The longest sustained run of good heats and excellent surfing the WSL has put on this year.
Y’cut off a slice of that action today? Blew it, if not. Best day of the year for WSL heats. The first non-weird day of high-performance surfing in sick waves.
Actually there was one thing weird. V. much so. Have you noticed, in the booth, the face of ’89 World Champ Martin Potter? Smooth as a baby’s bum, right. Not a wrinkle, not a line to be seen.
What’s the scoop Pottz? Few little sneaky botox injections during those long, lingering afternoons after the trades get up? You wouldn’t be the first. No, not me. My mate who loves the happy endings. Terrible business.
Kaipo cornered Ross for a quick interview and it was one of the most painful broadcast moments in world sport. Ross stumbling and mumbling platitudes that fall from his mouth like wet ashes. Platitudes that he has obviously stopped believing in but there is nowhere else to go.
Is there anything sadder than watching John Florence surfing this year? Yes… watching Ross Williams watch John write another chapter in his 2018 novella Anatomy of a Bad Heat. Kaipo cornered Ross for a quick interview and it was one of the most painful broadcast moments in world sport. Ross stumbling and mumbling platitudes that fall from his mouth like wet ashes. Platitudes that he has obviously stopped believing in but there is nowhere else to go.
In this chapter, John started weakly with a desultory opening ride, then a non-make. A couple of clean makes in perfect head-high surf saw him sitting on a heat score of 11.97. Jesse Mendes needing a a five-something with three minutes holding priority. The wave came, he launched a lofted tail-high backside rotation and nailed the score. John head down looked as emasculated as a sterilised lion. His head is a mess. Ross, get your man out and claim an injury wildcard for next year. Get him out by any means necessary.
What followed was the longest sustained run of good heats and excellent surfing the WSL has put on this year. No distractions, no comparisons to epic surf elsewhere. Clean air finally for an organisation and CEO that must this year be wondering who is sticking the needles into the voodoo doll.
Bourez ripped the tops of waves off and sent star trails into the heavens. Zeke came back and took the lead and Bourez took it back, emphatically. Every wave was a showcase.
Owen and Cardoso was a minor letdown by comparison with Cardoso finishing just on top.
Wilko went ballistic mk2. No delay, no bobble off the bottom turn. Every top turn perfectly sculpted and framed. Judges low-balled his second wave by a point-and-half at least, then highballed the next one to compensate.
Colapinto stayed in the heat but looked slightly outclassed and over-powered despite a bigger hi-fi game. It was the best heat of the year. Griff needed something big and found a loft, lots of loft in a tail-high, no-grab reverse. The landing was trick, the recovery insane and clean. Judges had to pay it big and they did. Griff spent the rest of the heat camped on Wilko with an annoying smirk on his dial. That would have been painful.
The big heats rolled on. Mikey v Julian. Each winning heat from Mikey looks the same: a big opening wave exerting maximum pressure and a strong follow up. Each losing heat likewise shares a certain symmetry. This was one was different. It was Julian who skipped out to an early lead and Mikey who was quiet and then under pressure.
The heat turned as Mikey sold J-Dub on two dud waves to get priority. A long flat spell ensued. Julian paddled right up the reef. Why? A simple strategic error. Wouldn’t you sit on your man and induce maximum pressure with each decision? Make him think. With space Mikey needed a 5.23 and surfed a minor set into oblivion for the score. There was No claim. Julian fell on a heat-winning ride behind. In Kaipo’s presser shown after the comp ended, Julian again seemed not to have an understanding on why he lost, how he lost. You can’t win a world title losing a heat at perfect head-high Keramas.
That lanky, no-power style of February’s is just not going to cut it on the CT. Which means go hi-fi or go home. There is literally no other option. He’s not the only surfer in that boat.
There were some obvious mismatches and these went to the “house”, as expected. Medina/February was the most brutal mismatch. Medina laid on a vulgar display of power, taking the Wilko no bobble backside line and adding extra power and aggression to it. It was insane, a rare example of what pro surfing can be. Despite not finishing a wave properly Medina did not get a glove laid on him by February. That lanky, no-power style is just not going to cut it on the CT. Which means go hi-fi or go home. There is literally no other option. He’s not the only surfer in that boat.
Remember the old Modern Collective days, when Jordy and Dane were going to save us all from the mind-numbing threat of conservative surfing and deliver us a rivalry bigger and better than AI/Slater?
Except it never happened.
Jordy/Filipe Final in head-high Keramas has the potential to be the best surfing the WSL has ever seen.
Jordy retreated into safety surfing and here we are a decade later wondering when the fuck Jordy was going to bring the noise. He got half the band back together today. His half, but playing the Mod Coll bangers. The endless turn angles and repertoire, the violent direction changes and silky transitions. All there. Good as ever. Jordy/Filipe Final in head-high Keramas has the potential to be the best surfing the WSL has ever seen.
Will we get it?
Italo/Hermes was another mismatch with Italo blasting and just falling on a bunch of aerial interpretations, shuv-its and super-whipped rotations among them. It was superlative entertainment.
De Souza reminded of that cartoon character, Yosemite Sam: running around crazy firing at will on anything. Too much energy, too much zest and variety and spark for Parko, who pushed too hard off the bottom and lacked pop on a day when above-the-lip surfing, even if not made, was a requirement to progress.
That led to the final heat of the day and the most monumental mismatch. Toledo v Asing. Filipe’s opening ride was nutty, almost incomprehensible. His next three waves were under-scored. Airs, a clean club sandwich. A couple of huge attempts not quite greased. A light onshore crumble made it almost perfect for an advanced attack.
Strider spent the heat telling us about Asing’s legendary huge heart and spirit. Which made me ask: fine, but where is the strategy? Throwing threes and fours in the most rippable head-high reef on the planet is guaranteed to be a losing game. Why not swing? Save the neat little combos for another day. Throw something up there and see what happens. But alas, my entreaties went unanswered and the plucky little fighter will not live to fight on.
There seems to be a knowledge gap at the highest level of Pro Surfing, some failure to understand that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is a form of madness.
Never mind. Great day. Twelve heats. About as much as a gal can stand. Someone out of Medina, Italo and Toledo will be world champ this year.
Corona Bali Protected Men’s Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 13.34 def. John John Florence (HAW) 11.37
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.17 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 12.97
Heat 3: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 12.00 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 10.37
Heat 4: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.40 def. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 8.83
Heat 5: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 15.84 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 15.40
Heat 6: Mikey Wright (AUS) 12.27 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.83
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.70 def. Michael February (ZAF) 9.44
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.04 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 13.50
Heat 9: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.36 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 9.00
Heat 10: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.30 def. Tomas Hermes (BRA) 10.10
Heat 11: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.13 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.46
Heat 12: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.43 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 8.43
Corona Bali Protected Men’s Round 4 Matchups:
Heat 1: Jesse Mendes (BRA) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 2: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Mikey Wright (AUS)
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Filipe Toledo (BRA)