Pipeline Masters Finals wrap: “The best day of pro surfing ever!”

Or at least top 3 with the Final Day Tahiti 2014 and Smirnoff Pro 1974.

Best day of Pro surfing ever? I say yes. Or at least top 3 with the Final Day Tahiti 2014 and Smirnoff Pro 1974.

Too much? I’ve watched more pro surfing than God himself this year; sat through dreary round two days that made me want to put a bullet through my brain. Been publicly shamed by the owner of the Sport as a dream crusher and hater for doing my level, level best to cover his baby truthfully. Forensically.

To present it to the public as a legitimate sporting activity and not some rinky-dink two-bit marketing activity staffed by semi-literate rejects from a self-help course. Through it all Gabe Medina has laid it down, hard. A hard, uncompromising track without an atom of safety surfing involved.

To see him surf four times at close to perfect six-to-eight-foot Pipe and do what he did made me a happy man. Deliriously so.

The day had anti-climax written all over it early when the sun sat low behind Sunset Elementary. It looked more like wonky Indo than Pipe. Jordy won round four on the buzzer.

Medina’s first wave laid down a hard, high mark for the rest of the field. Very deep, impossible tube to alley-oop. A dream start that straight away had a whiff of inevitability. He sat closer to the Sunset side of the reef, nearer the sand-bar, his genius for finding his waves in full effect. His last ride was a high score that gave him an early shower with a minute to go.

He told Rosie he woke early and “I don’t feel pressure”. Compared to Filipe who looked like a shattered refugee begging for clemency after his loss to Kelly yesterday Medina had an inhuman look to him.

Parko started with a casual tube-ride to flyaway kick-out for a six and never looked close to replicating it. Julian had what Pottz called the “whereabouts” to get out of a barrel you could drive a bus through.

Almost ten minutes to go and sets approached every part of the reef. Parko needed a 6.45 to relegate Joycey. Would he throw it?

Two big spitting teepees went through the line-up to gasps from the crowd. No paddlers. Parko had already punched the clock and timed out on his career. The clock ticked down on Parko.

“It’s all over,” he said to Rosie. “I’m so glad it’s over.”

Kelly looked off in heat four. Like the impact of yesterday had taken it’s toll and his recovery was not complete. He packed close-outs and surfed four waves for nothing. Thirteen minutes to go and the GOAT is sitting on a heat score of 3.07, which was, if I’m not mistaken, the score given to his miraculous make from yesterday. A minor cosmic joke on the King, no doubt.

8.25 to go, Kelly paddles into a ledging Pipe wave and with that famous no-hands-back-on-his-heels drop that makes you stop breathing, pulled into a deep tube and emerged with the spit. That’s the wave he needed. Australian and Brazilian judges low-balled it as a low six but the low seen given by others puts it as a high six. Duru has won the heat but Slater is through.

Jordy fired in Quarter One. Looked at home at Pipe for the first time in his career. Too late? During his heat with Seabass they had one of those All-In profiles. Very slick, no? Affecting. Informative. This sport is getting so much right, right now. The webcasting, the profiles, even the commentary with Ronnie and Ross and Dorian and Fanning guesting.

All the wrapping is perfect.

But the thing that needs reforming: the product itself, seems impervious to change. Why?

Connor vs Gabe. Quarter-final two. Best heat in pro surfing history. No? Come for me, bro. I’ll drop kick your acai bowl into next week. Connor tested Gabe’s one weak spot: over aggression with a tendency to interfere on the take-off of the opening ride and Gabe backed off. Connor nailed a pig of a Backdoor pit. Then nailed another, and another. Three dreamy makes to start the heat.

Gabe faltered, then again, and again. I would not call it a “soft combo” but something closer to a chokehold.

Nineteen minutes in and Connor’s close-to-perfect heat has sucked out all the emotional energy out of the largely Brazilian crowd. They are silent. Charlie looks close to death. Like an errant mosquito bite would finish him off.

Gabe sprinted to the crest of a ragged pyramid, whipped it, went straight down and tail stalled into a big round tube. Came out and threw a straight air into the light tradewind. I think, the most outrageous display of skill under pressure all year. To that point.

Paddling back out he sprinted straight past Connor Coffin went over the edge of a threatening wave stretched out to Off the Wall, did two flamboyant no-hands pumps and spiked the deepest throatiest and deepest pit of the contest. Ten, no question. Awarded. The camera shifted to Julian who looked, according to Ron Blakey, “like he was trying to swallow an avocado seed”.

The crowd energy came flooding back in. The combo was reversed with interest. Connor was cooked after surfing the best heat he’d ever had at Pipe.

Kelly took a lot of gas in his quarter-final; against Yago, who had looked, a fair combo of Rob Machado and Gerry Lopez. Even though I hate Lopez comparisons, it’s true. With eight minutes to go Kelly asked for and received a big perfect Pipe wave. The toll taken would determine his next heat against Julian, who accounted for Duru, it must be said, with the help of a Good God.

Semi-Final One. Jordy vs Gabriel. It was stunning, to me, that even this deep into the comp, Julian was still a chance of winning the Title.

What followed was controversial. It began with the biggest broadcast fail of the season. A long ad break ensued, cutting deep into the start of the heat. The broadcast came live on Jordy framed by a rotund backdoor lip, emerging triumphantly. The broadcast had missed three rides. Three critical rides.

Don’t call me a hater, or a dream crusher, Dirk. Those are just facts. With a world title on the line, the webcast missed live, critical action.

Jordy had amassed a heat total of 15.83 in the first 4mins. Jeezus christ!

There were shades of Keramas, when a testosterone laden Jordy out-muscled Gabe in a paddle battle. It was a rare primal display.

And while the victorious silverback tried to digest his meal in the sun Gabe paddled around him. In. Out. He looked seaward, he sniffed the air like a terrier. He paddled right onto Jordy’s shoulder and accompanied him like a guide dog does a blind man, straight into a close-out, ditching his board in the lip and pin diving from crest to trough.

That’s it, I thought. Jordy’s blown it. He bought the worst used car in history.

Earlier, in his presser, Jordy had make a diagnosis for success.

“Just 4 more great waves,” he said.

Yes, and he had already ridden two of them. But he missed something vital. They had to be better than the other guys. And no stupid mistakes. Gabe spit-roasted a double sectioned Backdoor cavern with a highly technical outside knee stall. That stalling technique he learned, and perfected at the Wave Ranch. It’s made him the most technically proficient backside tube-rider on earth. Or any other planet.

Was the score highballed?


Did Jordy get the mid-range seven needed on his next ride, a double peace signed no hands tube?

I thought, yes.

It was a call that could have gone either way… just one of those emotional artefacts of a subjectively judged sport when it encounters the irresistible force of a human being making magic.
Don’t be sad.

Jordy can be sad. But you have to earn the right to an over-score, and Gabe did that. And then some.

Three minutes to go, I could not watch. I paced the halls. The clock ticked out, Gabe did it. Cosmic justice restored. Or, as a commentator noted when 49’er’s Quarterback Joe Montana returned to the fold “the world is turning right”.

Kelly looked cooked to me in his curiously impotent semi against Julian. The heat was there for him to win. Nine mins to go and with priority, needing a four and he gave control of the heat to Julian riding a toy little Backdoor wave , then spent precious minutes battling to get back out. He gifted the final to Julian.

How’d you like that Final? I enjoyed, very, very much. Gabe hit the gas pedal. Hustled the shit out of Julian and forced him into a closeout, then threaded an impossible tube at Backdoor for a sketchy make out the doggy door.

A make? Yes. Judges agreed. 9.57.

He threaded them front-side and backside and threw a little back-flip into the victory wave.

Very fine. Best day ever.

That concludes the coverage. I’m off to get my skin cancer cut out then a leisurely afternoon on pain-killers and beer.

Thanks for reading, it’s been emotional.

Billabong Pipe Masters Final Results:
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.34
2 – Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.70

Billabong Pipe Masters Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.27 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.83
SF 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.20 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 11.17

Billabong Pipe Masters Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.16 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 6.93
QF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 19.43 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 14.26
QF 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.53 def. Yago Dora (BRA) 10.17
QF 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.50 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 10.07

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.50, Conner Coffin (USA) 9.43, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 7.93
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.90, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 11.93, Michel Bourez (PYF) 6.57
Heat 3: Yago Dora (BRA) 15.97, Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.44, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 7.77
Heat 4: Joan Duru (FRA) 10.80, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.20, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 7.00

Men’s 2018 Jeep Leaderboard (after Billabong Pipe Masters):
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) – 62,490 points
2 – Julian Wilson (AUS) – 57,585 points
3 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) – 51,450 points
4 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) – 43,070 points
5 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) – 36,440 points

Final VANS Triple Crown of Surfing Top 5:
1 – Jesse Mendes (BRA)
2 – Joel Parkinson (AUS)
3 – Jordy Smith (ZAF)
4 – Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
5 – Joan Duru (FRA)

Gabriel Medina’s 2018 WSL Championship Tour Results:
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast – 13th
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach – 3rd
Oi Rio Pro – 5th
Corona Bali Protected – 9th
Uluwatu CT – 5th
Corona Open J-Bay – 5th
Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o – 1st
Surf Ranch Pro – 1st
Quiksilver Pro France – 3rd
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal – 3rd
Billabong Pipe Masters – 1st

Gabriel Medina’s Championship Tour Career Rankings:
2018 – 1st
2017 – 2nd
2016 – 3rd
2015 – 3rd
2014 – 1st
2013 – 14th
2012 – 7th
2011 – 12th

Breaking: Gabriel Medina beats Jordy Smith in semifinals to claim 2018 World Title!

Jesse Mendes wins Triple Crown. Obrigado to all!

Do you know Jordy Smith owns a house on the North Shore? If you were watching the Pipeline Masters in tender and loving memory of Andy Irons then you certainly do but Jordy Smith’s North Shore house did not help him beat Gabriel Medina and with Gabriel Medina’s semifinal victory gifted him the 2018 World Title right in front of Julian Wilson and Kelly Slater, who was no doubt thinking, “Cool. two down, nine to go.”

What an amazing day!

What an amazing heat!

Gabriel and Jordy both traded big barrels, extraordinary barrels, each weaving, each regrouping, each not getting too ahead of themselves but… the scoring?

Did you agree with the scoring?

Ross n Ronnie sure didn’t. They thought Jordy got robbed. But… what did you think?

Oh that’s rude. We can talk about that later. Right now you should crack a room temperature bottle of cachaça, take a sip and feel the burn because that burn is going to be in your esophagus for two/three months.

Gabriel Medina is your 2018 World Champ!

Obrigado to him. Obrigado to Jesse Mendes who won the Triple Crown. It’s order and progress all the way around!

But, real quick, how sweet do Ross n Ronnie sound together? I’m going to write a poem or maybe direct an art nouveau film called Ross et Ronnie but let’s not get distracted.

Brazil for president!

Pipeline Masters Final’s Day: “Gabriel Medina has that smell about him!”


What’s better than a Pipeline Sunday? A Pipeline Monday where you can be wasting time at work while watching the world’s best surfers on the world’s best Pipeline! The current tour leader, Gabriel Medina, is in the water and cranking. His first wave was in the excellent range, if you can believe.

Ross Williams says that he has a smell about him and no it is not the smell of Spam Musubi or Hula Pie or Napalm. No, it is the smell of victory.

Are you watching?

Do you think Gabriel Medina smells like victory?

If he makes it into the final then 2018 officially ends with him as champion. Julian Wilson still has a prayer.

Gabriel is riding a 6’4 Tokoro.

Ross Williams says Tokoro’s rails are soft like butter and that is a secret.

Between the soft butter and the smell of Gabriel Medina I’m feeling hungry.

Are you still not watching?

You’re missing out. Jordy Smith is talking about his end of year bonuses right now like a regular ol’ salaryman. What do you think he gets for his end of year bonus? A nice parking spot in Santa Monica?

Breaking: With too many big waves on tap, the WSL calls Mavericks off for the week!

Conditions must be just right for the Pretty Big Wave World Tour.

In between watching stunning Pipeline heats, you have no doubt had your eyes glued to swell forecasts, especially if you live in California. Oh  there is so much swell coming, such large swell that the National Weather Service took the unprecedented step of warning potential ocean goers of “certain death” if they dared touched toesies to the sand in Sonoma and Monterey counties up by San Francisco.

Of course we know that California’s iconic big wave is up there too, Mavericks, catching all that swell. Forming all that swell into towering waves.

Surfline, the World Surf League’s official wave forecasting website, describes the morning thusly:

It’s absolutely macking today! XXL WNW swell has filled in overnight and has good exposures in the 2x-3x overhead real, while standouts see 3x-4x overhead surf and deepwater magnets go into the 5x-6x OH realm with a few bigger bombs as well. Winds are light SE now, allowing for clean conditions although the ocean is still a little mixed up from last night’s weather. Tide is full but dropping to a 1.4′ LOW at 1PM. Be very careful and use good judgement, there is tremendous power out there!

And the World Surf League did use judgement, last week while that swell was getting built, and called the Mavericks Big Wave World Tour event off for Monday and Tuesday preemptively.

Today, with too many big waves on the horizon, the event was cancelled for the rest of the week and let us turn to the San Francisco Chronicle for more:

The Mavericks surf contest — which had already been delayed a couple times in the past few days — has been postponed for at least another week.

“We will not be running the Mavericks Challenge this week and will wait for more optimum conditions,” World Surf League Big Wave Tour Commissioner Mike Parsons said in a statement Sunday afternoon. “The wind is good and conditions will be clean, but the swell will be dropping through the day on Thursday and we won’t have the consistency we need to run an excellent event.”

The surf near Half Moon Bay is expected to be the biggest of the year Monday — waves may reach 50 feet — and it was thought at one point that Tuesday might be an option, but it was ruled out on Saturday for safety reasons.

A quick perusal of Surfline’s Mavericks webcam shows many big waves. I am not a big wave surfer so cannot speak to their quality but maybe you can?

Pipe Masters, Day 2: Filipe Toledo goes down swinging at ten-foot Pipe on “epic, epic day!”

"Each of Kelly Slater's rides I took as personal rebuke, as kick in the nuts."

How to make sense of this epic, epic day? Feel free to riff below, there’ll be lots of meat left on the bone.

The sun was just cresting the mau’ka over Mokule’ia when Toledo hit the water against Benji Brand in wobbly, glassy six-to-ten-foot Pipe.

How do you rebuild after a disastrous performance like his round one showing? Ten minutes passed with no waves ridden. Minutes composed of seconds and micro-seconds, thousands and thousands of Pottzian nervous moments piled like bricks on the psyche of Filipe Toledo.

He scrapped for the inside and took off deep on a legit Pipe wave, ponying over two foam balls to get an eight. I scribbled “world title wave”. Brand took the lead and with a minute and change remaining. Toledo, needing a 3.76, scrapped into a mid-for for the win. 

“Lets talk about pressure,” said Rosie Hodge. Filipe physically buckled, folded in half. A bodily response that said more than any words could about the mental state of the second time challenger. 

The dual heat format: Oh please God, can we have that at every location when the surf is pumping. To see waves being ridden, or at least attempted, made turning away impossible.

Kieren, I know you are reading. Please, make it happen.

Owen Wright had a 100% make rate in a lineup now being strafed by end to end close-outs, and with makeable waves at a premium, still lost. Wildcard Seth Moniz double pumped no hands through an open cavern and with the joie de vivre of a teenage shoo-ey at a sunlit beergarden on a Sunday afternoon greased a lofty punt on the end section.

He moves through the pipe lineup like a young Ali.

Sinuous, smooth and note perfect with his strikes.

I’ve already forgotten who Kelly Slater surfed against in heat six. He rode a 6’3” round-pin Tokoro four fin.

Wave 1: a clean teepee Pipe wave. Easy make. 

Wave 2: Kelly packs a brutal close-out at Backdoor. Extreme punishment reel getting back out. 

In his extended podcast with Joe Rogan Kelly made pains to say surfing didn’t require that much strength or conditioning training. He looked gassed. Like Conor McGregor getting mauled by Khabib Nurmogomedov. 

Did you secretly and shamefully smirk behind the safety of a keyboard like me? Where’s your cardio now eh Kelly?

Wave 3: Pipe wave, no exit.

Wave 4: No exit, big sets feathering through the line-up. 

He can’t take much more of this punishment, surely.

Wave 5: Backdoor bomb, bodysurfed out. No make.

Wave 6: Pipe wave, no hands entry to the tube. No exit. 

He did what he needed to do to beat Willian Cardoso, which admittedly wasn’t much. But what he did do was an intense sparring session, with a ton of intentional punishment at the worlds heaviest wave. How can you comprehend that from a 46-year-old who spends most of his time sitting in a trailer under a tree hundreds of miles from the ocean?

Ryan Callinan showed an almost insane level of joyfulness in the kind of gnarly Pipe line-up that would cripple a working man. Like a grinning labrador fetching a stick with the aggression of Jake the Muss being asked to cook eggs. And the stick was a brown snake. He packed closeouts, he flirted with extreme take-offs under the axe all with a goofy grin, that, as Ronnie Blakey rightfully noted “you couldn’t wipe off his face with a cricket bat”. He did to Italo what Italo does to Medina: come at him with such a super-abundance of extravagant energy and skill that he makes his opponent effectively shrink and disappear down a rabbit hole.

To lay a pitch perfect passive-aggressive period on his performance Kelly Slater when asked by Rosie what he thought of Ryans bomb quipped straight back “what, the one he didn’t make?” 

It was starting to feel like one of those rare vintage Kelly days, when that lethal combination of magic and ultra-spiteful competitiveness drips out of every pore and infuses every second with possibility.

Wilko finished his career as a CT surfer, most likely; with an air drop out of a Backdoor bomb that went straight to the beach on the final buzzer. As a Finale it wasn’t without a certain sad theatricality. 

In the presser afterwards he confessed to feeling “sad and confused”, then, looked upwards at Rosie Hodge in an off-the-shoulder Laurel Canyon ’67 blouse and, looking somewhat heartened, added “but I’m sweet”.

Seabass called his Rnd3, Ht 5 clash with Griffin Colapinto “psycho” and that is money. Both dropped out of the sky on unmakeable waves that are fun to be cavalier over but could really have been “death on a stick”.

Gabe Medina came up against the smiling, boyish assassin Seth Moniz. Title on the line. Here we go again, as Medina put it. First wave: outrageous gambit. An insane drop, technically threaded tube through multiple heaving backdoor sections to a full sand-bar close-out. Medina sqeaked out the doggy door and got false cracked by the lip as he did so. It was a 20 if he stayed on his feet. 

Moniz was critically under-scored for a backdoor bomb, coming out after the spit. 

Judges compounded the error by over-scoring Medina for a technical but manufactured tube-ride. By the heat and the days standard, the point spread was distorted by a point. Medina answered a seesawing lead change with a another technical ride with a Tom Carroll bottom turn to late turn under the lip and that was the heat. It should have been closer but it was another brutally efficient win to Medina. 

Wilson packed close-outs with the best of the psychos- there were markers being laid down here that were far more significant than heat wins. Lines in the sand everywhere as to who would go and who would go missing. Julian did not go missing. One clean Backdoor make was enough to dispatch a hapless Miggy Poops. 

Last heat of the day. Kelly v Filipe in backlit 10-foot Pipe. Please allow me to detail the Kings rides as they occurred. It’s unusual, but the performance deserves a permanent record. 

Wave1: Straight off the bat, cute little snap into tube at Pipe. Make. 

Wave2: Non-make Pipe.

Wave3: Backdoor, non-make.

Wave4: Pipe, non-make.

Wave5: Pipe. Clean make. Up under a pitching section. Vertical slash. 6.93.

Wave 6: Heavy Pipe wave. Chopes style high-line. Non-make.

Wave 7: Deep tube Pipe. Fell off in tube, regathered board, stood back up in tube and came out with arms up. Miracle ride. Non-make by judges.

Wave8: (Final Ride) Perfect Backdoor tube on a bomb. Came out after spit. Best wave of the day. 8.67.

Filipe, on the wave behind and needing a close to perfect score, threaded a deep, long Backdoor tube that would have been a ten. Non-make. 

Each of Kelly’s rides I took as personal rebuke, as kick in the nuts. They made me feel churlish, mean and small and simultaneously exalted.

They called to mind Rilke’s famous last lines from his poem Torso of an Archaic Apollo: “Nor would this star have shaken the shackles off, bursting with light, until there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life”.

You? How did you react to the Kings performance?