Do you believe in fairytales? We do!
It’s the morning of the finals! Good thing too, I’m getting tired of writing about this Snapper joint. Surf comps now come with homework, which is a recipe for making me hate them. I’m not jaded just yet, but the slopey walls of Bells Beach will surely put me over the edge.
Joel vs. Wilko
Joel looked slooooow today. Not sure what the deal was, as he’s looked lively throughout the rest of the event, but maybe someone in the Wilko camp slipped a couple Valiums this morning. He still would have made it if Matty didn’t burn him on that one bomb. Reminiscent of Joel vs. Kelly at Kirra in 2013.
Wilko on the other hand was straight into it, full rail and full speed ahead. Matt’s vert to slide is damn endearing, I must admit. He looks glued to his board and will be difficult to beat in conditions like these.
John vs. Italo
John’s one of two guys I have remaining on my Fantasy team, so I was relieved when he strolled into that first tube-to-double-arm-layback combo. The rest of the heat was lackluster for the Hawaiian, but that high eight proved to be enough. He’ll need more to beat Wilko.
The little pipe bomb lost his explosive spark. I’ve gotta tip my cap to him though, as there’s nothing like spontaneity to keep the viewer on the edge of his seat. He may not be the best surfer or competitor, but Italo’d never have to eat Porta’s ass.
Owen vs. Connor
The Battle of the lanky screwfoots was a big disappointment. Its climax came in the dying seconds when Owen, who needed a two-something to advance, got a long, warbly right down the point. He joined all the dots but the wave was more survival than spice.
Connor followed Owen with a smaller but more aggressively surfed wave, but since Owen’s backup was higher he got the nod. Still a great result for the Cronulla rook.
Kelly vs. Gabby
An injured supergrom takes on the aged GOAT and youth reigns supreme. It was a grueling battle between an obviously-hurting Medina and a still-competitive Slater.
Gab needed a middling score in the dying minutes and surfed his last effort to a nine. Lucky he went so far above the requirement because, right behind him, Slater was busy dismantling the best wave of his heat.
Huddling in the competitors’ area after the heat, waiting for the scores to filter through, Gab and Kelly shared a moment. When Slater’s face went from anxious to disillusioned, and Gab’s from blank to elated, the viewer knew what had been decided. Out with the old, in with the new.
John vs. Wilko
With a nine-five in the opening minutes, this heat what’s John to lose. Thanks to conservative surfing, he did just that.
Wanting to back-up his opening banger, John opted to safety-surf an inside runner; banking where he should have banged, floating where he should have lofted. He got a flat six on a wave that could have delivered an eight, if only he’d surfed it with confidence.
This left the door open for a frothing Wilko who, with a high-seven on his opener, needed only a replica of his first to steal the heat. With a few minutes remaining, Wilko faked John into a dud and picked up the second wave of the set. It provided a steady wall upon which Wilko repeatedly swung his hammer for the heat win.
Gab vs. Owen
Medina looks really, really wounded. Like, he probably shouldn’t be surfing. On his highest-scoring wave, a six-something, Gab found himself stuck in the whitewater and unable to escape, likely due to his tender knee-cap. He later fell on two major opportunities to turn the heat. He needs some solid rehab before Margies.
And if Wilko isn’t enough of a Cinderella story, how bout this chap Owen Wright! The Avatar has defied the odds after a year-plus of brain damage control. His surfing hasn’t been exceptional but he’s played the competitive game to perfection, and is that not more impressive than any rodeo flip or full rote?
Wilko vs. Owen
The only pair happier than Owen and Wilko are super-caddies/coaches/buffet mates Micro and Fletch. Together they’ve led their pupils to the final of the year’s first event, and both of them against the odds. Who’re they rooting for? Hard to say. It seems Wilko may have a heartier bond with both parties, but it’s hard to root against Owen, given the circumstances.
The final was slow and mostly unenthused. Even the crowd seemed disinterested, at least from this side of the monitor. Owen’s eight was the only wave that caused much of a stir, but even that ride was pretty average for professional standards. More of a comment on the waves presented than the athletes who rode them.
After not knowing whether he’d ever surf again in 2016, Owen Wright is now the world’s top rater surfer in 2017. The big guy was chaired up the beach by his loving siblings, Mikey and Tyler, and shared tearful words on the podium about his passion for surfing and love for his newfound family.
So, how did Owen manage this monumental win?
“Dad strength,” apparently!