A fix? A champ retired before his time?
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?
(Oh! Rookie of the year. Conner O’Leary.)
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.33 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 8.50
Heat 2: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 11.54 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 10.77
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 8.56 def. Benji Brand (HAW) 6.87
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) def. Stuart Kennedy (AUS) INJ
Heat 5: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.93 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 8.33
Heat 6: Kolohe Andino (USA) 17.10 def. Jack Freestone (AUS) 14.96
Heat 7: Ian Gouveia (BRA) 13.40 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.30
Heat 8: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 13.17 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.00
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 6.10 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 5.13
Heat 10: Mick Fanning (AUS) 8.90 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 8.87
Heat 11: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 12.67 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 6.00
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (PYF) 16.40 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 6.54
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.26 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 8.34
Heat 2: Conner Coffin (USA) 14.03 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.60
Heat 3: Ian Gouveia (BRA) 8.60 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 6.83
Heat 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.50 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 5.47
Heat 5: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 10.13 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 6.57
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW) 10.87 def. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 10.80
Heat 7: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 6.60 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 2.26
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 10.00 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.83
Heat 9: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 10.26 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 4.17
Heat 10: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 15.87 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 6.13
Heat 11: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 13.34 def. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 9.73
Heat 12: Kelly Slater (USA) 11.87 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.87
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1:Julian Wilson (AUS), Conner Coffin (USA), Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Caio Ibelli (BRA), John John Florence (HAW)
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 4: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Kelly Slater (USA)