And the power shifts from the anglocentric world to the Latin…
Since when did Brazil become the new heavy water location on Tour?
Is this something that has been happening under our noses for years and only a seasonal shift deeper into winter and a location move to Saquarema has unlocked?
Can one of our Brazilian experts here please educate?
Barrinha today at times looked like North Point, Backdoor, that air wave in Reunion from Modern Collective and one of those Mexican right points in Barra. A wave outside the limits of most recreational surfers.
Medina, as golden light streamed through the Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Nazareth, was the only goofyfooter skilled enough to tame Barrinha this afternoon. We’ve seen more angry double overhead waves in Brazil in the last 48 hours than the last two years in Tahiti.
It is strange, it is bizarre, it is true. Time for a reassessment.
Did I miss the hype for the Slater/Toledo super heat today? Surfing’s official historian, Matt Warshaw, alluded to it but I thought going into it WSL had underplayed it. There were no leaked videos of Slater “praising “ Toledo as the best small-wave surfer on earth in the lead-up, no sly trash talk at all, far as I could see. Just a huge crowd (with the average person a little more out of shape than we might have expected, if I could be provocative) and a military escort for Filipe to make it to the beach.
As an opening heat at Barrinha it couldn’t have been better. Cross-shore, backwashy, devilishly tricky double -overhead barrelling wedges. Sebastian Inlet on a triple helping of growth hormone. There was nothing “relatable” about it. Which usually means Kelly Slater will make the insane happen.
He did, he did.
But first, Filipe sliced a wave and landed a greased rotation, on the bolts, as they say and all observers thought “That’s it, Kelly’s cooked, good night old man etc etc”.
If you’d said at the start of the year Kelly would fight back with a double-overhead, technical tube-ride, as heavy as Backdoor, with a degree of difficulty off the charts, you would have been mocked, ridiculed, denounced as an enemy of the people, called a stooge, a nut job, a fantasist, a WSL stool pigeon or much worse.
That, though, is what happened.
Kelly bested Filipe’s generous 9.17 with a 9.50. Game on.
What I find most staggering about the 47-year0-old version of Kelly is his willingness and ability to absorb punishment. At Pipe last year Kelly took beating after beating. The consequences, even for young studs, are not trifling. Head injuries, pelvises snapped in half, arms ripped out of shoulder sockets, knee ligaments snapped, grave surgeons delivering bad news about broken backs.
At Barrinha he repeated the formula.
A free-fall drop with the board fluttering around a cascading section yielded only a five. Filipe held his nerve and calmly slotted a set wave and that was it. You got the feeling Kelly was only one more wave from a ten but a hellaciously long time stranded in the shorebreak while sets strafed the line-up killed his chances.
A very significant heat. He won ugly yesterday and lost beautiful today.
That heat made the following heats look very pedestrian by comparison. Kanoa, Fred Morais and Julian all besting opponents without grabbing Barrinha by the neck. Julian admitting in the presser, the rambunctious lineup made him feel like a kook.
Forty-six-minute over-lapping heats in heavy lineups are tailor made for John John Florence. Time to relax and surf. Like Kelly he took multiple chances on waves that looked like closeouts, were closeouts, but could have been ten-point rides. Four attempts for four non-makes.
Wade Carmichael refrained from catching a wave in that time.
One clean make for a high seven then a backflip attempt, maybe not a backflip but something else, clean and lofted, which he landed but fell on. That would have been a ten. But it also exposed John’s weakness. Going big in the air has caused serious injury to the champ. High ankle sprain, ruptured cruciate ligament. At 20 years younger than Kelly it’s hard to see John lasting into his thirties with the injury toll already mounting. All that scar tissue has a way of catching up to you.
It happened on a big set wave. As Kolohe said, the potential to do the biggest airs ever seen was present. Huge wedge sections, oncoming breeze, massive crowd on the beach. A very tempting scenario. John put it up into space and then let it go. He said later it was the initial impact as he hit the take-off ramp that caused a serious pain on the previously injured knee. That does not sound good, indicating instability in the knee joint. He limped up the beach with a hang-dog look and ten minutes to go.
Ten minutes for the Avoca Jesus to get a low six. Ten long minutes. He spiked a small wave for a small score. A minute and fifty and a single set wave detonated on the melon. Board snapped in two and Jesus was left gesticulating for, who?….God? A jet ski? Either could not rescue him.
Gabby came out pricking and prodding and jabbing at smaller waves under the gaze of an ashen-faced Charlie. Unlike Jordy he could not stick airs. “He’ll go to turns” I thought. I love the way he shifts gears in a heat. A worshipful crowd bathed in the holy light, Bourez surfed like a drunken prophet, like the ancient king in a Rumi poem who has “let go of the reins” in the tavern.
The crowd surged in behind Medina and you could almost feel the power shift from the anglocentric world to the Latin.The energy flowed through the ether into homes thousands of miles away. It was a moment of pure Hegelian history: a new form of life had progressively undermined the old and had now replaced it.
The transition was almost complete. It’s up to Medina now to join the circle tomorrow.
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Round of 16 (Round 4) Results:
Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.84 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.83
Heat 2: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.17 DEF. Joan Duru (FRA) 10.83
Heat 3: Frederico Morais (PRT) 12.83 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 7.43
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.00 DEF. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 13.60
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) 12.66 DEF. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 10.33
Heat 6: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.53 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 9.67
Heat 7: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.07 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 11.53
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.43 DEF. Michel Bourez (FRA) 9.27
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
QF 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
QF 2: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
QF 3: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
QF 4: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)