Is not taking off on a wave in a WSL heat, in front of the world, the bravest thing ever?
Filipe Toledo put on a stunning display of cowardice in his heat 5 round 1 battle vs. I. Ferreira. His score total (0) matched his moxie and wow! The lowest point total in professional surfing history.
As the Brazilian bobbed in the water, not surfing, he surely must have known the haters were boiling in their tanks but he chose to bob, lonely against the steel grey sky, and brave.
Yes, brave because I would, and will, argue that it is sometimes more difficult to not get smashed in order to prove a larger point, thereby getting smashed by public opinion.
But wait. Is Filipe somehow bigger than that?
WILL he get smashed by public opinion. Hello, surf historian Matt Warshaw, curator of the Encyclopedia of Surfing (click here)!
Charlie: Is Filipe going to get smashed by public opinion after Teahupoo?
Matt: He is.
Charlie: Fair? Or not fair?
Matt: Depends on how Filipe plays it. He needs to humble this one out, big-time. Fail-wise, it was just beyond epic. And so very public. And after what Sally Fitz did at Cloudbreak, and with Flores surfing with a brain injury or whatever, you can’t play the injury card. I mean, Filipe’s deal is un-spinnable. He isn’t ready for prime time at Teahupoo. Or Cloudbreak. Or even J-Bay. I’m his biggest north-of-50 fan, and I feel sort of crushed by what I saw. All Filipe can do now is come out and say that he’s got a mile of hard work to do in the premier WCT breaks. And meanwhile, like Sean Doherty said yesterday (read here), if he does go on and win the world title, which is totally possible, it’s gonna come with an asterisk.
Charlie: But what if Filipe got really brave, steeled his backbone and said, “Guess what bitches? I love to surf head-high, puntable waves. It’s who I am, yo! And I’m going to win a title surfing only Gold Coast, Rio, Trestles and the rest if they small enough. Booya!” What if he admitted, to the entire world, that he ain’t brave. Wouldn’t that be brave?
Matt: Damien Hardman won two world titles that way, except he didn’t say anything. Gary Green didn’t paddle out for his heat at Waimea one year, I think it was the ’86 Billabong Pro, when it was huge, and if he didn’t own if with total gusto, he shrugged and said “I’m a smoker, never done a day of exercise in my life, never surfed this horrifying place, so fuck it.” Then again, Green quit the tour the following year, so maybe he wasn’t feeling so casual. Even if Filipe has the game to say he’s a small-wave specialist, God he’d just get so smashed in the media. And I think he really does want to be magical in heavy surf, like he is in small surf. He must just be choking on frustration right now. He’d never say it, but you know what makes it way harder for him I bet?
Matt: Italo, exactly. Rookie paddles out there and keeps up with every big-swinging dick on the lineup. Italo could have won the thing! First time at Teahupoo!
Charlie: Brazil-bashing isn’t so vogue this year.
Matt: Italo! Anyone who tuned this week and didn’t fall in love with guy is heartless.
Charlie: I’m heartless! Theoretically, I liked that Italo tried his best but, in real life, trying one’s best does nothing for me. For example. I was in Tahiti last year, in a boat, in the channel, obvs, because it was pumping. Mikey Wright, Owen’s brother was doing magical things but poor young Kanoa Igarashi was there and looking completely terrified. But nobody made him be there. He clearly did not like that vibe and good for him! Get back on the boat and pop a Hinano, or whatever it is young boys are drinking these days. Own the gutless or paddle the fuck in. I have done both in my life and both are wonderful in their own ways.
If you are telling me that Filipe really wants to surf those waves then why did he not surf those waves? Nobody in the line-up? Manageable size? He don’t! He wants to punt and dance!
Matt: But Filipe could kick it up. People find that gear later on. Potter didn’t like big waves as a kid, then later he did. Fanning couldn’t surf Teahupoo early on, now he can. Who knows. Could just my own wishful thinking with Filipe…
Charlie: And give me other examples guys who don’t want it? Because you just made Gary Green my fav surfer ever.
Matt: Dora said he was a “four-foot-and-under man” and gave loving long descriptions of how scared he was on the North Shore. Except then he flipped the thing on its head, because he actually charged Pipe and Waimea. Kylie Webb, you’d love her! Gorgeous blonde, and drank herself off the tour in the ’90s. But before that happened, she paddled out for a heat at Sunset, in big waves, pulled a Filipe and got a zero, then threw her 17th-place prize money check back at the contest director in disgust and said “I don’t deserve this. Buy the judges some beer.”
Watch Filipe’s zero-point heat here!
And remember when the Margaret River Pro moved to the Box? Gabriel Medina, I’m told, had to be coaxed into the lineup with the words, “You’re the world champ! You have to surf!”