And Kanoa Igg creates a fluttery feeling in the naughty bits!
Fair to say we got our first unadulterated look at the entire crop of World Title Contenders put under the pressurised axe of perfect, if inconsistent, waves.
Decisions mattered. Execution was key. There were some spectacular flame-outs and heroic comebacks. I think, the most important and revealing day of the Tour so far this year.
“The horn we love so much,” as Joey T put it, probably the only person on earth who could make that sound G-rated, set off the day with Jordy and Owen Wright. In the intervening days between heats the number of deadwood mid-runners and backmarkers in cruise-control mode had been on my mind.
O-Dog’s name kept coming up and when he opened with a typically low energy four in velvety four-footers it seemed the script was set to dull.
Jordy shifted through the gears on two rides, maybe just a trifle under-scored which I read as inducement from the panel to lift the energy level.
He didn’t but Owen did.
Owen threw the tail above the lip on multiple occasions and with five to go the heat was close to locked. A silken set wave approached the lineup with Smith having P. He sat there like someone having a nightmare about turning into a statue at perfect J-Bay.
It shocked Owen.
“No?” he said in the presser. “Yes please”. Highest score of the heat. Jordy done.
“Absolutely mind boggling,” Strider called it and added, to good effect, “It’ll haunt him to his dying day.”
After that epic choke we thought sanity would prevail in the heat between R-Call and Medina. That being, Medina going ham and R-Call matching him. Sanity did not prevail.
Medina fell early, then fell again.
Then had a minor freak-out and butchered two Hail Mary airs on terrible waves. The ocean went to sleep after Callinan had banked a six and a five. Medina sat there looking terribly forlorn, Charlie went berserk on the bricks, over the broadcast we could hear the sound of a barking dog and the Cranberries 1994 hit Zombie.
It was a wonderfully fitting soundtrack to what seemed another hall of fame choke.
I’m still not sure exactly what happened. The exact sequence I mean. Ryan had P, paddled for a wave and lost it. Gifted Gabe a wave.
Three big strong turns followed, a little ponderous but gifting generous plumes of spray to the heavens. Ryan caught another wave and allowed Medina free reign over the lineup with a minute and change to go. The set wave came and Gabe duly surfed it very strongly, but very safely. I’d call it maxed-out safety surfing. It was worth the score.
Callinan said it was a devastating loss but what really could he learn from it?
I wonder about this a lot.
What really can be carried over from heat to heat? When one thirty minute heat is essentially a stochastic, discrete parcel of time and space, experienced in the now but only understood in the retrospect. Non-applicable to the next thirty minute parcel. Jordy thought there was a wave behind. There wasn’t.
Who knows what R-Cal thought, who knows what he might think next time?
You get a giddy little world-title flutter in the naughty bits watching Kolohe Andino surf? Nope, me neither.
At least he ain’t kept his dick wet, as Amy Winehouse would say, with his old safe sure bet. The infidelity with the DHD’s is bringing mixed results. It pushed him through the heat against Deivid Silva with some savage hacks but the board looks grabby both on the toe side exit from the bottom turn and on the heel-side exit from the top turn. He’ll be easy meat for ones who have their equipment dialed.
Kenny Iggs swapped partners at an opportune time. The change-up to Sharp Eyes this time last year marked what may be the greatest pro-surfer reinvention of the last 20 years.
From QS pretender to genuine world title contender in the space of 12 months.
He was so dominant I can’t even remember who he surfed against. (Peterson Crisanto.)
Heavy combination laid on him with variable length bottom turns, perfect flow and the most crisp timing on tour.
Did you see the Frankie Oberholzer edit? You gotta check it out. Those check fades. Kanoa is closest on Tour to redrawing the classic check fade line. With minutes left in the heat Kanoa was luxuriating in the keyhole like it was an infinity pool on the cliffs of Uluwatu.
Kenny gave me some fluttery bits but it was Pip who stepped it up most during the day, against a hapless Panda. He has the ability to arc the turn, fully torqued back against the grain of the trim line, like Fanning, without losing speed. Or a million other variations: A big vertical punch, a long fading cut down, a tail-released, Slater-style turn etc etc.
While going about my lawful occasion as a surf writer I spoke to Sharp Eye’s principal shaper and founder Marcio Zouvi last year regarding Toledo’s J-Bay quiver. What he had to say about quiver theory surprised me. Rather than mess around with length or shape too much they vary the construction, using heavier glassing schedules to tune boards by weight to different conditions, mostly wind. Pip’s boards always look ready to settle into the turn at any speed.
Pip looked the goods, as did Kanoa.
What about Kelly/Italo? The most vital heat of the round. The winner plays a role in the Title race, the loser bows out. It was over after the first wave. Italo surfed the mirror image of the Medina heat. He started strong with speedy, loose high hooks and fin drifts. One wave, then two. It was both edgy and drifty.
Ten minutes down and Italo has fourteen points to Kelly’s one point and change. Kelly jagged a nervous five. Wasilewski was ropeable: “He’s got to get away from the lip and onto the face” Which was true. Waz is never wrong.
Kelly sat very, very close to Italo. I believe he was singing a Jimmy Buffet song. Which one, I could not say. They say his mind games don’t work no more.
Then why did Italo give Kelly his best wave while he had priority?
Because Kelly was driving him nuts ruining his vibe with the Buffet, of course. Kelly did two half turns, a big drawn out floater, a buried layback in the hook and a hard whipped finishing turn, hardest of the day.Hard as fook. Judges lapped up the champ’s fortified cereal and the 7.10 put him back in the heat.
Not enough. Italo sat tight, the heat ticked down. Kelly done.
Biggest change of the Tour this year is the even tighter integration of the women’s Tour in with the men. For me this means I am watching less women’s surfing, purely due to capacity.
What about you? More, or less?
I did watch Gilmore and Caz Marks. Last time I saw them surf was live at D-Bah. Gilmore disintegrated on home turf. She started solid with two sixes. Marks came back with a five then the best wave of the heat.
I thought the 8.10 was an over-score. Pottz thought an over-score. You could literally see Gilmore become indignant and brittle as the situation dawned on her. This little brat again! Gilmore fell and fell again and that was it.
After today it feels disrespectful to bet against a Toledo three-peat. He seems one of the few who can.
Corona Open J-Bay Men’s Round of 16 Results:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 16.23 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.70
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.94 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 11.67
Heat 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.73 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 12.14
Heat 4: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 13.43 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.00
Heat 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 18.26 DEF. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 11.33
Heat 6: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 13.83 DEF. Michel Bourez (FRA) 11.44
Heat 7: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 17.24 DEF. Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 11.73
Heat 8: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.06 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 12.20
Corona Open J-Bay Men’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
QF 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
QF 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
QF 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
QF 4: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Corona Open J-Bay Women’s Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Caroline Marks (USA) 14.44 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.10
QF 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 17.67 DEF. Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.50
QF 3: Malia Manuel (HAW) 14.03 DEF. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.50
QF 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) 14.40 DEF. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 11.00
Corona Open J-Bay Women’s Semifinal Matchups:
SF 1: Caroline Marks (USA) vs. Carissa Moore (HAW)
SF 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Lakey Peterson (USA)