And world number one Italo Ferriera gets a little too close to God…
There are days when you need to suspend the critical faculties and abandon yourself completely to the spectacle.
Days like today, which I love the most as a fan and hate the most as a surf writer, because it becomes as D. Rielly said via text msg “A race to see who can find the prettiest superlative”.
Today could have been, should have been, a debacle except for the master-stroke of Kieren Perrow. I think we can all agree: the greatest call made by a contest director in the history or pre-history of competitive surfing.
To recap: He made the call to run the Mens round of 32 and 16 as overlapping 50-minute heats. Allowing time and opportunity for victory at sea conditions to be not just tamed, but artfully dominated by the few. The very rare few, which is always what pro surfing has been about.
If hype and big calls annoy, go straight to the comments.
Or read on and call bullshit at your leisure.
At one point during the afternoon, in a rabid 10-12-foot lineup being strafed by winds and huge chunks of ocean, we viewed Gabe Medina, John John Florence and Owen Wright sharing a line-up.
It was the greatest hour of professional surfing measured by commitment, performance and pure wave-riding skill ever seen at Bells, easily eclipsing the previous 1981 high-water mark.
Gabe took the Occhilupo high-water mark of the ’97 Skins event and threw it in the rubbish bin like an empty six pack*. Line and length off the bottom, pure edge control, giant slalom S-turns, a total absence of bobble, pumping or line hesitation coupled with perfectly timed massive end section stabs.
It will take some time to digest.
Gabe and John John looked like they were riding different boards in a different spot on a different ocean. Simply no comparison between them and the rest of the field.
I felt goosebumps watching that I haven’t had since Margaret River 2017. John framed his turns with moments of absolute stillness – a Parko affectation that elongates the moment and makes judges swoon.
John John had been set back on his heels early by an egregious over-score on Owen Wright’s first wave, which drew a rare unanimous note of dissent from the booth, as well as Strider on the stairs.
Could JJF surf his way out of adversity?
How would he respond?
With huge turns.
A grotesque end section in front of the Winkipop button was whipped into submission for a 9.63. I felt goosebumps watching that I haven’t had since Margaret River 2017. John framed his turns with moments of absolute stillness – a Parko affectation that elongates the moment and makes judges swoon.
Malia Manuel looked the most comfortable amongst the women quarter finalists in a line-up being disfigured by a rapidly rising swell. Pure lines on a bigger board.
“I trust my instincts,” she said, “and have my instincts trust me.”
Caroline Marks was better, the big turns more symmetrical and less awkwardly angular on a bigger sloping wall. There was no match between her and Briana Hennesy.
There was what Ronnie (correctly) termed equipment confusion plus mad hustles for boards, broken boards everywhere, snapped leashes.
Slater waxed a 6’0” Simon Anderson, then took out a Webber Quad, presumably with a double concave deck for the opening of his heat with Peterson Crisanto. That board looked OK, I thought, a consensus seemed to rapidly build against it online and he swapped it out for the Simon.
Another shakey, inconclusive un-Slater-like Slater heat ensued.
For the third time this event, mediocre performances have led to victory.
The Simon did not look magic.
“I couldn’t figure it out, whatever,” he admitted. Going into the quarter-finals his self-assessment that “I don’t feel like I’ve got any momentum going” is stunningly accurate.
I woke up in the wee hours having a nightmare that I was mowing Derek Rielly’s Bondi lawn after playing hooker for the Manly Sea Eagles (true). Italo Ferreira will be tortured of images of a different kind when he closes his eyes tonight. Demolished by a shorebreak that looked like Waimea he was washed around the Winkipop button, signalling frantically to the jetskis, who were fully engaged rescuing Jordy Smith. That terrifying I’m-in-deep-shit feeling was written all over his face as he collapsed on the Bells stairs.
By the time Filipe Toledo hit the water we were up to our ovaries in carnage, chaos and confusion. Toledo needed three board changes to defeat a hapless Seth Moniz who was devoured by the Bells shorebreak. That is worth chasing on the heat analyzer. Filipe looks a little behind the John/Gabe pace but seeing as they will face off in the quarters that could be the ideal place to be if they exhaust their mojo during that clash.
I woke up in the wee hours having a nightmare that I was mowing Derek Rielly’s Bondi lawn after playing hooker for the Manly Sea Eagles (true). Italo Ferreira will be tortured of images of a different kind when he closes his eyes tonight.
Demolished by a shorebreak that looked like Waimea he was washed around the Winkipop button, signalling frantically to the jetskis, who were fully engaged rescuing Jordy Smith.
That terrifying I’m-in-deep-shit feeling was written all over his face as he collapsed on the Bells stairs. Somehow he managed to still ride what looked to be the biggest waves of the day. Legit Hawaiian size waves.
It was the first time I’ve ever been able to get on board, 100%, with Joe Turpel’s “that was so fun to watch” aphorism.
This over-lapping heat format is up there with Pritamo Ahrendt’s re-jigging of the judging scale as the greatest innovation of Pro Surfing since man on man.
It would take a peculiar kind of grinch not to get a kick out of today and feel just a little moist about the prospects for tomorrow.
Did anyone else see Jack Freestone’s purple velour tracksuit in the booth? Thoughts?
*4 Pines Kolsch
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Remaining Men’s Round 3 (H9-16) Results:
Heat 9: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.03 DEF. Reef Heazlewood (AUS) 7.80
Heat 10: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 12.20 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 9.63
Heat 11: Owen Wright (AUS) 16.10 DEF. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 12.07
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW) 17.67 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 11.24
Heat 13: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.76 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 9.10
Heat 14: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.03 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.44
Heat 15: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 12.07 DEF. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.93
Heat 16: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.10 DEF. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 13.27
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 10.80 DEF. Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 6.87
Heat 2: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 13.93 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 9.93
Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.10 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 7.13
Heat 4: Jacob Willcox (AUS) 11.80 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 10.04
Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.27 DEF. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 7.76
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW) 18.16 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 16.97
Heat 7: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.20 DEF. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 6.03
Heat 8: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.10 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 11.03
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Heat 2: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Jacob Willcox (AUS)
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. John John Florence (HAW)
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)