Jordy tries to build house in final; Italo detonates an atom bomb on it with his opening wave…
If you let your mind wander a little during Peniche’s Finals Day, or during the proceeding six days when the Medina priority controversy stemmed interest the way a tourniquet does blood flow from a femoral artery severed by white shark dentition, you could easily imagine the alternative scripted version to the non-scripted you-can’t-script-this real life events.
In this scripted version, say a ten-part Netflix series based on the rise of Brazil to pro surfing dominance and directed by Fernando Meirelles*, the dominant champ is persuaded by shadowy forces, paper bags full of cash and “fuck pride”, that for the good of the sport, he should throw the heat so the climax of the year is held in the shuddering death chambers of the Banzai Pipeline. The Champ dominates the heat and only as the clock ticks down and the money men start to sweat bullets commits a sin so egregious he is disqualified.
Of course, that would never happen.
Gabe’s implosion and DQ and all the frenzied hype and death threats that went with it was the single greatest thing to happen to the comp and in fact to pro surfing this year.
Pro surfing being immune from scandal behind the wall of positive noise etc etc, but my point is: taken from the perspective of the money men, rescuing this damp squib of a contest and the Sport itself, Gabe’s implosion and DQ and all the frenzied hype and death threats that went with it was the single greatest thing to happen to the comp and in fact to pro surfing this year.
Of course, there is something academic about the case that has largely been over-looked in the hype. To wit: By beating Wade Carmichael in the round of sixteen Toledo had already taken it to Pipe, and based on Italo’s devastating winning performance and his winning record against Medina he would have demolished him in the semi-finals putting us, more or less, exactly where we are anyway.
You can’t script this?
The day started with Jordy Smith safety surfing in two-foot closeouts. Nifty little alley-oop, toy tube-rides. His opponent, Kolohe Andino, in contention for both a maiden contest victory and a World Title, had screwed up the start time by failing to read a text message correctly.
By his admission, his feet were numb from his long, pre-heat warm-up and his self-identified “best attitude on Tour” seemed of little practical use as he bombed the opening trio of waves he rode. Perhaps influenced, consciously or sub-consciously by the Medina imbroglio, they stayed at least fifty metres away from each other for the majority of the heat.
Jordy was gifted a low six for a lip-tap and floater, pulled the keys out of the bowl for the best wave of the heat, a long but unexciting barrel for a seven. Kolohe’s errors seemed to compound and judges did not dig his erratic but more radical approach.
Easy win for Jordy. A Smith victory and World Title suddenly came into focus.
Strider determined he would be in tears watching the international parade of surfers during the Olympics while calling the Pip Toledo/Kanoa Igarashi heat. Pip blew a long, deep tuberide that had an exit sign in bright neon all over it. Flailed the landing on a super lofted tail-high punt that would have easily Fosbury-Flopped the excellence bar.
Kanoa placed turns with perfect timing and speed, like Keramas. Didn’t really need to stretch himself and applied basic heat management to close it out.
Pip: “blessed, God’s will”, proving the enduring power of religious belief. It’s usefulness, primarily.
Caio used very tight and precise power whips, mostly on his backhand, as well as enjoying the moment, floating on it the way a fat man does in the Dead Sea, completely without effort, to defeat Peterson Crisanto. I know Peterson has a back-story but for some bizarre reason I seem to glaze over every time they go into it.
Six places he rose in Portugal. Sitting right on the cut coming into Pipe. The next six weeks will not be enjoyable for him.
The last quarter was the best heat of the day. In glassy peaks with diamond sparkles, an aesthetic that always makes me want to get high and go surfing, Italo Ferreira (christened show-time, when?) and Jack Freestone faced off.
Jack has elevated himself on the back of a big European leg and is well inside the bubble. He seems a guy well content to make a living off pro surfing and be MVP at local cyclone swells.
Ferreira is a different animal. I admit, the aerials sometimes make me wince. Both for the injury factor and the repetition. For now though, they have to be paid. For speed, for loft, distance covered, degree of rotation, speed of rotation, degree of difficulty, landings. It’s just an undeniable force of nature.
Luckily for RedBull Airborne, there was no head-to-head comparison to embarrass and make redundant the air show concept. I tried to keep track of Italo’s made airs and lost count.
Jack also sent it. Very trim and elegant full rotation air reverse for a seven. A deep tube. His greased alley-oop only suffered by being in the same heat as Italo’s monster full backside rotation and was appropriately scored a full two points and change below it.
Five minutes to go and Kolohe Andino, with the blood flow presumably returned to his extremities, remarked “it’s a murder scene out there”. Still stinging from his last second loss to Italo at D-Bah he damned Italo’s big backside roters with faint praise, making a case for the straight air.
Italo sure can close. He’ll never be the schmuck selling real estate in Glengarry Glen Ross, told by Alec Baldwin’s motivational trainer, “You close or you hit the fucking bricks pal”.
I know, that is cruel.
At a certain level of talent, pro surfing is a sort of sheltered workshop. You can not close, forever. Today, he did close: magnificent, high-flying aerial against Kanoa in the final seconds to take a semi where he looked gone for all money.
Italo looked like the best guy all comp. I like that. A last minute stumble infuriates my sense of natural justice. His weakest heat was his semi-final against Caio Ibelli. He had to put the tool belt on and grind but found the score by going to the air.
Judges hesitated, but faced perhaps by the force of their own logic, decided to pay it. Italo’s gal, clasped her hands and chewed her lips as “showtime” gave priority up with three-and-a-half minutes to go, but Ibelli could not capitalise.
What to say about the final?
The most one-sided affair ever?
Jordy tried to build a house. Italo detonated an atom bomb on it with his opening wave.
I wrote, please: no ten. Judges went ten. Italo kept swinging, backed up and then backed up again. Put Jordy in a deep combination, a sleeper hold where he seemed comfortable enough to spend the rest of the final. The only threat to Italo was himself: some kind of priority error.
And with Joe in the booth, notice it’s always Joe there when the grim reaper calls?, I did feel a little worried for Italo.
Jordy did not contest it. Try and sucker Italo into anything.
The clock ticked down, utterly without drama. Jubilant scenes ensued. Ecstatic fans chanting, Italo being carried up the beach, towering over adoring fans. World Number One. His babe radiating a simple and serene happiness.
*Director of City of God.
Men’s Championship Tour Top 5:
1 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) – 51,070 pts
2 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) – 50,005 pts
3 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) – 49,985 pts
4 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) – 49,145 pts
5 – Kolohe Andino (USA) – 44,665 pts