A cruel day in Peniche…
Making predictions on pro surfing is probably one of the stupider things a human can do, no offence to our punting pals on here, but I did have a strong gut feeling Medina was going to stumble here in Portugal.
Which he did, in spectacular fashion, with eight minutes remaining in a heat with Caio Ibelli in a heat where he’d spent the previous twenty-seven minutes ruthlessly rag-dolling his compatriot in weak two-foot closeouts.
Unbelievably, he contested a dribbly little righthander, bumping shoulders with Ibelli, who gesticulated wildly in protest. WSL screen live on the broadcast showed Ibelli priority. Medina pointed to the beach, as if to suggest he had P.
Live screen immediately priority switched to Medina, suggesting a mistake. Within a minute a decision was reached and Medina had a priority interference awarded against him, meaning the loss of his second scoring wave.
As a sign of Medina’s dominance the penalty was not immediately fatal, with his single wave score of an 8.17 still besting Ibelli’s top two rides combined.
Ibelli got the score. Medina out.
The WSL, of course, maintained radio silence on the event. No official protest has been lodged by the Medina camp. I reached out to Johnny Cabianco who was on the beach, to get his read but received no reply to my query at time of writing*.
Whether a single infraction of the rules should be enough to immediately disqualify a surfer(in effect) seems a disproportionate punishment and produced a result that even Ibelli in the post-heat presser regarded as faintly ludicrous and unjust.
Early morning Florida time, and presuming Dirk Ziff was watching, must have made the billionaire delirious with joy. Not that it matter in the grand scheme. With a net worth of fourteen-billion plus it would take 710 years for a twenty-million a year loss to eat away the principal.
For now, pro surfing looks safe and stable.
Medina’s brain explosion, if that’s what it was, had been rendered moot anyhow in terms of the Title being decided at Pipeline by the performances of Filipe Toledo (scintillating) and Italo Ferriera (electric). The Brazilians, like Medina did, took it to the air, with very high make rates and did beg the question of whether a pro-surfer in 2019 could exist in the top 20 without a functioning aerial skill set.
I know, these are dry, arcane questions. More pertinent is why, considering the forecast and that multiple surfers including Kelly Slater have spoken publicly about clean barrelling surf on the leeward side of the peninsula the WSL have stood still as a statue and run the penultimate event of the year in mostly onshore closeouts.
With a ten-year deal between the WPS and WSL freshly inked there’s no mood for rebellion, apart from Slater’s passive-aggressive jibes but the fan base would like to know. Twelve months of monitoring and the Facebook Live audience peaked at fifteen-thousand during Teahupoo’s best day. Portugal has flatlined in the low two-thousands.
Is pro surfing the only sport on earth where a broadcast audience is not crucial to its fortunes? In this pivot away from sport to a media organisation it does seem that way.
Kolohe Andino picked a high volume retro shape off the racks, a board you and I could shred on, and dominated the opening ten minutes of his heat with Rodrigues. Hustling a priority situation to maintain a lead in the back end of the heat. Back looked good, diligent with warm-ups and warm downs etc etc.
Kelly, by contrast, rode a low volume, twitchy FRK which sunk on him on crucial closing manoeuvres during the opening stages of his heat with Igarashi. His strategy of paddling way the fuck down the beach and surfing a different peak would have paid ample dividend if he’d stuck the closers.
You could almost feel the mental cogs turning, hear the internal dialogue implanted by Snake in Kanoa’s mind as he diligently built a small house and then landscaped it with a few small airs. Scoreboard flattered Kelly, he never looked like threatening Igarashi’s lead.
In the presser, Kanoa almost tied himself in knots trying to be humble but ended up mildly condescending when, while reflecting in his 3-0 record against Kelly he mused, “Wish I could have surfed against him in his prime, probably before I was born”.
I know these back injuries are real. I also know the latest science in pain, especially as it relates to back injuries emphasises the role of the mind.
Stress, pressure, the activation and reinforcement of neural pathways, all crucial. In two-foot beachbreak Toledo was in a very happy place. Paradoxically, and this may apply to Andino too, the back injuries have taken the pressure off. Allowed an escape hatch, if you like, for the crushing pressure to dissipate through.
Pip made my back hurt just watching him throw flat spins into crunching landings. The pairing with Carmichael looked unfair, such was the speed, agility and repertoire advantage enjoyed by Toledo.
Pipeline, will be a different beast of course, if the swell comes to play. For now though a relaxed Pip said he felt “loose and confident” and showed his magnanimous side by declaring that he “was really happy to push the World Title to Hawaii and make things interesting for everyone”.
I think Medina might be a bit tortured by this European leg.
*Stop press. Cabianco was instructed by the Medina camp not to comment. He described the situation as tense and alluded to a future statement from the Medina crew. Watch this space.
Update: Gabriel addresses interference via IG.
“I would like to explain what happened on my battle. Caio and I caught the same wave and each went one way. My wave was shorter and his was longer. So much so that while I was back outside, he was still riding his wave. When I got out the bak, I was so sure the priority was mine that I didn’t look at the priority sign. To my surprise, when the next wave came, I ended up going because I was sure the priority was mine.
“I ended making an interference. When I got out of the water I went to talk to the judges. We looked at the open images of the two of us paddling back to the bottom with an open camera angle. It was very clear that I arrived well before. And even if I had gotten along with him and had a draw, the priority would be mine by the rule. Because in the wave we surfed together before, Caio had priority one. I hope the situation will be reevaluated because an error has occurred. I am still very hopeful that my heat will be reviewed.”
Men’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
QF 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
QF 2: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
QF 3: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
QF 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
Men’s Round 4 Results:
HEAT 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 10.84 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 3.76
HEAT 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.84 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 11.57
HEAT 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.60 DEF. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 9.27
HEAT 4: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 10.53 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 9.10
HEAT 5: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 8.50 DEF. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 8.17
HEAT 6: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 14.34 DEF. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 12.46
HEAT 7: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.83 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 10.83
HEAT 8: Jack Freestone (AUS) 13.83 DEF. Soli Bailey (AUS) 12.40