Medina awesome, John John half-cooked, Billy Kemper hot wildcard.
I tried to keep pace with the Triple Crown but was forced onto a low information diet, so only got to watch bits and pieces.
But it did feel strangely disconnected from the season finale at Pipe, in a way that appears to be becoming more prominent. John Florence’s 2016 Triple Crown was the last great unifier, tied in with his World Title.
Griffin Colapinto’s 2017 win and Jesse Mendes 2018 victory, along with Fred Morais potential 2019 win seem cut off from Pipe mastery.
Medina having no input into the Triple Crown this year was significant, Toledo doesn’t seem interested.
Was Jordy in there? Kolohe? Not with any impact.
The Triple Crown tied the QS and CT together into a credible finale that seems to be ebbing away.
Or is it just cyclical?
Pipe seems more on its own this year. Looking at the heat draw and the contenders all looked locked into relatively safe heats. On paper, Kelly’s round one heat with Seabass and Bourez was most competitive.
Lot of funky, low-scoring heats. Filipe over-cooked a high-line exit on an opening tube-ride after a deep tube. It could have been a seven, judges gave it a 1.13. Pip relaxed though and easily took out Deivid Silva and Ricardo Christie. That was a heat that showed just how many of the Top 34 have severe deficiencies in the Pipe skill set.
Peterson Crisanto in his narrow victory over Jordy Smith claimed it was the first time he had surfed Pipe.
Lots of god-praising and life coaching cliches.
Filipe said, “a connection to God has been super healthy for me”. It made me think of a conversation I had with my son’s pal, a nine-year-old who goes to a Catholic school.
He said, “I don’t believe in God, I believe in the big bang.”
Explicit faith now is a prerequisite for success at the CT level.
In a sense, it makes perfect sense. You can’t deny the utility of the belief.
Kolohe thanked God and went even further, claiming he had moved beyond Ego itself. I think he meant in terms of producing a performance and that “advancing is the most important thing”.
Heats five and six gave us a head-to-head comparison of the two frontrunners and their respective approaches and current form. Halfway through his heat Medina was sitting on 15.50. He shifted gears between buried arm stall take-offs, aggressive tube pumps from very deep on the reef and big hacks. Perfect makes, no wipeouts.
The biggest threat he faced was himself. That mix of arrogance and dominance tends to the kind of catastrophic priority error we saw in Portugal. Gabe kept himself in check. His form looks imperial.
Italo was more scattered, more haphazard, more reckless, risky. He wore heavy water. Got pounded by waves that could have easily injured him. He has put in a lot of time on the reef, with Shane Dorian as coach.
Even with the Doz back-up that would not be easy for him. A recent Surfers Journal interview with BG Principal Derek Rielly revealed the Italian Ferrari had no love of localised line-ups and line-ups don’t come more localised than Pipeline.
If it wasn’t for Billy Kemper he would have looked good. Billy said in the presser he “loved to rough ’em up” meaning the title contenders and that’s exactly what he did.
With nine minutes to go a three-wave exchange went as follows: B.Kemper, big Backdoor wedge from deep on the Pipe side. Scary, technical tube-ride expertly wrangled.
M-Rod, freefall Pipe drop to shallow tube.
Italo, super intense late drop to Pipe tube.
Italo will go, we know that now, after the Box and Tahiti.
The question marks are over judgement and mastery.
Medina would have crushed him, as Kemper did.
One more thing about Billy. Has any surfer in history faced down a schedule as insane as his looks for this week? Multiple heats at moderate to macking Pipeline and a Jaws comp thrown in, for good measure.
How do you go from ten-foot Pipe to twenty-five-foot Jaws and back again without your adrenal gland exploding?
John John was subdued in his seeding round heat with Ace and Mendes. He sat there, unmoved for twenty minutes, then tried to scratch into one on the buzzer when Ace had the P.
He admitted in a later presser that he was a long way from being fully prepared. There were a lot of non-makes, hesitant kick-outs. Still, a John John at fifty or sixty percent is still going to beat a lot of the Top 34 at Pipe. The x in the equation will be how he goes against a fired up Pipe guy.
Like Zeke Lau.
There was a lot of heat in the hustle in the opening exchanges of Zeke’s heat with Caio and Flores. Mostly with Caio. Nothing physical, although Billy Kemper in the booth said Zeke was the modern day Sunny Garcia and Sunny was not averse to a physical encounter.
Splashing water, stern words and angry faces was the limit of it. Zeke spiked the wave of the day soon after. Rocket drop, no-grab pull in and a couple of Hail Mary pumps while levitating on the foam ball.
I wrote a little ten next to his name straight away. Strider in the channel, agreed. Judges low-balled a 9.73 and tightened a spread with Caio who had a clearly inferior ride given an 8.33.
Lau took it out of the judges’ hands with another critical ride.
Will he put the hustle on John again, seeing as it is a proven strategy? I know people disapprove, but I hope, yes.
The Slater/Seabass/Bourez heat was a dud. Slater skipped out to an early lead, Seabass fucked up several rides and Bourez did enough to advance.
The broadcast was wavering badly by then. After watching Brazilians, Hawaiians, Australians and a token South African and a European or two, basically the status quo for the last decade, Barton was chewing up minutes telling us how globalised and diverse the Pro Surfing world had become.
Say what? Where? Who?
Dorian did great in the booth but he went off script telling us there were more unbelievable kids coming through than ever before.
Really? I thought. Who?
Where is the next John John, who was a superstar at thirteen? The next Medina? Toledo?
Do you seen ’em?
(Editor’s note: Yes! Cruz Dinofa, Jackie Doz)
Kelly seemed to veer dangerously close to saying that even were he to finish ahead of John John in the ratings he might give up his Olympic Spot for JJF.
But then he walked it back, saying “I’ll think about it”.
Leo Fioravanti got axed in round two and the WSL cannily wheeled out Renato Hickel to explain that three injured surfers would not go into two wildcard spots.
A smart move to get out in front of the story. Basically, Leo would have to re-qualify through the rankings, and that ain’t gunna happen, so he’s out.
Or is he first injury alternate? Those rules never seem clear to me.
TL:DR: Medina was awesome. JJF looks half-cooked. Everyone else was off the pace, bar Billy Kemper who is setting an unprecedented pace.
Billabong Pipe Masters Seeding Round 1 Results:
HEAT 1: Soli Bailey (AUS) 14.33 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 7.17, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 4.70
HEAT 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 7.27 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 4.34, Jadson Andre (BRA) 3.33
HEAT 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.93 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 6.07, Ricardo Christie (NZL) 4.10
HEAT 4: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 7.36 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.33, Frederico Morais (PRT) 2.60
HEAT 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.30 DEF. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 7.56, Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 6.10
HEAT 6: Billy Kemper (HAW) 15.63 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 10.67, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 5.60
HEAT 7: Owen Wright (AUS) 7.94 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 4.90, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 1.40
HEAT 8: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 7.76 DEF. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 7.33, John John Florence (HAW) 4.57
HEAT 9: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 16.93 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 15.00, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.60
HEAT 10: Michel Bourez (FRA) 11.33 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 9.10, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 4.90
HEAT 11: Joan Duru (FRA) 15.00 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 4.60, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 4.23
HEAT 12: Seth Moniz (HAW) 9.34 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 5.77, Yago Dora (BRA) 1.90
Billabong Pipe Masters Elimination Round 2 Results:
HEAT 1: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.60 DEF. Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 8.00, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 3.26
HEAT 2: John John Florence (HAW) 10.93 DEF. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.16, Frederico Morais (PRT) 2.70
HEAT 3: Yago Dora (BRA) 8.60 DEF. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 6.80, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 6.04
HEAT 4: Jadson Andre (BRA) 12.40 DEF. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 9.57, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 8.07
Billabong Pipe Masters Round of 32 Results:
HEAT 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
HEAT 2: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
HEAT 3: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
HEAT 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
HEAT 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Ricardo Christie (NZL)
HEAT 6: Ryan Callinan (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
HEAT 7: Seth Moniz (HAW) vs. Billy Kemper (HAW)
HEAT 8: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
HEAT 9: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Imaikalani deVault (HAW)
HEAT 10: Wade Carmichael (AUS) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
HEAT 11: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
HEAT 12: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Soli Bailey (AUS)
HEAT 13: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
HEAT 14: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
HEAT 15: Michel Bourez (FRA) vs. Deivid Silva (BRA)
HEAT 16: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)