“A day of reckoning”, said Rabbit to kick off today’s proceedings. A touch dramatic, maybe, but it was in keeping with the tone of things to come – drama, intrigue, mystery!
And you’d be a hard man to deny Rabbit’s enthusiasm, perky, pink and lucid as he was at this stage in the proceedings.
Bells Beach is oft maligned as a suitable tour stop, but she was defiant today, smooth and pretty in the misty morning sunshine.
The waves were nothing like had been forecast, the energy in the broadcast team was palpable. It was as if an invisible bulk had been shifted, such was their relief that they wouldn’t need to pretend not to be able to see shitty waves.
I think it was Ronnie, but others too, who conceded that the forecast had been “crap”. A rare honesty that almost certainly wouldn’t have surfaced if not for the luck of good waves.
Though in situations like today when decent waves are on offer what possible reason is there not to run the overlapping heat format? This is how the rounds of 32 and 16 should be done every time.
There was lots of quality surfing worthy of discussion today, but if you’ll allow me to skip through with some notable bulletpoints so that I might reach the meat of today’s narrative…
Nat Young seems to have found favour with both pundits and heats. He put on a backhand clinic to dispatch god’s own messenger, Caio Ibelli, who might have to increase his prayer time. Young’s surfing seems to fit Bells like an elfin slipper.
Jackson Baker the Candlestick Maker did away with Bells Beach favourite Jordan Michael Smith. There was a little griping in the aftermath with Jordy’s claims of an interference, but it was a late and snide move that not even Jordy seemed convinced by. The resulting priority change rather than interference was the correct call.
Ethan Ewing must be the most promising Australian surfer in a decade? He’s certainly pleasing to the eye and his status as the Golden Child of the Tour was established again today. Richie Lovett was so effusive in his praise it bordered on lecherous. “Uhhhh…”, he said, “Ouuuhhhhh…Look how he loads up his thighs…”
Florence and Chianca juked out a blistering heat with both men holding high eights and nines in their final totals. It’s unclear to me how Joao Chianca can have made more of an impression than just about any other rookie, yet be uncertain of his place beyond Margaret River. If one surfer has cause to feel a little aggrieved about the cut it’s him.
A pudgy looking, slightly heavy-set Mick Fanning provided a nostalgic glimpse of the past today. The first turn of his 6.67 against Kanoa was vintage Fanning and would have been fit for any poster in his prime.
I noted earlier in the proceedings this week that I was warming to Kanoa Igarashi. After his claim in this heat I’d like to retract that statement. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a claim so flamboyant. It wouldn’t have been out of place as the finale to a stage musical. I only hope someone makes a truly excellent meme from it.
Kolohe squeaked past Jadson by 0.04 points. I didn’t catch this heat live but I’ve just watched the replay and thought it seemed a touch off. Kolohe’s alley oop on the outside was certainly nice, and with a degree of risk, but thereafter he nursed the wave to its conclusion. Hard to score, perhaps, but I didn’t like it.
And so to the first major narrative of the day…
Did you notice it?
That change…that something…just a little bit…better?
I do believe that was one of the best WSL broadcasts I’ve seen today.
Ronnie back as a steady hand was a factor. Rabbit and Richie’s contributions were solid. Shannon had a good dig at the post-heat interviews, and is far preferable when her ears are open and her mouth is closed.
As for Kaipo, I can think of no better place for him than chittering on a rescue sled, neutered and improved by the cold but largely unseen or heard. The best production decision in some time.
I did chuckle at the “Dometic Out The Back” tag. Not only was it a fine example of the WSL’s continually awkward brand alignments, but it was a fitting image for what should be done with Kaipo. Much like you might dispose of a body in an old freezer out the back, so Kaipo has been stashed away and will hopefully remain hidden.
Beyond Kaipo’s excommunication, the greatest improvement today was a concerted effort to interview the losers and ask them some decent questions. There was a smattering of this at both Sunset and Portugal, but I’m glad it’s now being established as protocol.
We we also treated to a new, voyeuristic style of broadcasting as the cameras and microphones eavesdropped on conversations.
We saw Griffin ask coach Tom Whitaker a question, then go glassy-eyed when the answer extended beyond three words.
We saw Jordy breach the ivory tower to confront the judges!
I can only presume that the WSL production has been influenced by the forthcoming Make or Break show. They’ve clearly been listening to someone. Public opinion, perhaps, but more likely the directives of the media company they’re hosting.
I wonder how tuned into this the surfers are? Have they been briefed, given stage directions by ELo in secret meetings?
Jordy, for one, seems like he might be a prime candidate for the role Daniel Riccardo plays in Drive to Survive.
Regardless, it might be working. All of a sudden we have a little story, a little drama. Partially scripted or at the very least self-conscious, perhaps, but at least we have surfers who are no longer mere pawns trapped behind a Wall of Positive Noise.
They are people, with voices, and they will be heard!
And what do the voices tell us? Well, as Derek reported earlier, there’s unrest within the ranks. It was first alluded to by Jordy, I believe, who made a cryptic reference to surfer’s meetings and uncertainty about Margaret River.
There is a whinging groundswell about the cut and the toys are out of the pram! It seems the surfers may be preparing for industrial action. How exciting!
Who’ll write the placards, I wonder? Certainly not Griffin.
And what might they say?
Answers and Kanoa memes below, please.
HEAT 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.67 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.34
HEAT 2: Nat Young (USA) 13.50 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 8.60
HEAT 3: Jackson Baker (AUS) 14.60 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 10.90
HEAT 4: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 15.73 DEF. Lucca Mesinas (PER) 9.90
HEAT 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.16 DEF. Mikey Wright (AUS) 14.67
HEAT 6: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.46 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.26
HEAT 7: John John Florence (HAW) 18.86 DEF. Joao Chianca (BRA) 17.73
HEAT 8: Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 14.93 DEF. Barron Mamiya (HAW) 13.50
HEAT 9: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.77 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 14.83
HEAT 10: Callum Robson (AUS) 15.27 DEF. Frederico Morais (PRT) 13.43
HEAT 11: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 15.80 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 15.53
HEAT 12: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.10 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.06
HEAT 13: Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 13.84 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 13.77
HEAT 14: Jack Robinson (AUS) 16.17 DEF. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 9.90
HEAT 15: Samuel Pupo (BRA) 10.10 DEF. Jake Marshall (USA) 9.17
HEAT 16: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.00 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 13.00
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Round of 16 Matchups:
HEAT 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Nat Young (USA)
HEAT 2: Jackson Baker (AUS) vs. Ethan Ewing (AUS)
HEAT 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)
HEAT 4: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Morgan Cibilic (AUS)
HEAT 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Callum Robson (AUS)
HEAT 6: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
HEAT 7: Imaikalani deVault (HAW) vs. Jack Robinson (AUS)
HEAT 8: Samuel Pupo (BRA) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
HEAT 2: Bronte Macaulay (AUS) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)
HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
HEAT 4: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)