What Italo did do. And all contest, was put the pressure on opponent. None moreso than against Medina in the Final. A relentless weaponizing of pace. Never seen before, if my reading of Pro surfing is correct. Wave after wave, after wave. The conventional wisdom is build a house and then wait for the best waves in the heat. Not so for Italo. Tail high air revs on the forehand, big whipped backside rotors. You could feel the gears grinding in Medina's brain as Italo kept catching, roaming the line-up like a frothing dog. Catching anything that moved. | Photo: WSL/Matt Dunbar

Rip Curl Newcastle Pro Finals Day analysis: “Reality slaps judges in face; tailwind can’t push local heroes; Italo Ferreira weaponises pace!”

And, oh yeah, No J-Bay, back to Barra in Mexico. 

For fun, at various points during the event, and especially on Finals Day, I tried to put myself in the minds of the various Tourism suits watching the action from the VIP tent. V

Very much glad handing going on, butterfly prawns dipped in a handmade seafood sauce, mid-strength beers served by cute waitresses and buff waiters. Much joviality.

What price a local victory? For them, I mean.

Even with the most conservative estimate, a lot.

The claims made as return on the investment compound with local media going into overdrive on a homegrown champion.

The technical term is “media equivalency”.

It’s one of those things we call in the sportswriting biz an intangible. We can all feel them, but bringing them into the material realm is eternally problematic. That intangible tailwind was right behind hometown hero Morgs through the day.

Through the event.

The same tailwind behind Ryan Callinan produced a draw, determined by a countback.

It produced a two-point spread in his semi against Medina after the opening exchange.

A two-turn combo adjudged a clean seven against Medina’s five. That kind of push, especially at the start of the heat can distort the outcome but the only distortion we saw was to time and space when Medina unexpectedly angled left off the back bank, the Ladies Left as Luke Egan called it, pumped twice and sailed across a cricket pitch’s worth of oceanic real estate.

Medina called for a three-pointer, judges threw a 9.57 at it.

That was reality slapping the judges in the face, an involuntary exhalation, the gallic pppffftttt for the tourism suits, the end of the local dream as we prophesied y’day.

No disrespect to Morgs though, if he can back up that result anywhere on the Aussie leg, he’s secured his career for a few years.

The quarters were dull, hampered by lumpen surf with inconsistent curves and few opportunities. It was the closest heat for Italo, who had to swing many, many times on chubby lefts against Deivid Silva before he got the tail high air for the win.

The three-point claim wasn’t the biggest display of emotion.

Toledo claimed that, wandering around roaring like a lion kicking soft furnishings after his win over Connor Coffin. He made it look harder than it needed to be. After scoring some points in the shorey he moseyed out to Connor on the back bank who had a score from a single turn.

Priority followed him out there, which seems ludicrous.

An easy rule fix? Surely someone surfing an entirely different part of the area should have automatic priority if the decide to change locations?

Start afresh, surely.

The final exchange in that quarter looked to go Toledo’s way easily but judges waited and waited cooking up a false drama that eventually ended with Toledo’s excellent choice of furnishings to kick.

Maybe a broken foot was what he needed to stop Italo in their semi?

There was a moment in the semi, which Toledo had seemed to control with a slender lead, when Italo roared back into it with a multiple turn wave. Four big turns on the outside, something playful and jazzy in the shorebreak to bring the crowd into it. Maybe the crotch grab claim and straight stare at the judges which was the hallmark post-ride celebration for the champ.

The replay in slo-mo close-up showed Italo grinning inanely, during the ride!

This guy was having the time of his life. Not even a hint of pressure.

What he did do, and all contest, was put the pressure on opponent. None more so than against Medina in the final. A relentless weaponising of pace. Never seen before, if my reading of pro surfing is correct. Wave after wave, after wave. The conventional wisdom is build a house and then wait for the best waves in the heat.

Not so for Italo. Tail-high air revs on the forehand, big whipped backside rotors. You could feel the gears grinding in Medina’s brain as Italo kept catching, roaming the line-up like a frothing dog. Catching anything that moved.

Don’t look, don’t look.

But he kept looking.

It chopped the legs out from under him. He looked shakier and shakier as the final went on.

The opening exchanges were fierce. Medina went straight up on the best wave of the final, then swung his board into a vicious bottom turn that left a deep cut in the base of the wave, freeing the fins on the top turn. It was a clear and clean advancement on the basic building block of backside surfing.

For mine, the best meat and potatoes wave of the event. Lowballed with an 8.6? A high nine if done by a local? Intangibles we will never know.

Medina fell on an alley oop attempt that never looked right. In the same way he did in the final at Pipe his mojo and skill set seemed to dissipate as the clock wound down. Technically he only needed a mid-ranger six. In our guts, we willed him to do it, but it never seemed likely.

I’m not sure there has ever been a more one sided display of dominance, can we use the term alpha?, than Carissa Moore’s charge through the field. Derek Rielly called the surf a cute two-to-four-feet, the ocean seemed a more generous benefactor to Moore, sending her multiple well overhead waves that I’d have no probs calling four, five foot. Shades of John John at Margarets with the cut through on the carves, the total dominance over the field.

Completely one sided final against Isabella Nichols. Over after Carissa rode her first wave, though she would never admit it. I think the girly diffidence has to hide a deeper sense of steel. No one can be that good, develop the skill set at Pipe for example, without a hidden beast.

Some of you may be wondering about the comparison between Newcastle and Lennox or Newy and Bells. Newy smashed both of them. They would have been royally skunked at the Ox, not a single banner day, many heats run in terrible onshore surf, brown water and rain.

Clean babyfood today, not even breaking at the Point. Bells not much better.

If the suits do get their way and were to win a bidding war against Bells to upgrade the Newy comp to a permanent CT then I think we saw enough to justify the claim. Four CT’s in Oz, could there be five next year?

One axiom I live by: The Woz will never let Tourism money get between them and a CT, no matter how many rules they have to make up as they go along.

Oh yeah, No J-Bay, back to Barra in Mexico. 

Can we have Dane as the wildcard pls.

Italo Ferreira, reigning world champ and current world number one.

Carissa Moore and Italo Ferreira win Rip Curl Newcastle Pro, “Surfing is a beautiful thing, the sort of beauty we want to surround our lives with!”

“It was almost mystical, I had a feeling of nothing-can-happen-to-me, nothing-can-harm-me, nothing-can-touch-me.”

In pretty enough two-to-four-foot waves, event favourites Carissa Moore and Italo Ferreira, from Hawaii and Brazil respectively, executed perfect contest surfing to win the Rip Curl Newcastle Pro.

Moore, who is twenty-eighty and a four-time world champion, dominated the Australian Isabella Nichols, twenty-three, easily collecting her twenty-fourth WCT win and moving into the number one position on tour.

Yesterday, Moore stomped the best air ever made by a woman in a contest, displaying utter confidence and an utter faith in her ability.

In the men, and as predicted by BeachGrit’s tour correspondent Longtom, Brazilian surfers dominated even local favourites Ryan Callinan and Morgan Cilibic.

“Most likely the Newy blue-collar dreams, if that is even a thing anymore, will be smashed to smithereens by a Brazilian.
Anyone of them, Medina, Italo or Toledo would do it.”

As it was, Ferreira, twenty-six, won the “high-energy final” and described the feeling as “almost mystical, I had a feeling of nothing-can-happen-to-me, nothing-can-harm-me, nothing-can-touch-me.”

Longtom’s analysis of finals day to follow shortly.

Open thread: Comment Live Rip Curl Newcastle Pro, Finals Day!

Come into the clubroom, shuck your inhibitions.

Listen: Is there another sport on the face of this earth where, as a true fan, you can sit, watch and ruthlessly mock every single moment?


I’ve been having much fun during this Rip Curl Newcastle Cup presented by Corona and all because of you. Sitting back in the Open Thread just reading and just tittering away.

Giggling like a schoolchild.

Without you, I’d alternate between boredom, disinterest, quiet mockery.

Every little piece of a World Surf League broadcast is, in fact, ripe for mockery from the set to the calls to the judging to the claims to the advertisements to all of it and, as I spoke to David Lee Scales yesterday morning, wondered out loud. Is there another sport on the face of this earth where, as a true fan, you can sit, watch and ruthlessly mock every single moment?

Is there?

I have yet to think of one but I’m still trying which makes me wonder if WSL CEO Erik Logan et. al. are not geniuses.

Mockery, pure mockery, is very fun, engaging, entirely enjoyable as evidenced by my last few days spent with you.

David Lee and I discussed the contest, anyhow, Caio Ibelli and many other topics. He also revealed a surprise that nearly knocked me out of my chair.

Extremely fine.

Listen here.

Or watch. You always have choices on BeachGrit.

Carissa Moore, real happy after historic huck.

Rip Curl Newcastle Pro, Day Four, “Newy’s blue-collar dreams will be smashed to smithereens by a Brazilian; anyone of them, Medina, Italo or Toledo can do it!”

And Carissa Moore, narrowing the gap… 

No, it ain’t a CT venue but there is something about Merewether, Newy that does seem kind of… natural as a host for the WSL.

I feel like the sickly sweet sentimentality is wearing down my defences: the feel-good factor, the hometown heroes blasting through the pack, Medina’s babe nodding and smiling graciously in the bleachers when her man gets the job done, the shorebreak demolitions etc etc.

It’s acoustic not electric and while the highs are constrained the lows are bearable.

It’s a weird, funky wave but there are at least three turns in it. It ain’t as dismal as the low tide close-outs of a Brazilian beachbreak or Portugal, for example.

Not as soul deadingly stultifying as the tub.

Ciblic is killing it. Seriously.

“Ye Gods, he doth bestride the narrow world (of Newcastle) Like a Colossus…!”

Two years ago he was nobody, a kid who couldn’t make the cut at Merewether Boardriders. Made a few heats at Sunset, snuck in over the line as rookies have done since time immemorial and was introduced to us as a raw bush kid from Angourie with boards being hand-crafted for him by the legendary loose cannon Will Webber.

In a year off he’s gone from Merewether discard to the pride of the fleet.

Less noticed is the fact that his zero to hero trajectory is now almost impossible to duplicate.

The QS is a byzantine mess.

You have to make the cut to make the cut for the next tier, the Challenger Series, which means Morgs would have been left languishing in the bush. Probably picking up the tools to take advantage of the pandemic-led Real Estate boom.

If there was a question mark over the ability to reproduce the winning performance against JJF he squashed it with a demolition of Wade Carmichael.

Now he’s going to test the loyalty of the “educated” surf crowd by taking on the blue-ribbon candidate Ryan Callinan in the quarters.

Most likely the Newy blue-collar dreams, if that is even a thing anymore, will be smashed to smithereens by a Brazilian.

Anyone of them, Medina, Italo or Toledo would do it.

Medina’s ice-cold last wave to defeat Freddy Morais was the highlight of the day for me. Sold him a pup that could have got the score and then with thirty seconds left on the clock made the rock break look like J-Bay with two huge high swoops and a miraculous escape falling out of the lip on the aptly named by Laura Enever “shorebreak of doom”.

When it comes to progressive, which means, throwing down airs, then it’s a clear gap between Italo and the rest of the field.

What I like: he’ll try and fail, then try again, but bigger. Just as it’s a bad move to try and hang with a serious drinker, it was a very bad strategy for Griff Colapinto to try and match Italo in the air.

And maybe bad coaching.

Griff said in his post-heat presser that Coach Whitaker was proud of his efforts to try and bring the noise to the champ. I think a very deluded view of relative strengths and weaknesses. Griff probably would have lost either way, but a couple of sevens might have put a tiny bit more doubt in Italos mind than a bunch of threes.

Ryan Callinan went to the air first wave. Fell. Quickly retracted the progressive appendages, settled down and watched Owen bag two good rides.

I’d never realised how similar the two goofies were, in terms of style and approach. Both based on leverage off the bottom and release in the lip. A slightly more avant-garde approach to basic backside surfing. The heat hinged on two back-to-back rides in the middle of the heat. They looked incredibly similar to Owens rides, maybe lacking a little fin release high in the lip, the trademark Owen backside turn.

Judges, were enraptured and deemed the pair of rides well superior to the last Wright in the draw.

Owen hit the booth later on.

I grabbed a quick thirty at the local Point and saw his Dad wandering the shores. It gave me a biblical feeling. Owen was astute on the loss to Ryan, blaming it on a priority error when he gifted Ryan one of the scoring rides. He claimed luck as a major factor saying anyone could be “comboed by a nobody”.

He called Jordy the “better surfer” compared to Connor Coffin, talked up one of Jordy’s flat spin manufactured airs and then expressed some doubt on Connor’s last wave. Which I shared, but the judges didn’t.

It was a confusing melange of affection for the prosaic, perhaps inspired by Turpel’s romantic depicting of the coal ships offshore and desire for the progressive. Judges wanted it both ways. They’ll have to choose “their major” at some point in this comp.

Julian, Julian, Julian.

Whenever Nick Carroll or Joe Turpel brings up the subject of pro surfer intelligence in my mind I immediately rebut with Julian Wilson. I’m sure there are millions of nuances to the pro surfing caper which my philistinic instincts can never touch but I’m confident that the basic rule of catching a wave has to be up there as a cardinal rule.

Jules needed a wave. He often needs a wave. He didn’t catch the wave. He lost to the little plumber.

Final thoughts.

After claiming the women had narrowed the performance gap in waves of non-consequence and getting my ass kicked in the comments I had to self reflect: maybe you got that one wrong. Fifteen years ago, Andy Irons opened the final at Barra de la Cruz with an atmospheric straight air.

First turn. Gals seem a way away from hitting it like that.

Carissa today laid it down straight up in the rock break. Weird half light across the wave and boom! Straight up, tail high.

A potential problem for the Steph Gilmore legacy if Carissa both masters the air and gets comfortable at Pipeline.

And a hedge against a new crop of girls who have zero dramas doing both.

Steph, by the way, sent packing by Isabella Nichols. If you are in the Top 17 Womens Tour then you have twice as much chance as making the top five to be in Title contention then if you are in the Top 34 men.

Could someone check the maths on that?

If it’s true: Mummas let your babies grow up to be gal pro surfers.