the designation cut-off by nearly six years. Would just be considered a journeyman, starting out this late. But on the Association of Suring Professionals’ World Championship Tour, age won’t conceal the irremovable label of one’s newness to the game. Only a second season can do that.

Rookies construct assorted outcomes. Some shine, like Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, whose pedestrian physique led many teams to discount his real value. Or John John Florence—shot from the lumpy beach break tubes of Rio to victory in just the third event of his first year. A feat of dominance, they’ll say, from a rookie no less. Others stumble, like Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. Or Kolohe Andino—enraged enough by his performance in Fiji to unleash furious and repeated blows to the nose of his surfboard as his heat died and public scorn for throwing a tantrum in paradise came alive. He’ll learn, they’ll say, he’s just a rookie after all.

Scoring enough points competing on the qualifying series earns you a spot on the top-tier circuit the following season. Hall chased the dream of qualifying for the Tour for so long that his career stats archive on the ASP’s web site doesn’t date earlier than 2008. Hall’s eventual rise stands in patent contrast to the Tour’s oldest ever rookie, Pancho Sullivan. Sullivan long shunned the taxing lifestyle levied on qualifying series competitors who are forced to surf waves that often break in perfectly opposite proportion to their ability. But in 2005, at 32, ambition suddenly matched his aptitude and with ease, challenging men, boys half his age, Sullivan ascended to the Tour by 2006. 

It was never going to be that easy for Micro. Not enough talent. Not enough sponsors. For more than an unglamorous decade, he circled the globe from contest to contest, chasing the Tour like a cat stalking a laser pointer, close but never caught. The early 2000s saw some near misses, by just a spot or two, back before the Tour roster was cut from 45 to 34. And then, a lull. “In recent years, I didn’t know if I’d ever make it,” Hall admits of the unsurprising arrival of doubt. The chances he would ever make it hovered somewhere near his officially listed height: short.

But Micro had enough heart. Never believed himself less capable then the boys he wanted to be. In Hall’s mind, it was only a matter of time. Slowly, momentum shifted. Luck quietly latched on like a leash. In 2010, he snagged a victory at Merewether Beach, a curvy, two-hour drive north from Sydney through Australia’s Central Coast. Hall pounced on the 2012 season, winning first in China, and again in South Africa, all year tallying strong results, keeping tight his grip on consistency. By November, at season’s end, he’d qualified.

You deserve to be here. It’s written right there on his bag. “You shouldn’t be here if you don’t think you can be here,” he says of his presence on Tour. Glenn Hall breathes no air of entitlement. He’s simply convinced that whatever hard work wins is justly earned. A sense of purpose bred from conviction.

Say what you will about contest surfing—arguments against it are many and valid. But Hall’s story is less about surfing than struggle and sacrifice and perseverance. Adapting to the journey. And this far along, despite the resolve, and considering the stress to his body, of providing for a wife and child, there’s no guarantee the journey will last. Still, Hall’s commitment reigns. He’ll now learn that staying on Tour is harder than everything he did to get there.

Four minutes remain in the heat. Jordy Smith picks off a soft, stomach high wave and immediately cuts back to the pocket where the lip crumbles at his feet. He rips a series of effortless carves across the middle section; the wave’s navy blue face shatters into shards of white spray. The wave steepens and accelerates through to the inside. Before the deepening tide swallows what little energy remains, Smith slaps the breaking lip with three unhinged fins. The younger Tour veteran lands with not an ounce of weight misplaced. And like that, Hall’s lead is purged—victory now defeat. “That was a good realization that scores don’t mean safety,” Hall acknowledges. “I didn’t think I was safe.” 

The rookie never is.

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