How about Gabriel Medina as the sponsor wildcard for the September finals at Lowers? Elo, you want entertainment? That's it.
Early comment section noise told me Bells was off today. I kind of needed it to be.
A few days of no sleep and concealed losses will do that to a man. To add to the indignity, yesterday morning I woke to find money that was paid out to me in error had been rescinded. I should’ve known better and withdrawn it.
But run we did, and Bells looked just about as clean and appealing as I’ve ever seen it. It’s a wave that looks relatable for a significant proportion of surf fans, and from that perspective I think it occupies an important space amid the likes of Teahupo’o and Pipe.
The day began with a highly entertaining backhand battle between Owen Wright and Nat Young, two men whom I find it hard to separate in skill or likeability.
Both performed and either would have been a worthy winner. The final separation of less than a point told the same tale.
In the course of writing yesterday’s recap and smarting about the money that had been snatched from my account, I convinced myself that Nat Young might win the event. The odds of 22/1 seemed to confirm my gut, 22 being my lucky number. Classic gambler’s trap.
Somewhere between residual memories of Occy, Medina and Italo lies an imprint on my conscience that Bells looks best when attacked with hitchless backhand flow. Maybe the fact that a backhand bottom turn is naturally longer and makes up the space between the sections at Bells is key.
Owen, Italo and Miguel Pupo are the remaining goofy surfers in the draw.
As a former winner and a surfer in need of a victory to quell inner demons, Italo seems the most likely of these three to end up as a winner, but all have impressed to this stage.
Heat 3 between Toledo and O’Leary was dominated not just by Filipe’s incisive surfing but by a jetski race which caused much consternation.
Ronnie was perplexed.
Both men had finished waves and were on skis at the same time, Toledo just behind. First back to the line-up would be given priority, a major advantage late in a heat, but particularly in conditions like today. There were lots of waves at Bells, but the best ones were clearly advantageous.
They dismounted the skis around the same time, but Toledo’s dropped him off fractionally ahead of O’Leary and he skimmed off more efficiently, likely because he weighs 50kg. Connor’s longer levers and superior paddle power nearly got priority back, but in the end Filipe’s ski dismount prowess was to be the decisive factor.
Ronnie couldn’t seem to leave it be. Filipe and Italo get off skis better than anyone, was his assertion. This was later contradicted by Italo faceplanting off a ski. Bugs had a minor glitch and said something about the Melbourne Gold Cup.
Mick Fanning and Callum Robson surfed a high-tide heat that started slow with errors for both.
With 20 minutes to go neither man had an acceptable scoring wave. Fanning locked in two sixes to Robson’s pair of fives. Mick had a little bit of “extra sugar” on his turns, according to Richie, but Robson’s final wave to take the victory with a minute on the clock was a worthy winner, ridden fast and clean.
If anything, it looked like vintage Mick.
Kaipo in his watery cell referred to Mick’s “panted swoop”, then went on to say that it was “really impressive to see the velocity in which these boards and these surfers are travelling through these conditions.”
Robson has a very pleasing style. I have a deep appreciation for a stickerless plain white board.
I have a little inkling that this might not be the last we’ve seen of Fanning in a jersey.
In the same mould as the likes of Kelly or Medina, he’s a competitive beast, and you can only keep the beast concealed for so long. As much as he talked about “having fun” in the aftermath and “getting off the grid”, I suspect he might be back, carried by a surge of enduring popularity and inherent competitive drive.
And why not? He looked great and nothing at all like a retiree. If anything he looked like he was building momentum heat by heat and rediscovering the old rhythm.
Is there a sponsor wildcard for the finals at Trestles? Would they? Could they?
Even better, how about Medina as the sponsor wildcard for the finals?
Ooooohhh…the very thought of that sends a tingle down my spine. Can you imagine how it would make the Top 5 feel?
Seed sown, make it happen,
ELo. You want entertainment? That’s it.
Broadcast note of the day: please stop asking Bugs and Richie what they “love” about waves just surfed. Joe and Shannon are the worst offenders, and I suspect it’s an American tick, but it’s an annoying and leading question.
Not everything is great. It’s ok not to love things.
Despite being in the quarter finals, space cowboy Jack Robbo has slipped under my radar at this event.
“You just have to feel it within and just be free out there,” he told Laura in his post-heat interview.
What have I missed? Any surfing of note? Cosmic occurrences?
And what of Brother? Poor, doomed Kolohe. He should be a gambler’s dream, an eternal favourite that always loses, but he’s no-one’s dream.
His face makes me sad. That’s all I have to say about that.
Did Italo black out in the final heat of the day? He only caught three waves in the entire heat and ousted Sammy Pupo by just 0.27 points.
When have you known Italo to catch so few waves? I would guess this is the fewest waves Italo has caught in a heat in his entire career. A bold guess, maybe, but I’m confident in the assertion. He didn’t catch a wave in the final 20 mins! That’s not Italo. Somewhat odd, particularly when Pupo was going for it under Italo’s priority.
It was a glimpse into how you might beat Italo (take note, Filipe) and that’s to use his own regular tactics against him – get busy, be relentless, go for the Hollywood ending. Only those with dynamic and explosive aerial skills might be capable of this, of course.
It would be remiss of me not to finish with some brief commentary on ELo’s hammer-fisted letter in response to the group of surfers who delivered him a petition to abandon plans for a cut.
His response was unequivocal. It was akin to someone starting a pub fight in which they are completely overmatched, the result being a nonchalant headbutt, a bloodied nose and everyone turning back to their drinks, slightly embarrassed for the victim.
It’s occurred to me over the past few days that it doesn’t matter what we think of ELo anymore. He’s no Sophie Goldmember, nor Backwards Fins Beth.
His understanding of surf culture is by-the-by. He and his personal photographer can take SUP trips to Tavarua and we will look on, grim but silenced.
Much like the way he dealt with Chas Smith (you know, like what Hulk does to Loki in the first Avengers movie) he has taken the WSL by the throat.
“Inconceivable” was how he responded to the petition to get rid of the cut. “I want to be very clear,” he said, twice in three sentences.
Oh, he was gracious in his use of the second person, it’s all for “you”.
Growth, excitement, narratives, engagement, revenue, future! It was all there.
He even used statistics to ram home his point. “Consumption” of Bells was up 35%! (I bet Griffin is still staring squinty-eyed at that one.)
I told you, he said. You agreed to this, he said.
Now sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up.
Thanks, ELo, I’ll take that letter into work for a lesson on persuasive writing.
Or maybe cunty writing. That’s a unit I’m yet to develop, but thanks for the material.
A suggested punt to go out on a high for Finals Day: Toledo / Sea Tiger double – 34/1
And a tempting single: Toledo to beat JJF – 31/20
An even better bet?
Pro surfing’s going to get better, just not on your terms.
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 16.40 DEF. Nat Young (USA) 15.77
HEAT 2: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 14.27 DEF. Jackson Baker (AUS) 9.10
HEAT 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.26 DEF. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.00
HEAT 4: John John Florence (HAW) 17.77 DEF. Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 7.83
HEAT 5: Callum Robson (AUS) 14.50 DEF. Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.27
HEAT 6: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.76 DEF. Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.90
HEAT 7: Jack Robinson (AUS) 16.04 DEF. Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 14.53
HEAT 8: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.40 DEF. Samuel Pupo (BRA) 15.13
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Ethan Ewing (AUS)
HEAT 2: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. John John Florence (HAW)
HEAT 3: Callum Robson (AUS) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
HEAT 4: Jack Robinson (AUS) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Quarterfinal Results:
HEAT 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.57 DEF. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.93
HEAT 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.17 DEF. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 12.07
HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.67 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.53
HEAT 4: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Semifinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)
HEAT 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Brisa Hennessy (CRI)