You would have have put good money on Gabriel Medina, even though history would tell you it was ill-advised.
No Griffin Colapinto being torn limb from limb on the Saquarema sand like warm bread.
Not a single furious fan in sight.
Just amiable, handsome people, cheering on their countrymen with joie de vivre, and soaking up a bevy of chunky lefts and rights.
It was a crowd typically overstated by the WSL broadcast team. Strider and Kaipo’s mock-ecstasy was in full effect.
So exciting, so much ENERGY.
They were so overwhelmed they were lost for words. By this point we understand that “lost for words” is a euphemism for “ran out of vocabulary”.
The partisan crowd were treated to a starting line-up of eleven Brazilians from a total of twenty-four surfers.
Surf statisticians can check for me, but I’m going to claim that’s the highest percentage of a single nationality ever to begin a WCT event.
Justly, given the results of the opening round.
Five of the seven heats containing a Brazilian surfer had a Brazilian victor. Gabriel Medina did not win his heat, but Yago Dora (as a replacement) did, as did wildcard Michael Rodrigues.
It was Brazilian conditions, chunky beachbreak that required dynamic two-turn combos and quick-twitch muscle fibres. They were waves we might have grumbled at in the past, but given what we’ve seen the past couple of events they seemed, frankly, rather exciting.
Surfers could go two directions, there were few lulls and the waves had some grunt. Split peaks suddenly seemed like a terribly fresh and exciting proposition!
Several surfers caught ten or more waves over the course of their heat, and that was a very welcome change, even if they weren’t perfect.
What they did offer were sections to bash and punt, and this was considerably better than watching surfers straightline long, crumbly sections at G-Land, or nurse knee-high slop in El Salvador.
Italo made the most of it in the opening heat of the day in a sparky performance reminiscent of his past self that elicited a large deposit from me. There was nothing too spectacular, but just…something. He is the quickest of twitchers, he’ll fit three turns where others manage two, and he’s very much due a win.
Zen-master Griffin Colapinto opened his heat like he was impervious to the online cacophony that has followed his El Salvador victory, not least from his own mother.
After opening with solid seven, he was comfortable for the majority of the heat, until Michael Rodrigues started spinning. The crispness of his rotations eventually edged the heat from Colapinto by just 0.06 points.
But for my money the most impressive air of the day went to Jack Robinson in the next heat for a huge straight air, grabbed frontside. By my estimation he was at least eight feet above the lip, and I wouldn’t have quibbled if the 8.17 had been a point higher.
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It was another comfortable victory for Robinson, who looks more assured by the day.
I noted the intensity of the breathing exercises and stretching he did pre-heat. Questionable haircut aside, he and Julia must cut an imposing presence in the competitor’s area these days. And I mention her again because she seems very much part of his fortification.
Toledo did Toledo things in his opener. They were all very dynamic and impressive, of course, but I feel slightly beleaguered by the inevitability of his surfing this year and understand how the judges must feel.
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He spoke of tiredness himself in his post-heat interview, saying he needed a break.
It made me reflect once again, as I often have, on the fact that it’s possible to kill everything you love. It’s cliched to say that you should turn your passion into your job, but it’s also terrible advice.
What is there that wouldn’t become a chore if you were forced to do it?
Rest up for Teahupo’o, Pip. That’s your Finals Day.
Yago Dora made it four Brazilian victories from the first five heats, edging out Kanoa, who did little wrong. Kolohe Andino was also in this heat, but I’m afraid his goose is well and truly cooked.
You’d have put good money on Gabriel Medina continuing the Brazilian blitzkrieg, even though history would tell you it was ill-advised. In no fewer than eight attempts, Medina has never made a final in Rio.
Improbable but no less true.
If he wants to subvert the course of this unlikely history he’ll need to do it via the elimination round. He could only manage a palty 6.40 heat total today. It was an admittedly wave-starved heat as the tide filled in, but Medina was well out of sorts.
Connor O’Leary took the victory, and if he keeps on winning heats eventually I’m going to have to watch him more closely and find it in my heart to write about him. But for now I’ll just say “on yersel, big man”, and that’ll have to do.
Another big man who continues to do unlikely things is Jackson Baker The Candlestick Maker. He advanced to the round of 16 today, even though less than a point separated him from Jordy Smith and Callum Robson.
Honestly, I took the opportunity during this heat to play a game called “statues” with my two boys. One of them pretends to sell me a statue (the other one), which I then pick up and place somewhere. To my great surprise and their great hilarity, every time I turn my back the statue appears to have moved to a new location.
The game was vindicated when no-one managed a double figure heat total, but well done, Jacko, nonetheless.
The final heat of the day was won by Miggy Pupo, the most heart-warming aspect of this being that Caio Ibelli lost.
A deep-rooted problem in the WSL was evidenced again today when Chris Cote revealed he was a “sherpa”, as he and Pete Mel referred to it, for some of the surfers. Cote had carried one of Kanoa’s boards to Brazil.
Cronyism? Nepotism? Some kind of ism.
A bit weird, at any rate.
Much like Kaipo’s adverts for tyres. As authoritative and well-researched as his surf punditry, he told us the tyres he was petting like an old dog had excellent suspension and torque. They were good for everything apparently, sand, mud, pavement, even, the very oddly specific – limestone.
I’m certain there’s a used car dealership somewhere where Kaipo would fit right in.
Eu sou brasileiro, com muito orgulho, com muito amor, as they say on the terraces and the beaches.