A title wrapped in Portugal is Dirk Ziff's worst nightmare…
Sleep deprivation is a nasty drug, second only to a seasick hangover for bringing on a sour, joyless vibe. Seen Captain Jack Sparrow’s vision of hell in Pirates of Caribbean? The one where all the rocks turns to crabs and he tows his ship endlessly in a salty desert? That’s covering Portugal for me.
Yet watching round three heats at the Supertubos this evening I found my spirits elevated and a single rhetorical question: “how fucking good is this?” kept repeating. If you like, or even love surfing, watching live surfing from the best in the world is a total no-brainer.
How can the WSL alienate surfers from a product featuring surfing? Thats a special kind of talent. It should be the ultimate shooting-fish-in-a-bowl scenario.
New boy Erik Logan has been bought on to introduce some kind of pay per view. Will you pay? Me? A qualified yes. Most definitely on a contest by contest basis. Most definitely for some kind of Grand Slam leg featuring Indo, J-Bay, Tahiti and hopefully Fiji. Most definitely for any kind of slimmed down Super Event in the Ments to determine a World Champ.
Would I pay a year-long subscription to watch the Tour in its current iteration and format? Probably not. Too much dross and long arduous slogs to whittle away the deadwood and get to the good match-ups. It’s punishment I’m not willing to pay for.
Looking back on the year and, inadvertently, the Tour has stumbled on some portals to a future product that appeals. The back to back Bali leg was sick. Especially because the field for Ulus had already been whittled down and we cut straight to the chase. Reduced field, Indo leg Doesn’t need to be G-Land, doesn’t need to be Deserts or No-Kandui’s. Ulus is fine. That should be carved in stone.
Surf Ranch was boring but the leaderboard and finals day after the cut was the format of the future. Will they have the vision and balls to take the opportunity to grasp that or will they stay mired in a product rejected by the market for 40 years and suffer another humiliating retreat?
The time is now. Got to be. You can’t expect people to pay for the same thing they have rejected when they get it for free. That’s a special kind of madness.
The first heat of round three was announced by Strider in a soft pink scarf and beanie. To my eye, a nice offset to the weathered head with the attack dog tits well sheathed. Mendes started strong. Italo looked over-caffeinated. With Mendes enjoying a solid lead Italo greased a far reaching air reverse. The first of many passion claims for the day followed. 7.33.
Mendes was over-scored on a chunky right to take back the lead. With 30 seconds to go, Italo aimed a solid two-turn combo into the lip of a groomed semi-close-out. In the presser that followed the close victory he announced a disdain for the human judges.
“Only God can judge me,” he said.
Strictly speaking Italo, those judges do too. But they sometimes get it wrong.
Not this time.
Heat two with Zeke and Kolohe was a classic. Zeke over-powered Kolohe. Brother answered back. There was a helluva lot of body language communication with the judging panel. Zeke rode a wave with 45 seconds to go and the judges awarded it a perfect tie. Which meant, highest score wave went to Zeke and he took the heat. A vision of surfing as jock sport heaven isn’t for everyone, true. But I think Noa Deane would have quietly applauded, in his heart of hearts.
Wilko edged out Jordy. Morais was just a whisker too good for Connor. Bourez survived a miracle tube-ride, the first deep dark drainer of the event but was judged incomplete. He got a three for a ten but still won against M-Rod.
The Medina-Callinan heat did not disappoint after a slow start. Medina laid the biggest upside down backside hook of the event into the wind to take the lead. As the heat wound down he started living all over Callinan, smothering him like an elephant seal. That forced Callinan into an interference and it was game over.
The tactic was not Fanning approved. “If the wave’s not there I don’t think you need to be that close,” he said.
With the anti-hassling rule brought in after the Zeke/John John incident, it could have backfired spectacularly for Medina. With black eyes glinting in the presser, he gave Callinan, he told Rosie “no space.”
Medina’s win put extra pressure on Toledo. A loss means Medina can clinch in Portugal. He hasn’t looked the same since that close loss to Callinan in France and against Joan Duru he again looked brittle and flaky. It was tight, and his best ride was lowballed. It could have been a low seven and not a mid six. Have a look and see what you think. The door was left open for Duru and he slammed it with a six with a minute to go.
Wilson got through. One long deep sand sucking tube was enough, with a minor back-up to get past Gouviea.
Close-out beachbreak ain’t really my bag, but you couldn’t deny the challenge. The tide dropped and the predicted North wind started howling.
Italo smashed round four heat one with a pair of sevens, the second a seriously throaty one. Wilko through, Zeke bounced.
Medina through in heat two.
The tide bottomed out, raggedy closeouts finally forced the hand of Trav Logie. He called it off after the third heat of round four.
The title is still live. Wilson out, Medina wins is Ziff’s worst nightmare.
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.66 def. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 13.30
Heat 2: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.40 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.40
Heat 3: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 12.83 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.77
Heat 4: Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.33 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 10.40
Heat 5: Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.33 def. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 11.14
Heat 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.60 def. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 7.33
Heat 7: Joan Duru (FRA) 12.50 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 12.10
Heat 8: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.60 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.77
Heat 9: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 10.17 def. Tomas Hermes (BRA) 5.30
Heat 10: Owen Wright (AUS) 15.27 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 6.97
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.66 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 7.03
Heat 12: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.90 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 7.17
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 4 (H1-3) Results:
Heat 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.60, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.30, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 6.00
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 11.67, Michel Bourez (PYF) 7.84, Frederico Morais (PRT) 3.63
Heat 3: Joan Duru (FRA) 11.50, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 9.10, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 7.93
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Remaining Round 4 (H4) Matchups:
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Julian Wilson (AUS)