Toledo now in the box seat at number three.
Thank God they got the right two men and women for the Finals, eventually, and plenty of analysis to come I promise so stay tuned for that.
Allow one quick (existential) digression, por favor re: the Surf Ranch Pro.
Can you legitimately create a sporting event where no drama happens, there is only light and no shade, nothing is allowed to penetrate the veil of sunshine and rainbows, where there is no controversy, no conflict?
Where big is little, soulful is aggressive, huge is subtle, guys about to be relegated to the QS are “legimitate World Title Contenders” or “the Future of the Top 5”? Where “blessed” psychobabble reigns supreme, losers are quietly disappeared without being interviewed and the creator of the venue creates his own rules at his discretion?
The answer is yes, I suppose, because that’s the universe the WSL has created at Surf Ranch.
By contrast I drove an hour north yesterday to watch an NRL game at a Gold Coast stadium, with two eleven-year-old boys. Frothing groms who elected not to watch a single wave of Surf Ranch. The crowd was full of Rugby League fans who got what they paid for, sans being preached to, assaulted with Greenwashing, and hammered with ads and uncounted and inexplicable breaks.
The second half was a blow-out. The losing coach faced the media, answered questions. Called the performance of his team “unacceptable” and “horrible”, said it was the “lowest he had ever felt as coach”. This presser was broadcast, without shame, without self-censorship. After being marooned on WSL island the honesty and embrace of reality was as intoxicating as the highest mountain air.
We described Italo as a step behind the contenders yesterday. He failed to repair his weakness on the left in his bonus run. Falling early and missing the Finals cut line. Kelly, slightly overscored after spidery, thin surfing on a left for a 7.07 made the cut. Owen Wright, critically underscored on a right, was eliminated by one. Owen’s thoughts were not sought on the score. He simply disappeared as if he had never existed.
Yago Dora made the left his own running a version of the Medina line, which entails fins free on every turn, with acceleration from the grind. A pair of airs thrown down, one just after the mid-way point wave deceleration and one at the end corner.
In one of his many pressers today, a defensive Kelly Slater responding to criticism of the pool as competition venue cited Dora’s performance as justification.
Is that legitimate rebuttal? I say no.
Only the very ending stanza of rides from Toledo and Medina had any sense of drama about them. That led some to suggest the Finals Day venue should be shifted from Trestles to the Basin. I think there is more merit in that idea, but not a top five. A top three only. Three runs each. Run and done in a couple of hours like a Super Bowl.
We don’t need to see days and days of mind-numbing safety surfing from the rest of the Top 34.
Even in the Finals people safety surfed.
Ethan Ewing, with nothing to lose and everything to gain by finally showing the world how good he could surf came up with a seven on the right and a particularly weak brace of rides on the left scoring a 4 and a 5.67.
Who is coaching this guy?
You want him back on the QS without firing a shot at CT level?
Carissa Moore hit her high point in the two bonus runs with a brace of eights. There was more flow and power in the women’s performances compared to 2018 and 19 but a conspicuous lack of progressive risk.
And when I say a lack, I mean zero.
No one took Lakey Peterson’s Finals winning air rev or Caz Marks’ tail-high reverse and attempted to duplicate it.
Judges showed they were perfectly happy to reward risk-free safety surfing when Sally Fitzgibbons did seventeen identical snaps, surfing purely off the fins and tail rail for a 7.5. Judges brains finally melted down in the heat, after an amazing display of rigour.
Performances were well down, with rare exceptions, but scoring failed to reflect that.
There was a long period of pure aggravation for surf fans prior to the Finals that felt like deliberate provocation by the WSL.
The machine stopped, there was no indication of when the action would resume, we were verbally and visually assaulted by both talking heads and program filler. By the time they cut to a little “feel good” piece about the chef from Pasquales, Mexico, now head chef at Surf Ranch wobbling his way across a left on a foamy the mood was beginning to resemble the one inside the lift in Dirty Harry 4.
You know the one?
An aggravated Harry Callahan grabs his tormentor by the tie, yanks him close and says, “Listen punk, to me you’re nothing but dog shit and a lot of things can happen to dog shit. It can be scraped up with a shovel, it can dry up and blow away with the wind, or it can be stepped on and squashed….”
But alas, in our fairy bubble universe Cote and Mel and Turpel and Rosie wouldn’t dry and blow away in the parched wind. No matter how much we wanted them too.
Aggravation continued with the broadcast. Starts of waves missed. Replays not shown. Judging scale was obviously reset for the Finals, especially for the women but why? And how?
And for what purpose?
Despite all the provocations, for a magical fifteen minutes everything clicked. I make that period during the latter part of the mens semis. Kanoa was in first place. Medina needed a combination of scores. His waves to respond were the highlight of the event. A late float to entry in the last tube section of the right was legit high risk, the precise edge work that only Medina can manage. The left was seamless. Super deep bottom turns, a slick air and transition free kerrupt flip at the end. Still down on his high points in 18/19 but enough to make the Finals.
Defay was strong. She did what she did all event. Brought nothing new to the Finals, but she didn’t have to because Carissa Moore didn’t either. Both elected to keep fins engaged at all times, concentrate on flow and timing and in the end Defay was rewarded for safely surfing a right, nowhere near her best wave for a winning 7.93.
But Toledo did.
He botched the ending on both opening rides for a pair of sevens. Which left the door open to Medina, who bizarrely fell, overcooking his opening left. Toledo’s second right was the wave of the event. Board slide, tube, alley oop to full rail turn to slide. That was the final sequence.
Perfect execution. His left was overscored.
The 9.28 requirement for Medina was easily obtainable. Another inexplicable choke.
Toledo now in the box seat at number three.
Assuming he holds position for Trestles. He surfs twice, at his favourite wave. Sleeping in his own bed, enjoying home cooking. Sticking everything. Comes in fully aroused and warmed up against Medina with his poor record there. Best of three heats.
I want money on Filipe Toledo.
Meanwhile, in another universe, a much grittier and gloomier one, the rest of the Australians are clustered down the arse end of the ratings like flies on sheep dags.
Apart from Morgs, of course.