"Impossible not to be drawn into and swept up in the emotion of the good guy winning. The son of a fishmonger in a poor town now top of the world."
Anti-climax is a rhetorical device that can be defined as a sudden transition in discourse from an important idea to a ludicrous or trivial one.
Today’s Pipe final day looked destined to wallow around in a shallow swamp of the sports finest anti-climax.
And then, it didn’t.
I’m still struggling to come to terms with it.
On its own terms, it delivered on the ultimate potential outcome: One and Two finalling for the World Title at solid Pipe. Italo Ferreira, best in the air, now best in the tube led from opening bell to closing hooter to defeat Gabe Medina, whose own competitive strategy – as brilliant as it was black hearted – seemed not just to desert him, but to eat him from the inside out.
Gabe floundered from the start, gifted Italo the opening wave, continued gifting him waves all Final and then crumbled like a mouldy cheese.
Way back in the opening heat, under the watchful green eyes of Mari, Italo bested Peterson Crisanto doing what he did all event, including the final. He swung on lots of waves, he spiked ultra late take-offs, threaded deep tubes and launched off end sections.
It was a hyper-active approach that appeared vulnerable to a competitor that could punish his mistakes and non-makes but that guy never showed up.
In the presser after his quarter-final win over Yago Dora Ferreira was vibrating at such a high frequency he could barely talk. His elbow was under ice after smashing a lava spike.
He can’t maintain that level of emotional arousal, I thought, without dropping off a cliff at some point.
It was the exact counterpoint to Kelly’s mentally trained calmness. He didn’t just maintain it though, he increased it. He turned it up so high both Kelly and Gabe melted.
Gabe has split the surfing universe again.
In case you missed, final thirty seconds of his heat against Caio, Gabe has one score and change. Caio has not a single make. Charlie does the math and starts screaming on the beach: “Burn him! Burn him!”
V.mediaeval, which I love.
I don’t speak Portuguese, so when Gabe takes off on Caio on the final wave its utterly inconceivable, just a total WTF moment. A completely intentional priority interference, this time to win.
Perfect symmetry now attained with the Portugal debacle.
The villain, the heel, the bad guy excites me, gets me through long hours of pro surfing tedium. From that POV, Medina’s drop-in is the best thing that happens all day.
It directly contravenes Rule 171.11, or so it appears, which includes as possible sanction being suspended from the entire Tour!
Nothing from the WSL, though.
Medina pushes through.
Where he sails close to the wind against a clearly injured Florence who admitted his knee was “still super fresh.” Medina gave him an experience in claustrophobia in a two-man heat, living all over him. It made me feel uncomfortable watching, like the tax office when it sat on my face for twelve months over a bill.
Medina comboed JJF after cooly giving him the first wave of a set then slotting a huge tube to an air right in front of him. Fifteen minutes to go JJF sat in deep combination, the wind swung north, the lineup looked as ratty as a 1970’s New York alley. 5 to go, no change.
A minute and change and John concedes, hugging it out with Medina.
With Kelly’s buzzer-beater miracle against Jack Freestone and John’s loss to Gabe, the ducks were now all lined for Kelly.
Triple Crown, Pipe win, Olympic quals.
You could sense him furiously calculating, even as he sandbagged Rosie claiming he wasn’t. Huge day, retire, come out of retirement, for a second time. A monstrous day in the limelight. I was rooting for him. I really was.
Even when I woke this morning and found myself on the end of a testy DM exchange with the Goat on his wavepool proposal at Coolum.
He had nothing against Italo.
Butchered the first wave of a massive set, a straight closeout, while Italo threaded one from behind the foam ball and had to watch an enormous blue Pipe cavern blowing smoke into the channel as he wore the set on the head.
He was comboed from start to finish.
Start to finish.
There seems a curious, counterintuitive reversal in Kelly’s surfing. His instinctual waveriding still seems to be holding, but his wisdom and decision-making has been increasingly unreliable.
Which would be the opposite effect you’d expect from all the mind-training he’s been doing.
He got the Triple Crown and time on the podium.
You can hate on Gabe all day every day for his competitive antics, but it would take a peculiar variety of delusion to claim he had no place in the Pipe final.
With Italo now in the final, a great equalisation was underway. Italo had by far the easiest side of the draw, until now, having to face Slater and then Medina.
With Medina’s win against Colapinto it now looked like he had the cruise control into the final.
Italo has been kryptonite for Medina in the past, five-two head-to-head record.
But Medina smashed him at J-Bay, so it looked like that psychological hoodoo had been broken.
A strange, one-sided final showed Medina still oppressed by it.
By my analysis, it was over almost from the opening hooter. Medina let Italo get around him and into a hefty Backdoor cavern, which he emerged from untouched.
We kept waiting for a Medina comeback that never came.
He gave away bombs, took shitty waves and completely choked in the final ten minutes when he gifted Italo a throaty runner which he weaved his Timmy Patterson in and out of before launching a very greased full rotation air.
That was a classic Gabe wave, and he just gave it away.
Double anti-climaxes is a climax, right? The final was anti-climax, the day in its entirety massive climax. Twenty thousand watching on the Facebook feed, packed beach chairing Italo up the soft sand. Floods and floods of tears of joy for Italo, a victory dedicated to Grandparents who had passed into the next dimension.
Impossible not to be drawn into and swept up in the emotion of the good guy winning. The son of a fishmonger in a poor town now top of the world.
I continued to watch. The presentation was compelling. Sophie G came up on stage. She stood there. She did not speak.
Turpel made the Olympic qualifying announcements.
Kelly took the stage to accept the Triple Crown.
As he has been all year, he was in the mood for talking. Squinting into the horizon, clearly distracted, he said a rescue was taking place.
Sophie stood there, mute. Why was she there?
The camera suddenly cut away and the broadcast went back to the booth.
It was strange, compelling and somehow emblematic of a year that has produced greatness in spite of itself.
Nothing seems to quite hang together, to make sense but the show rolls on.
Italo is our new World Champ, how you feeling about that? I think, loved up all to hell.