Jen See: “The door to a fourth world title swings open for Carissa Moore!”

Three-time world champ beats Lakey Peterson at biggish, windy Jeffreys Bay…

Last year I sat across the table from Carissa Moore in a rented camper van parked in the driveway of a Ventura duplex. She told me how after she’d struggled to match her early successes.

She’d been called the next Kelly Slater after winning her first world title at age 19. Then she’d lost her way in a sport she’d been set to dominate. After an early round defeat at Huntington Beach in 2017, she’d flown back to Hawaii uncertain if she really wanted to continue competing at all.

That’s all behind her now.

After beating a ripping Lakey Peterson in the finals at J-Bay, Moore has won her first event of the year and taken over the lead in the world rankings. It’s been four years since Moore last won a world title, but this season, she’s made the quarterfinals at each event. In tears after the final, Moore said, she just kept wondering when the event win would come.

At J-Bay, it finally did.

Moore did not have an easy route to this final. In the semifinals she faced down teen wonder Caroline Marks, whose career trajectory in some ways resembles Moore’s own. Early success. Brilliant talent.

Overnight, a new swell had filled in and with it, came the wind, which cut spines into the wave’s faces. Spray flew skyward. The conditions looked tricky and both women started slowly, feeling out the swell and looking for the right waves.

Moore found her first good score with a six. She looked controlled, but not pushing as hard as she might. It was a good start, but you don’t beat Caroline Marks with sixes. Just ask Steph Gilmore.

During the quarterfinals, Marks thrived on the fast-moving walls that smaller J-Bay offers. On finals day, the trickier lineup with its big, wind-blown sections looked to shift the advantage to Moore.

While Marks showed her trademark smooth railwork and vertical turns, she got more often got caught behind the sections. The long, connected strings of turns she needed proved harder to come by. On a big close-out move that might have won her the heat, Marks mistimed it and fell.

Moore, meanwhile, steadily worked into the heat. She looked confident and patient, placing her turns carefully, reading the wave to perfection. A smooth set of turns netted her an 8.33.

From the commentary booth, Sally Fitzgibbons suggested that Moore was holding something back, that she still had more powerful surfing in her. As it turned out, she didn’t need it against Marks, who could only muster a pair of sixes.

By beating Marks, Moore took over the lead in the rankings. When Rosy Hodge asked her about the rankings, Moore said that was the big picture and it wasn’t at the front of her mind. Moore wanted the event win more than anything.

The semifinal between Lakey Peterson and Malia Manuel offered a study in contrasts. Manuel brought her characteristically smooth, controlled style, while Peterson threw down dynamic, fast moving turns. Manuel put an early six on the board, but her turns lacked the power that Peterson routinely brings to her surfing. Peterson threw down a pair of sevens and pushed through to the final.

What a nailbiter this final turned out to be.

The commentary team unanimously picked Peterson to win. I wasn’t so sure, after seeing Moore’s eight-point ride against Marks. Either way, the two started the heat uniquely well-matched. The bigger waves smoothed out Peterson’s style and gave her surfing a polish it lacked in the quarters. Moore brought the same calm approach that had delivered her to that moment.

Peterson took an early lead and looked unbeatable. Moore looked at multiple waves without finding what she wanted. With the long paddle out, it made sense to be picky. Then Moore strung together a series of tight turns and punctuated it with a slamming layback. It was a beautifully surfed wave with a perfect finish. The judges threw an eight and Moore took the lead.

Peterson now needed a 7.47. Not easy, but not impossible either.

On her next wave, with thirteen minutes to go, Peterson threw two turns, and pulled into a massive barrel. If she’d made it through, that might have ended the heat right then and there.

She didn’t.

Moore meanwhile found a backup score, a 6.90, thanks to two solid turns. Though she got stuffed in the barrel, her turns were enough to give her a score.

Now Peterson needed an 8.21.

Quite suddenly, the Californian’s task had become impossible. Inside six minutes to go, Peterson found a screamer and surfed the hell out of it, but it wasn’t enough.

As she paddled back out, the clock ticked down to nothing.

On her final wave, Moore stood tall, riding the highline, that wondrous feeling, weightless. She’d done it, defeating Peterson, everyone’s favorite to win this final.

And at last, she’d found the win that had eluded her so far this season.

After the uncertainties of the past few years, Moore looks happy to be where she is. She’s made her decision. She wants to be right here, chasing world titles, and she’s ready to roll with the results, both good and bad.

She’s learned resilience and when an athlete in any sport manages that difficult lesson, they emerge stronger and much more difficult to defeat than they ever were before.

If Moore won early in her career on talent alone, now she’s married that talent to a renewed focus and a rock-solid determination.

The door to a fourth world title has now swung open for her.

J-Bay Women’s Final Results:
1 – Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.47
2 – Lakey Peterson (USA) 14.60

Women’s Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.33 DEF. Caroline Marks (USA) 12.67
Heat 2: Lakey Peterson (USA) 15.27 DEF. Malia Manuel (HAW) 11.00

2019 Women’s CT Jeep Leaderboard (following Corona Open J-Bay):
1 – Carissa Moore (HAW) 41,175 pts
2 – Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 37,325 pts
3 – Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 35,065 pts
4 – Lakey Peterson (USA) 33,850 pts
5 – Caroline Marks (USA) 32,135 pts

J-Bay Finals: Medina vanquishes Italo; shoves criticism “where the sun don’t shine!”

An epic day. A superlative day.

Caveat emptor: if things get a little fuzzed out in the following wrap please call BS at your leisure: it’s been a big week, late night, pumping surf day after day, days in court, too many beers etc etc.

It’s possible a more sober assessment may be needed tomorrow morning in the comments after viewing what I think we can all agree on was an epic Finals day at…. what? Four-to-eight-foot J-Bay?

Accusations of swallowing the Kanoa Kool-aid were proven valid. I’m a soft touch, love a hustle being laid on me. First thing I do if I see Donny or Maz Cow in the streets of Byron, guys who can’t keep a roof over their head, is ask them how they are fixed. Peel off a twenty spot if they look grim. I don’t care what they spend it on. Even Kanoa admits the mojo and the trash talk is all a bit of play acting but we’re so starved for theatre and rivalry I’ll skol it all night long.

Kenny just didn’t have the legs to match up the talk in his QF against Italo Ferreira. Italo was tactically superior, starting strongly , catching fewer waves on a big, blustery day where energy usage was at a premium and gave the judges exactly what they had so clearly demonstrated they wanted to see. Set waves ridden from beginning to end, starting strong and ending strong. Incomplete rides, no matter the work done, did not factor in. Italo rode four waves, all over six. Kanoa could only breach the six mark on one occasion, his first ride.

That mental image of how judges wanted to see J-Bay ridden , and thus scored was meticulously laid down in the opening heat of the day with Medina and Owen Wright. Medina’s nine seemed a little high at the time, but in the context of the day the big opening turn, lip punches vertical speed turns and a tube-ride that he made were a perfect exposition of what judges wanted. There could really be no excuse for any surfer in the draw about what would score big.

That heat was also incredible for the repeated symmetry of Medina’s heats, since the Houdini effort against Ryan Callinan. He started slow, waited and then finished strong in the back half of the heat. We spoke about the essentially random nature of the thirty-minute ocean heat, with it’s baffling and unrepeatable array of forces and human decisions. Medina’s consistency in repeating that pattern amidst the chaos seems almost supernatural.

Felipe couldn’t repeat it.

He looked shaky against SeaBass. It took him four rides to get a six. SeaBass looked to have the superior arsenal of turns, judges ate up a big vertical lip punch on his best wave. It was only a late set wave with a mid-wave tube-ride that came from nowhere that rescued the heat for him. He was well beaten in the semi by Italo who had the same magic symmetry as Gabe, except in reverse.

Half-way through the semi he put Filipe to sleep with a set wave that was almost perfect J-Bay backhand surfing. Huge high hooks with freefall drops and a monster finish that culminated with an ornate claim that would have made a Balinese finger-dancer green with envy.

For a man of such froth Italo’s heats were almost tactically perfect. They started with a strong first wave. A 6.5 against Kanoa, a 7.67 against Filipe, a 9.10 against Gabe in the Final. Low wave counts conserved energy and the closing turns were the biggest of the event, same as the ones he used to crush Bells in the 2018 Final against Fanning.

Half-way through the semi he put Filipe to sleep with a set wave that was almost perfect J-Bay backhand surfing. Huge high hooks with freefall drops and a monster finish that culminated with a most ornate claim that would have made a Balinese finger dancer green with envy.

That wave quashed an incipient controversy concerning the previous semi with Kolohe and Medina. Kolohe had looked much more confident back on the Mayhems and came in with a pre-configured plan to go to the air, which he attempted on multiple occasions. One very lateral alley-oop on a smaller wave was low-balled by judges and instead of going back to the winning template and jagging a set wave from end to end Kolohe panicked and tried to repeat the dose on a series of insignificant waves.

Kolohe seems trapped between the instinctual approach needed to ride a wave and the strategic thinking required to figure out what the fuck needs to be done to win the heat. Thus, eight years on, yellow jersey but not a single event win.

He seems trapped between the instinctual approach needed to ride a wave and the strategic thinking required to figure out what the fuck needs to be done to win the heat. Thus, eight years on, yellow jersey but not a single event win.

There was a lot of historical and emotional enmity built up in Medina’s performance in the final. He wouldn’t say that of course, “Having fun, he’s an amazing surfer etc” No blame, he does fine for a second language. But you could see it in the body language, the facial expressions in the claims. It was payback for the QF loss to JJF at similar sized Bells, a chance to peg back the 5:1 losing record against Italo.

Italo did what he did all event. Started like a raging bull. Laid down a nine.

Gabe did what he did. Started slow. The tactical play was in full effect. Italo caught three waves. Gabby caught eight. Testing and teasing short rides to see if they could lead anywhere. The lineup was now boisterous and hard to handle. Collapsing sections, big chunks of wave energy that would split off from the main swell train or come through it in a giant wedge.

It was one of these wedges that Gabe Medina found himself behind at warp speed on his third wave. He went straight up into it, whipped it and air dropped back into the bowl, came hard off the bottom with a serious sling-shot of speed and carved over and across the collapsing close-outs section.

The biggest close-out turn ever completed? Show me a better one.

That could have been a ten. His second scoring ride was even better, more radical, if that’s possible.

All week there has been bitching and moaning about the lack of variety and risk on the backhand. Medina shoved that complaint sideways where the sun don’t shine on his winning ride. It had high hooks, body extended carves in the lip, lip line floaters across collapsing sections, jagged super quick speed connecting snaps and a deep double tube ride. Again, a ten would have been appropriate.

A soggy Charlie, stripping down in the rain, almost went apoplectic calling for a ten.

In the end that left Italo comboed. Comboed!

With the Italo hoodoo dealt with and JJF out the last remaining barrier to a Medina back to back Title has been removed. I know the Brazilians find it appropriate to thank God for victory, I would like to ask the same God on behalf of all of us sinners, if he is still listening, to send us ten foot surf for Teahupoo.

Question: Can you remember a single one of Kolohe’s losing finals?

J-Bay Men’s Final Results:
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 19.50
2 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16.77

J-Bay Men’s Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.30 DEF. Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.00
SF 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 17.50 DEF. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.00

 J-Bay Men’s Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.67 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 14.60
QF 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.43 DEF. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.10
QF 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.00 DEF. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.40
QF 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.53 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 12.37

2019 Men’s CT Jeep Leaderboard (following Corona Open J-Bay):
1 – Kolohe Andino (USA) 33,845 pts
2 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) 33,280 pts
3 – John John Florence (HAW) 32,425 pts
4 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) 29,950 pts
5 – Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 29,450 pts

Former world number two Jodie Cooper, outside Ballina Court House. | Photo: Chris Speed

Surf-mat rider Mark Thomson guilty of assaulting former world #2 Jodie Cooper

Judge says Thomson "showed arrogance cutting back on (Cooper's) perfect wave."

In news from the Ballina Court House, the surf-mat rider Mark Thomson has been found guilty of assaulting former pro surfer Jodie Cooper.

Cooper, who was the world number two in 1985, said Thomson dropped in on her on a crowded day at Lennox Head (100 surfers in the water) and, after a collision, held her underwater.

“He had reached around and grabbed me and pushed me under the water. He just grabbed me with two hands and just forced me under the water,” Cooper told Ballina Local Court. “It was like he was standing on top of me and as he was doing that he was pulling my hair.”

Cooper says she then feigned drowning to stop the attack.

“Why don’t I just pretend that I drowned? … When I went limp thinking I was dead or drowned or something, that’s when he released,” she told the court.

The judge said she found Thomson to be an unreliable witness (Thompson said Cooper’s account was flawed because he can’t do cutbacks on his mat despite video evidence to the contrary), rejected his version of the event and said he “showed arrogance cutting back on her perfect wave”.

She found that Thomson deliberately and intentionally assaulted Cooper and was the aggressor “at all times.”

Outside the Court House, Cooper said,  I’ve seen a lot of horrible occurrences in the water. There are still a few shifty characters out there who are still doing this…people have to realise you can’t get away with doing these things and think you can get away with it.”

Brother v Ace in QF2. San Clemente supercharger gonna step up to the world title plate etc? | Photo: WSL

Comment live, open thread: Finals day, Corona Open J-Bay!

Pop a beer! It's natural!

Two nights ago, at approx eight-thirty pm, I had to close my eyes tightly so the tears didn’t ruin my makeup. Every time Kelly loses it’s a spear through my heart. His is a magic love spell that no man can resist.

Today, I predict these winners: Gabriel (Owen beset by mystery illness shortly afterwards), Kolohe (He’ll start slow and slinky, like a spider doing the creepy crawl up to its catch), Filipe (the devil will claim SeaBass) and Italo (gave my kid a board as a present).

In the women’s, Caz, by sheer force of reo numbers and Lakey, who can absorb any sort of evil on the face.

Click here to watch.

Comment, as you see fit, below.

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)

Women’s Semifinal Matchups:
SF 1: Caroline Marks (USA) vs. Carissa Moore (HAW)
SF 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Lakey Peterson (USA)

Having pretty much invented the art form I can claim with confidence that when it comes to live surf contest commentary, I know what I’m talking about. So here’s some advice, from a world-weary gray beard, so to speak, to our new breed of mic jockeys.

Sam George: “I invented surf commentary as art form!”

So here's a little advice for Joe, Pottz, Ron, Barton, Peter and Rosy…

Being one of the few, apparently, who’ve been staying up late (on the West Coast, at least) to check in on the 2019 Corona Open J-Bay I was again struck by sharply contrasting elements of the WSL broadcast: the quality of the coverage, especially the replays, and the inanity of the commentary.

Yeah, I know, listening to Joe Turpel recite love letters to the Top 40 live on air, heat after heat after heat, makes me want to stuff a wad of Fu in my ears, too.

But in regards to the commentary, and considering the tone of BeachGrit’s more typical criticism of the hapless World Surf League, which generally runs towards clever, I was moved to provide a more informed critique for those of its fan base who, along with the ‘tit clicks’ and sarcastic Chas Smith musings, might enjoy some actual perspective with their daily dose of snark.

And I’m just the guy to provide it, seeing as how, along with my brother Matt, I did the first, blow-by-blow (or more appropriately wave-by-wave) live commentary at a professional surf contest, way back at the 1984 Stubbies Pro held at Oceanside.

Up until that time surf contest commentary was rarely elevated beyond, “Cheyne Horan, please return your jersey to the beach marshal. Cheyne, return your jersey” and “Red’s up and riding”, even when red happened to be four-time world champion Mark Richards.

Oh sure, during the very first Stubbies Pro, held at Burleigh Heads in 1977, contest organizer and erstwhile drama student Peter Drouyn (what, you thought that Westerly Windina act was something new?) called a few of the latter heats with a spot-on impersonation of a Melbourne Cup horse race announcer. Good for a few laughs, but by the next year “Bloody Bill” Bolman, who took the helm at the Stubbies event, was using the amplified voice to urge spunky Gold Coast sheilas to show us their tits, while at the Rip Curl Bells event booth guest Terry Fitzgerald was using the mic to call sets for rookie team riders like Steve Wilson and Derek Hynd, sublimely unconcerned that everyone on the bluffs could hear exactly what he was doing.

Amusing, yes, informative, no.

Surf commentary got no more sophisticated as the pro tour progressed into the 1980s, which is why, in an attempt to justify a tenuous sponsorship arrangement, my brother Matt and I convinced the Stubbies execs to let us do actual live commentary at their ’84 event, leaving the jersey assignments to the beach marshals and the “show us your tits” stuff to the pros in their sponsor’s tents.

This we did, from the first heat to the last, and continued to so do for several years after, wielding the mic at a variety of big time events, from the Op Pro at Huntington Beach (where I first coined the term “paddle battle”, thank you) to the Gotcha Pro in Hawaii (including commentating the ancillary bikini contest and subsequent near riot) and the Spur Steak Ranch Surfabout in Capetown, South Africa (where I was actually paid in Spur Burgers with monkey gland sauce.)

In every case, focusing on providing surf fans with perspective on what they were watching, not simply describing what they were seeing. Which, when you get right down to it, is the entire point of sport’s commentary.

Did I eventually get tired of hearing my own voice, yammering away at the efficacy of the Huntington Hop (I actually stole that one from Tom Curren, but made it my own through relentless repetition) and explaining the priority rule for the umpteenth time? Naturally, and I’m sure many others did, as well. I’ll certainly cop to that. But having pretty much invented the art form I can claim with confidence that when it comes to live surf contest commentary, I know what I’m talking about. So here’s some advice, from a world-weary gray beard, so to speak, to our new breed of mic jockeys.

JOE: You have the job, mate. Had it for years. No need to suck up to the powers that be by continually extoling the virtues of the tour and its participants. Some actual critique would be nice, too, as in stop describing awkward tail-drifts as carving turns and blown finishes as timely exits. And while you’re at it, there’s no need to gush over every single competitor like you’re hoping they’ll hear you and invite you to their latest clip launch party. You’ve got one of the coolest jobs in pro surfing. Invite them to your party.

MARTIN: It’s simple. If you’re going to be a commentator you can’t come at it from the perspective of some dude in the stands, downing his boerewors with a Castle Lager and cheering for every good ride. Cut out the oohing and aahing. Your job isn’t to convince us that these guys and gals are good surfers — that’s their job. And c’mon, Pottz, you know good surfing when you see it. You invented a lot of it. When they kook out, call it out. You were world champ, for fucks sake. Your legacy is safe.

RONNIE: Though you’re too young to have attended the 1977 Stubbies, you’ve obviously picked a page from the Drouyn playbook, delivering the blow-by-blow in a breathless, hyperbolic rush. Which is great at offsetting Turpel’s sleep-inducing monotone and Pott’s frequent fanboy inarticulation. But you might consider taking it down a few notches, just now and then, to let us hear what you’re seeing, not simply telling us what we’re watching. You’ve got the cred. Use it.

BARTON: The most fun to listen to, as well as the most informative in terms of technique and strategy. But as the second world champ on the commentary team you’ve earned the right to be openly critical and well as appropriately supportive of today’s pros with a little less bemusement, a bit less suppressed chuckling, at the current crop’s travails. They’re serious out there. You were, too. Let your commentary reflect that.

PETER: I’ll just say this: Try not to sound so surprised that someone’s asking your opinion, and being so apologetic when it’s unflattering. You’re the biggest badass on the team. On the whole tour, for that matter. Act like it.

ROSY HODGE: Don’t change a thing. You’re absolutely adorable.