Meanwhile, Tanner Hendrickson storms around his living room muttering, "Fuck you, fuck you!"
Did you see the first heat of round one of the Pipe Masters in Remembrance of Andy Irons? Me, sleeping like a drunken Englishman on a beach in Thailand, secure in the knowledge that the WSL would assault me with notifications if and when the event started.
I must have got 50 yesterday. This morning, nothing.
A cock crow woke me and by the time I got past the Oakley ads it was the very welcome sight of 11-time world champion Kelly Slater in his presser casting doubt on the forecast. Which to be honest looks somewhere between diabolical and what Ross Williams referred to today as “cryptic”.
The surf was worse than unkempt, more a bindii-infested lawn in summer with scant patches of green grass in between. Very poor Pipeline. But forced into running due to the logistics of fitting a full-scale event into a rapidly shrinking event window.
A way out of this sporting sadism has to be found. Now that Sophie G has haired out of the tour revamp and Mentawai Super Bowl why not adapt the idea for the season-ender at Pipeline?
Tell me a one day or two day Invitational with the Title Contenders plus extras held on the best Pipe day/s of an extended window is not a winning idea. Watching back markers grind away with twos and threes in insolent untidy scraps is not a winning formula for great sporting drama.
But everyone knows that except the WSL, or so it seems.
And the prognosis for next year has taken a turn for the worst. No elimination until round three. No three-man round four heats, which consistently provided the high point of surfing performance all year, Exhibit A being J-Bay, Exhibit B being France. A huge step backwards in an effort to appease the athletes.
Yago Dora set down a winning template by throwing tail-high airs into the tradewind. An electric Italo followed the formula with ankle busting landings onto the flats.
It was there for Toledo to take on. He just had to pick it up at the waters edge and follow the script. Judges were ready and willing. Inexplicably, after cleanly spiking a little left, he changed the plan. Dickie Toledo whistled him over the the rights and things got very messy for Fil. Distressingly inept is the only way to describe his heat. From the body language with Toledo Snr after the heat it’s obvious things have gone very pear shaped in the Toledo Camp. It was a heat reminiscent of Joel Parkinson’s flame out to Gavin Gilette in 2009, which gifted the world title to Mick Fanning. Pretty much a total choke. And it does pain me to write that.
To balance the scale, Medina’s performance in the following heat was as devastatingly efficient as Toledo’s was inept. He flipped a little full rotation oop into the breeze, strolled in and out of a few awkward tubes and laid a patina of ultra-competent hustle all over the line-up. As casual as a Miami barman. He had, as Pottz noted, “the whereabouts to get the job done.”
Joycey Wilson also looked solid, if unspectacular. Fatherhood becomes him. I can relate. Coming home after a hard day to your babe and babe in arms fills a man with love. Those little fingers wrapped around yours. I’m on the Medina train but a little bit of #CarnJoycey is slipping in.
Colapinto laid down one perfect turn in heat seven, a sizzling fully-torqued top turn and that was the heat.
Truthfully, the reunion of the old band, Ronnie and Ross, was more entertaining than the surfing. Never thought I would utter those words, that the commentary shaded the action. But it did. Maybe Ross is keeping his blade sharp for a return to the booth 2019? That would be good.
The sun came out, the tradewind clocked a few degrees to the east and conditions improved for the last two heats. The storyline of the day was the hope for a retirement fairy-tale for Joel Parkinson. He egged the exit of the first real Pipe wave of the day then souled out of a follow-up.
The final heat featured Michael Rodrigues, who bore no obvious facial disfigurement from his fracas with Tanner Hendickson vs Patty G and Willian Cardoso. A challenge to the security guards is how Ross Williams so delicately but accurately phrased it.
M-Rod stiff legged his way into a legit Backdoor nug for the highest score of the heat and backed it up enough to take an easy win. In the presser he looked relieved and ecstatic. He said he “had no words for my feelings right now”, but notably thanked his Hawaiian support team.
I can only imagine a testy Tanner Hendrickson watching and storming around his living room muttering “Fuck you, fuck you!”
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.00, Kelly Slater (USA) 11.43, Frederico Morais (PRT) 4.47
Heat 2: Yago Dora (BRA) 9.83, Owen Wright (AUS) 9.60, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 2.00
Heat 3: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.30, Joan Duru (FRA) 11.67, Keanu Asing (HAW) 5.66
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 6.03, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 5.04, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 4.93
Heat 5: Julian Wilson (AUS) 8.07, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 6.40, Seth Moniz (HAW) 4.57
Heat 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.16, Benji Brand (HAW) 9.97, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 9.67
Heat 7: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 7.07, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 6.77, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 4.50
Heat 8: Michael February (ZAF) 6.30, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 6.10, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 4.03
Heat 9: Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.03, Ian Gouveia (BRA) 12.00, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 10.90
Heat 10: Conner Coffin (USA) 15.07, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.00, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 9.20
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 11.23, Kolohe Andino (USA) 8.10, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 5.13
Heat 12: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 11.44, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 7.60, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 5.04
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 2 Matchups:
Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Benji Brand (HAW)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Seth Moniz (HAW)
Heat 3: Wade Carmichael (AUS) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Heat 4: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 5: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 6: Willian Cardoso (BRA) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 7: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 9: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 10: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 11: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)
Heat 12: Joan Duru (FRA) vs. Tomas Hermes (BRA)