On a day that promised only disappointment after yesterday's theatre at the Box, we still managed to get our kicks…
In all the excitement after yesterday’s Box coliseum, I ended up on the wrong side of a minor local bender and thus felt doomed to suffer a major anti-climax today at four-foot Maggie River Main Break.
It ended up being an entertaining day.
Confusion and disappointment with the way the wonderful rigour of the new judging scale has been given a sea burial. What a wonderful walled garden Pritamo had created, a wonderland where only the finest and most rarefied of fruits would be adjudged excellent. A legacy to be handed down to future generations: to encourage the growth of the sport, and I don’t mean in the number of casuals watching but the actual quality of the sport itself, a headroom had been created to allow the truly excellent to be rewarded.
Now it’s gone.
Kanoa was awarded sevens for pure safety surfing. It was safety surfing the Pritamo reset was designed to consign to the dustbin of history.
“Where’s the major turn?” asked Barton.
There was none!
Thankfully, he lost to Ryan Callinan but it’s doubtful the seedy, weedy mess that now infests the garden can be cleaned up again and set to rights this year.
All that beautiful rigour wasted.
John John Florence surfed an incredible quarter-final heat against Italo. There was perfect dynamic-kinetic stability in his turns. He mowed down Italo, paddled him all around and hustled him into submission.
But a 9.23 for what were essentially three turns and a regulation close-out reentry. You think that 0.77 to perfection encompasses all that John John has to offer at Main Break?
Does that headroom offer sufficient motivation to draw out the best John has to bring? He is building to something special but where is the capacity to absorb it gone?
Yes, the clarity of purpose was there. Yes, there was no emotional confusion.
Pure presence, as Barton so lyrically waxed during a shark break.
The happy-dumb Spicoli media strategy was in full effect, John’s safe place. If he wins Margarets…what is the earliest a Title has been wrapped?
He could wrap it up in Kelly’s tub.
According to Ziff, a disaster.
Not to me, I would love to see John completely set free.
The day started well. Italo has his vertical turns back. He rode lots of waves and whipped Mick Bourez in hard offshore rights. His board towered over him in the presser and had a ton of leverage straight off the bottom.
For the opening turn of his opening wave Kelly looked like the best surfer on Earth. The best top turn on Tour. He fell on the closeout then slowly disintegrated.
It had felt like he had stemmed the flow of incompetent heats. He paddled for shit waves. Caio wasn’t amazing but you could feel the righteous anger in his surfing. He kicked out right in front of Kelly and invited Kelly into a paddle battle. An invitation the champ showed no interest in accepting.
It was a meek response.
What was that look on Kelly’s face? Was it guilt? Was there some sneaky internal acknowledgement that while Caio was holed up on the couch watching Game of Thrones Kelly was surfing in his Tub twice, once in May and once in September as well as taking on J-Bay.
A bit of a rort, as we say in Australia.
It was a strangely ill-formed heat from Kelly. It started bad, it was bad in the middle and bad at the end. Peppered with some lukewarm hustle that never found purchase. In that context, the arm wrassle with the little tow-headed grommy looked mean-spirited and small.
He could have let the kid win, surely?
Jack Robbo could not back up yesterdays dominance at the Box. His top turns were presaged by double and triple pumped bottom turns. He fell twice on opening turns on set waves. A CT skill-set has to bank two scores in a heat.
Kanoa Igarashi figured that out. Seth Moniz got on with the job and beat him easily.
Ryan Callinan was the polar opposite to Jack Robinson. Zero bobble or interruption to the bottom-to-top turn flow. Perfect linkage with huge firehoses of spray. It wasn’t mind blowing but it was enough to disrupt what should be a chapter in the surf coaches handbook titled “The Confidence of Igarashi”.
The broadcast was patchy.
All day, live action had been intruded on by ads.
During womens quarter-final four we cut into the live action with a 9.8 score next to Lakey Peterson’s name.
How? Why? Could you miss live broadcasting the best wave of the day?
Two turns. A brilliant two turns but 0.2 off perfection? If there has been a new directive from the judging panel then they should release a presser. If this is just a case of scale drift then Pritamo needs to rally the troops and pull the reins tight. That heat did give us the enduring image of the day: Lakey aiming up at Steph and Steph raising a hand in protest as she got her face showered in spray.
I must admit to feeling a little confounded and resentful at Caio Ibelli. Not because of his babe waiting for him on the steps, but because he robbed us of a Jordy/JJF Final at Bells in 2017 and I am worried he will do something to John when they meet in the semi.
I mean, beat him. And then John will get that hangdog look on his face and only say super-fun twice instead of three times and we’ll be robbed of greatness again.
Caio beat Jordy fair and square though. Criminally under-scored for a 7.43 and then in a final exchange he was adjudged, after a long pause, to have bested Jordy. The camera cut away from Jordy. We got no post-heat presser so were not able to ascertain if he had “worn the loss lightly.”
After Keramas, I would guess not.
We took a break while a shark cruised the lineup. The second time Kolohe has had a heat interrupted by evolution’s most successful predator.
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A freesurfer and the event safety team spotted a shark swimming near the competition zone (Southside heading out behind Main Break, moving away from the competition lineup) and put Men’s Quarterfinal Heat 3 on hold. The shark continued moving west, away from the competition zone, and its movements were monitored with the WSL drone and jetskis. After activating our responses protocols, and discussing with the athletes, we will continue the heat at 4pm AWST.
When it restarted the waves were bathed in a golden light.
Strider stood on the stairs talking softly, reverently.
To be honest I could barely focus on the action.
I was dreaming of backlit lefts and bush chooks by the fire afterwards. Looks like Kolohe won then Julian after him. On a day that could have been as sterile and manufactured as K-Pop we still managed to get our kicks for free.
Margaret River Pro Men’s Round of 16 (Round 4) Results:
Heat 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.74 DEF. Michel Bourez (FRA) 12.14
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 13.67 DEF. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.40
Heat 3: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 14.50 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 10.26
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.16 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 10.77
Heat 5: Seth Moniz (HAW) 14.20 DEF. Jack Robinson (AUS) 9.97
Heat 6: Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.26 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 12.73
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.27 DEF. Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 11.70
Heat 8: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 14.57 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 14.07
Margaret River Pro Men’s Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: John John Florence (HAW) 17.73 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.36
QF 2: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 15.26 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.25
QF 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.90 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 13.34
QF 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.40 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 11.60
Margaret River Pro Men’s Semifinal Matchups:
SF 1: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
SF 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
Margaret River Pro Women’s Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 14.26 DEF. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 13.10
QF 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.50 DEF. Caroline Marks (USA) 14.40
QF 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.84 DEF. Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 8.50
QF 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) 18.83 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.16
Margaret River Pro Women’s Semifinal Matchups:
SF 1: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
SF 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Lakey Peterson (USA)