Open Thread: Comment Live, Oi Rio Pro Finals Day!

A glorious finish!

I am not a sleeper-inner by nature but, for some reason, I cannot wake up early enough for this contest. Well, better late than never. Pottz just said there are “cute little barrels” for this perfect finals day. “Days like this you dream of being a free surfer…” he just said.

What did we miss?

Filipe beat Igarashi in Quarter 1

Fred beat Julian in Quarter 2

John John has dipped out due injury, sending Jordy through.

Kolohe beat Medina and I will go watch that replay now but after the rest of this fabulous day.

Let’s get it on here!

@no_ocean_required surfing Lake Ontario for the win!

A Modest Proposal: Gift the best freshwater surfer in the world a wild card to the Freshwater Pro!

Cultural appropriation at its most bald-faced!

The World Surf League’s paid post advertising the upcoming Freshwater Pro has been playing non-stop in my Instagram feed and I now hate Jack White. Or, not Jack White per se. That was a mean statement and over the top. Rather I hate The Raconteurs. The song used to advertise the Freshwater Pro is obnoxious and it makes me recall how I’d never really liked a The Raconteurs song while liking very many from Jack himself or Jack paired with Meg.

Anyhow, the comments on the paid post are very funny with 7 in 10 cursing the World Surf League for cancelling Trestles and/or Cloudbreak and/or Mundaka. One, in particular, snagged my attention. It was not mean or hateful but wise and interesting.

@no_ocean_required tagged both the League and Kelly Slater asking, “As this is freshwater event, how about a freshwater wildcard from the Great Lakes?”

And as far as cultural appropriation goes, I believe @no_ocean_required makes a fine point.

We are all evolved, aren’t we? And especially Kelly Slater. Evolved to the point of shunning the shaka on the grounds of cultural appropriation and I think it is only right for him to listen here. Oh, of course he should look beyond the Great Lakes to Munich’s river surfers and other tidal bore surfers and should probably open it up to wake surfers as well, seeing that loud machines create both wake surfer waves and Surf Ranch ones too.

A fine point entirely. I’d be more interested tuning into the Freshwater Pro Freshwater Trials than the main event.

But what about you?

Oi Rio Pro, Day Three: “John John Florence yanks out knee, Kelly Slater loses beautifully!”

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)

Julian Wilson, high. | Photo: WSL

Open Thread: Comment Live, Oi Rio Pro Round of Sixteen!

Filipe Toledo escorted to contest by military police!

It’s on and live and Kelly Slater x Filipe Toledo are in the water, Pottz is jabbering excitedly, Renato Hickel is telling the fans at home that Filipe Toledo had to be escorted to the event site under the protection of military police.

That is how thrilled everyone is.

Are you that thrilled?

You should be. It’s Saturday morning in America and all real sports, besides baseball, are finished for the year.

Baseball and professional surfing.

As Brazilian as caipirinha.

More boozy than apple pie.

Oi Rio Pro, Day Two: “Kelly won ugly, which was beautiful!”

Every heat is gold for Kelly now but makes an existential decision at the end of the year harder…

Yeah look, sorry about the paltry report last night, still getting my specs in on the night shift. I’m very out of shape on the all-nighters.

Two am and the grey matter was nothing but panicked mush.

Realised now why I haven’t watched Brazil: it’s on in the middle of the night on the other side of the world. Calling Slater loose and jerky was very poor form. Very poor.

What I meant to say was how much more fun it is watching, observing, analysing pro surfing this year with him around. Him and John John. Pro surfing is the definition of one step forwards, two steps back. Most change for the fan is in the negative. We lose Trestles and Cloudbreak, get our data mined on Facebook; we get a format change that makes the front half of the comp an irrelevant War and Peace that drags on for an eternity. They did make one inarguable step forwards this season though and that is over-lapping heats.

A drunken, belligerent lineup that was like a transgendered beachbreak version of Bells Beach, except worse and with a trickier close-out to hit.

Today we got 16 of them, which accounted for round three, in some ways the most important round of the event, in a drunken, belligerent lineup that was like a transgendered beachbreak version of Bells Beach, except worse and with a trickier close-out to hit.

Two surfers on the roster traditionally decipher the drunken ramblings of incoherent beachbreak better than their peers: John Florence and Gabe Medina.

Is that a skill or a mental faculty?

Can you relate?

I find them the least relatable conditions.

A recent summer of incoherent beachbreak made me want to quit surfing.

Both stepped up and got the job done. John with composure and patience against wildcard Krystian Kymerson, great-great Grandson of Stalingrad tank commander Krymov Kymerson. Judges paid brutal force applied in two turn combinations with the close-out hit the most favoured. John punched his half way through the 40-minute heat and cruised down the final stretch.

Big men got the big scores. Wade Carmichael and Jordan Smith punched close-outs hard for the biggest of the day. Jordy claiming later he was glad to have found some space and to have escaped the clutches of “pus-ey little waves”. He also laid down a challenge to the pride and passion of the Brazilian surf nation with an ominous warning of being ready to claim in whatever fashion was required.

Medina’s victory was a bizarre affair with a tight, tricky ending. He cruised to a solid lead over Jaddy with perfect flow in smaller inside waves outside of the main priority. His best wave being aptly described by Barton as a “piece of art on an odd little wave”. Then sat outside and went to sleep.

Holding priority he gave Jaddy his best wave of the heat and was then forced to roll in on the whitewater on a nothing righthander to defend a slender lead at the death. It was strange and inconclusive but if Gabe does mount some kind of title defence in the back half of the year that heat will be enormously critical.

Kelly won ugly, which was beautiful. Scrapping around with a broken chair in a bar-room brawl of a heat where no-one really landed anything significant. Seabass got nothing, Kelly made one close-out for a high five and laid down a three-turn combo on a very funky wave for a low six.

Every heat is gold for Kelly now but makes an existential decision at the end of the year harder. Ensconced in the Top Ten at 47 after a last place finish at the Gold Coast is… mindblowing. With J-Bay, Teahupoo and Pipe ahead as well as his own surf tub event a top five finish is likely.

Would he retire still in contention for a title? That is not the Kelly we know.

Filipe showed no signs of a confidence deficit after being rogered at the Box. Snapped his board in half on an air attempt first wave then tracked down two clean lefts for the second highest heat total of the day. Lucky for him the next comp was homeground and not Teahupoo where fragile confidence might have undergone a more rigorous assessment.

In a sense round three has become the true losers round. Round two, the so-called elimination round, where only four surfers take a long walk off a short plank has become tokenistic. Losers in round three will not requalify, will not challenge.

Which means Italo’s loss, like his early losses last year will probably cruel a late season run. Even though the lineup confused the worlds best, Kelly claiming he was a “little confused on where to sit”, Italo’s loss was still confounding.

He came out like a feisty bantam rooster throwing aggro little rail turns everywhere. It looked like one of those heats where he would catch a lot of waves and build and build.

Then he disappeared. Freddy Morais seemed to be in the heat by himself and rail roaded him by a comfortable margin.

Hard to see much, if anything, carrying over from todays mess into more manageable conditions tomorrow. Yago Dora looked the best of day one and couldn’t make any sense of it today.

No form guide is applicable like it was at Bells and Margaret River.

Maybe a dark horse, maybe Deivid Silva?

Are there official odds on Kelly’s retirement? I think if he makes the quarters tomorrow they must lengthen.

Oi Rio Pro Men’s Elimination Round (Round 2) Results:
Heat 1: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.77 DEF. Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.00, Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 7.33
Heat 2: Krystian Kymerson (BRA) 11.43 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 9.67, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 7.54
Heat 3: Conner Coffin (USA) 14.83 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 10.73, Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 7.54
Heat 4: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 11.77 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 9.10, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 8.46

Oi Rio Pro Men’s Round of 32 (Round 3) Results:
Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.26 DEF. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.27
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 11.93 DEF. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 8.20
Heat 3: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.67 DEF. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 10.37
Heat 4: Joan Duru (FRA) 12.40 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 10.13
Heat 5: Frederico Morais (PRT) 13.27 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 7.13
Heat 6: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 12.06 DEF. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 6.20
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) 8.90 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 6.10
Heat 8: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.60 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 11.10
Heat 9: John John Florence (HAW) 11.83 DEF. Krystian Kymerson (BRA) 9.24
Heat 10: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 12.37 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 11.40
Heat 11: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.83 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 11.00
Heat 12: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 10.73 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 7.57
Heat 13: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.87 DEF. Soli Bailey (AUS) 8.56
Heat 14: Deivid Silva (BRA) 14.83 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 8.33
Heat 15: Michel Bourez (FRA) 11.44 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 6.10
Heat 16: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.00 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 10.90

Oi Rio Pro Men’s Round of 16 (Round 4) Matchups:
Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 2: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 3: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 6: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Heat 7: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Deivid Silva (BRA)
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (FRA) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)