Wins Pipe Masters. Dirties John Florence's dream of a world title/Pipe Masters combo…
Ten minutes ago, the Reunion Island-born surfer Jeremy Flores dirtied up John John’s perfect day when he beat the Hawaiian in the final of the Pipeline Masters.
Jeremy, who is twenty nine years old, stole a wave in the final seconds, needing an 8.2-ish, scoring an 8.3-ish. The final scoreline, 16.23 to 16.16.
Seven years ago, Jeremy won the Pipe Masters against Kieren Perrow in similar circumstances.
The moment was so emotionally charged the commentator Barton Lynch trembled and wept.
When I beat Gabriel I felt so bad. To see the emotion on his face… I hate doing this… Surfing is not supposed to do stuff like that. Supposed to be pure good vibes!
“Winning the Pipe Masters against John John Florence in perfect Backdoor, in the last seconds? I couldn’t think of a better way to win,” said Jeremy. “Don’t count me out. I never let go. I see everyone with their (Hawaiian) flags.”
En route to stomping on John John’s dream of a first Pipe Masters win, Jeremy squashed Gabriel’s dream of a second world title.
“To be honest, I don’t like to be that guy to decide the title,” said Jeremy. “It should be a showdown between John and Gabriel. When I beat Gabriel I felt so bad. To see the emotion on his face… I hate doing this… Surfing is not supposed to do stuff like that. Supposed to be pure good vibes! It was good for John, though, so I was stoked to make it happen… a second time. He owes me a few waves at Pipe when it’s actually pumping!”
God is an ever-present figure in sports, from the National Football League all the way to the World Surf League. He helps teams win, players score and surfers title. Yesterday, after winning his heat, Brazil’s Gabriel Medina was supremely confident that God was firmly cheering for a Gabriel Media championship, telling South Africa’s Rose Hodge, “I feel great, I feel good, I feel God is on my side. Now is just to trust, believe and go for it.”
Well, things started a little dicey for Medina during his Round Four heat against Jeremy Flores and someone else. Jeremy jumped into a quick lead while someone else paddled around the lineup lost. Gabriel sat, waiting, before pouncing on a backdoor tube that looked ok and was judged a stellar 8 +. J-Flo was furious, kicking the water, screaming French obscenities, not because Gabriel caught a wave but because Gabriel had effectively blocked him on the three best waves of the day. Interference was not called and “WSL is playing favorites again…” would have become the refrain except Jeremy snagged a little runner at the end of the heat and was rewarded an even more stellar 8 +.
Off went Gabriel to Round Five where he faced the World’s Greatest Surfer and ’88 Pipeline Master Kelly Slater.
(Just kidding about the ’88 Pipeline Master. That was Barton Lynch.)
Kelly Slater is, I think, agnostic at best. Maybe he believes in a “higher power” but definitely not God. Would God push Gab through?
It started looking good. Kelly paddled for the first wave of the heat, a gorgeous Backdoor thing, and inexplicably couldn’t get to his feet. Or maybe explicably? Maybe the Corner Man Upstairs? Yes, I don’t think it could be argued any other wave, because a turtle swam though the lineup and knocked Kelly Slater off his board.
Kelly locked into another sneaky one but then here comes God! Gabriel got a small one which turned into an 8.9 then another weird one that turned into a 9.07! God sitting in the judges booth, locking in scores! God proving Gabriel Medina right.
Kelly took off on another bomb but God positioned Gabriel just so and he dropped in on Kelly’s head, destroying the wave’s “scoring potential” as they say. Barton Lynch won the 1988 Pipeline Masters.
And then he won. Gabriel Medina and God. But won the heat, not the Title or not yet.
And let us fast forward through John John and Julian’s quarterfinal heat wherein John John won handily.
And let us fast forward through Gabriel Medina and Julian Wilson’s quarterfinal heat wherein Medina was crushed by the Frenchman.
John John wins the World Championship Trophy! The day’s true chosen one!
Do you remember, four years ago, when the greatest commentary duo in professional surfing’s history were fired for illicit gambling? How could anyone forget. There sat Jake “Snake” Paterson and there sat Damien “Dooma” Fahrenfort in the WSL née ASP booth and there in the water floated now-forgotten Frenchman Marc Lacomare and forgotten-tomorrow Australian Joel Parkinson. It was a relatively uneventful heat, though many thought Marc was robbed seeing as he caught better waves.
Snake and Dooma, anyhow, bet beers on the outcome. Our very own Derek Rielly transcribed for us.
Jake: “I don’t know. I’m going to leave it up to the professionals. That’s what they get paid for…”
Dooma: “Let’s leave t up to the judges. It’s going to be a crazy finish.”
Jake: “(Bet a) Beer on it?”
Dooma: “I don’t know. I have a feeling they’ll give it to Joel.”
Jake: “World title points?”
The judges did give it to Joel, the French got mad and then Snake and Dooma were fired. Then head judge Renato Hickel wrote:
To have Web Announcers betting beers, guessing judges scores in almost every single wave, and telling thousands of web viewers that Joel would receive World Title bonus points, is completely unacceptable! A stain on a great Webcast.
Well, guess what happened yesterday?
Kelly Slater, who had just beaten Jordy Smith out of his last thread of hope, stood in front of the step-and-repeat being interviewed by Kaipo. And here I have the transcript for you.
Kelly: Jordy pay up… uhhh not Jordy… (turns to Kaipo) who did you bet with? Strider?
Kaipo: (Sheepishly) I’m not gonna bet… I didn’t…
Kelly: Yoosh… Strider pay up. You gotta pay him ten bucks (pointing at Kaipo).
Kaipo: (Trying to cut Kelly off) Hey but…
Kelly: (Undaunted) I know Strider bet for Jordy…
Kaipo: (Stuck. Mumbling)
Kelly: Hey that’s ok. I kinda wanted Jordy to win that heat too.
Oh we know that gambling is considered a great sin by the World Surf League née Association of Surfing Professionals, Renato Hickel himself calling it “a stain.” Precedent tells us there is a zero tolerance policy for such actions. Will the wonderful Kaipo Guerrero and Strider Wasilewski be quickly and brutally canned via righteous email?
Will they be punished in some other way?
Pipe: No title for Julian or Jordy; Fanning retires!
At four pm on a North Shore afternoon, with the sun a giant grapefruit, the curtin was drawn on a dreadful day for two of the four title contenders, while a thirty-six-year-old three-time world champ took a final bow.
Within the rules of probability it was unlikely that John John Florence or Gabriel Medina would oblige outliers Jordy Smith and Julian Wilson by losing early or that Jordy, especially, would win.
But the ghosts of history, of Sunny Garcia, Tom Carroll, Damien Hardman and so forth, whisper (in husky voices)… anything is possible.
In 1995, all Sunny Garcia had to do to win the title was to make it into round three.
He surfed against Occy in round two. Lost his board. Occy offered him his. Occy didn’t hassle for sets (“It was a very hard heat to surf,” said Occ after). Caught a couple of insiders just to get a score for appearances sake. Then it was all Machado’s until Slater cooked him alive in their high-five semi-final.
Seven years earlier, Barton Lynch had to finish runner-up or better at 10-foot Pipe to snatch the title off Damien Hardman or Tom Carroll. Barton won the damn thing.
If John John got better than a ninth, didn’t matter what Julian did, he was out.
And it happened, despite some last-minute burlesque by Ethan Ewing. John John won by zero-point sevenths of a point, 10.87 to 10.80.
Watch it here and tell me if Ethan won or the fix was in, as Albee Layer suggested on Instagram.
“I don’t like winning heats like that,” said John John afterwards.
In the last heat of the day, Jordy Smith surfed against the partial cripple Kelly Slater, who turns forty-six in eight weeks. Oh the fire’s out but the fowl lives!
“I wanted Jordy to win that heat but sorta not really,” said Kelly, who expressed astonishment that Jordy didn’t push the button on his priority on what would become Kelly’s heat winning wave.
Watch that here.
And Mick Fanning?
The most searched-for surfer on Google and therefore the most famous surfer in the world?
He’s out, at least according to Conner Coffin.
“I don’t think I’ve surfed against [Mick] man-on-on man this year so I was really stoked to have that opportunity today,” said Conner in his post-heat presser. “But he made me feel bad like, ‘Aw, this is the last time I’ll ever surf out here.’ And I was like ‘Don’t make me feel bad about that!’ Because at the same time, if I didn’t make that heat I might not have ever surfed out here again either…”
Mick refused to confirm, or deny, the retirement suggestion afterwards.
I do ask: is thirty-six too young to retire? Or has Mick, who still surfs with a barbarous power, realised his use-by date has arrived? Is he, therefore, an expert in legacy preservation unlike, say, Kelly?