Filipe Toledo wins J-Bay Open. "He was more than a level above."
Thats it: it’s run, won and done in a straight four-day sizzle down the straightaway of J-Bay perfection. A lot of good surfing, a lot of really ugly surfing and then the truly sublime,a winning performance from Filipe Toledo that Shaun Tomson described as being “as good as a human being can surf”.
He was more than a level above. His only competitor was fatigue and maybe a fridge with jaws and fins like the one that put another stoppage on the event as quarter final drew down to its conclusion.
Were you amazed at how shallow a draught those apex predators like to luxuriate in as they cruise the edge of the bottom contour?
Carmichael took down Connor Coffin in a sleepy, wonky lineup in a heat that threatened anti-climax after yesterday’s high water mark.
Jordy and Julian did not much to dispel that notion. When Jordy did bring the hi-fi game it looked rusty and forced, like footage of a street fight where a donkey throws haymakers that don’t connect. Julian likewise suffered from lack of impact. He was stunned later in the presser that judges weren’t rewarding his offerings with big scores.
Can anyone truly say the Jordy we see in 2018, the Julian Wilson who wore the yellow jersey until today’s denouement, are the equals or betters of the surfers they were when they first came on Tour? I would argue they are worse. Their surfing has become safer, more predictable, mired in conservatism. Filipe is making them look increasingly irrelevant.
“I felt like I threw everything at a wave,” he said, “and all I got was a six”.
There’s a perception problem here, outlined yesterday. A question of declining not ascending skills. Can anyone truly say the Jordy we see in 2018, the Julian Wilson who wore the yellow jersey until today’s denouement, are the equals or betters of the surfers they were when they first came on Tour? I would argue they are worse. Their surfing has become safer, more predictable, mired in conservatism. Filipe is making them look increasingly irrelevant.
Why? The answer is not so obvious.
Gladwell’s 10000 hours to expertise and Erikssons science of peak performance both indicate that increasing practice should lead to increasing skills. In the words of Eriksson, “There is no point at which performance maxes out and additional practice does not lead to further improvement.” So, why the stagnation and even reversal? Nick Carroll pointed out in a civilised internet beef that it was highly unlikely that any human being had ever achieved the 10000 hours of actual wave riding time so the theoretical upper limit of performance was even greater than imagined.
Shaun Tomson took aim at Jordy’s boards as the source of the problem but I disagree. His losing presser after going down to Carmichael in the semi pointed to a deeper problem with this surprisingly candid analysis.
“The way I surf a wave,” he said, “It obviously doesn’t feel like it looks”. The lament of every recreational surfer on the planet. Get a coach Jordy and get real.
The contrast in hi-fi surfing, risk, progression, speed, repertoire you name it between the Julian/Jordy QF and the Filipe/Medina QF was epochal. It was watching surfing from different eras. Toledo landed an inverted air on the bricks as cool as a cat thrown off a roof before signing an extensive claim. Medina laid down huge turns, which Pottz failed to understand. The man does not understand backhand surfing, he showed that with his incomprehension of Italo’s surfing here last year.
You had to feel pity for Kanoa Igarashi in semi two against Filipe. He murdered him on the opening exchanges then dialled in another mi-nine for his second wave to put the result beyond doubt. It was all over in those two insanely ridden waves. As good as a human being can surf. Maybe not theoretically, but up to this point in human evolution, yes. Very much so.
The final was actually a little more entertaining a contest than it should have been on paper. The pre-show had a really nice little doco on Filipe showing that behind the stunning “how” of his surfing skills there was a solid why. A gal can figure out any how if they have a good enough why…I know, I’ve butchered it but you get the drift.
Filipe fell on his first wave. He looked tired. Please don’t let him choke, please Jesus; I’ll be good from now on. I just want my tiny mind blown one more time.
He dropped a solid score. Carmichael came back with a slightly lesser one, but it was the best he surfed all event in my eyes. He just added a little spice, maybe paprika, maybe chipotles to the biltong he’d served up all event. It was big, it was good. I scribbled down Adv Wade. Judges saw differently.
Filipe fell again. Long seconds passed before he got back on his board and paddled. He’s gassed.
A long lull was his best friend. A period of recovery. He picked up a mid-sized wave under priority and if it had been midnight he would have lit up Jeffery’s Bay, such was the incandescent intensity he surfed it at.
That was is it, all over. In the freezer, as Strider would say. A perfect winning record in finals surfed. I think I can get used to this mild-mannered llama as World Champion, even if the claims are not always exactly to my taste.
As for the rest of the field… the other so called contenders… a good long walk with a good hard look in a room full of mirrors is needed. They is way off the pace.