"Punditry is a plague, one that infests nearly every aspect of modern society."
The first event post-cut, the surf world was abuzz with excitement (slight interest) for the contest at Grajagan.
It was never going to live up to the hype of the ’97 event, but a contest did ensue.
Therefore, how did the men fare?
24. Jordan Michael Smith
Punditry is a plague, one that infests nearly every aspect of modern society. Operating under a framework built around ever-increasing hyperbole, experts myopically explain how whatever they’re talking about is “unprecedented” or the “most” something or other, which is usually a shortsighted opinion or wilfully ignorant of what has happened before.
That expressed, Jordan’s career is one of the biggest disappointments in surf history. The most hyped surfer ever when he qualified, his biggest accomplishments were two runner-up finishes in years he was nowhere close to actually winning.
It must have dawned upon Jordan out there in the lineup as he was getting absolutely destroyed by Connor O’Leary in the Elimination Round (after being crushed by Jaddy in the Opening Round), that he will never win a World Title, Lifetime Achievement variety (like Parko) or otherwise.
23. John John Florence
Another year, another knee injury for the most-talented surfer in the world. How many World Titles has his knee cost John John Florence? I would say about as many as the number Alex Ribeiro was robbed of by sucking. Injuries are part of athletic competitions and it’s not like someone took a bat to the guy’s knee or murdered him, he hurt it in the act of performing his activity.
22. Carlos Muñoz
A late addition to these Power Rankings upon me seeing him in the draw for El Salvador this morning, I’m just shouting him out here. Cool to see ya, Carlos. Get a haircut!
21. Seth Moniz
Another injured surfer, Seth’s auspicious start to the year has given way to garbage. If the Tour was a sitcom or a direct-to-video/Netflix comedy movie, it’s perfectly possible that we could’ve had brother Josh substitute in for Seth once he got injured, surfing in his place while hijinks ensue and he is able to pull one over on the WSL all the way to a spot at Trestles, where it is finally revealed that he actually is Josh but they let him surf anyway (he loses). Mildly funny (exaggerating here), the show/movie would also be social commentary, covering the issue of cross-racial/ethnic identification, the viewer to wondering how the hell the white dudes at the WSL did not realize Josh and Seth were not the same person, considering they don’t look that alike… wait, what? Anyway, Seth is already qualified for next year.
20. Jake Marshall
Writer’s block incarnate.
19. Jackson Baker
It’s funny to think about the idea of perfection as it changes across time. In the ‘90s, G-Land was considered a perfect wave, really, the gold standard, almost every video featuring Machado or Kalani Robb had a section of ‘em surfing it. Watching Jackson out there at this last contest, doing half turns, pumping furiously, bumping closeout sections on his backside, it’s amazing to see how off we were.
18. Caio Ibelli
Despite the lacklustre contest, the WSL can count the mid-year cut as a win. The new streamlined contest format makes things much more enjoyable, as now there are no rewards for not winning a heat like there are in the usual format, where second place is fine in a heat, and the result is a quicker death for under performers we’d rather not watch anyway. The only problem with the mid-year cut is that there should be another cut following it, of at least another four people at the end of the year. If you have to rig it so that you get rid of the worst four from only the results from the back half or some other convoluted way in order to oust Caio, you should just do it.
17. Kelly Slater
A last-place for Baldo at small G-Land was to be expected. I’d say we have three more contests until I’ll be excited to watch his heats unless he decides to ride a 5’2” oct-finned bogger at J-Bay. Nah, not even then.
16. Samuel Pupo
Beat Billy Goat Bob in the Elimination Round with a single digit heat score at the buzzer, surfing like your garden variety local ripper. If it weren’t for the last secondness of the wave, which artificially boosted his score for the purpose of creating manufactured drama, he should’ve lost. Unlike current Tour Golden Boy, Jack Robinson, his luck immediately ran out instead of lasting an additional heat.
15. Miguel Pupo
Very nice to see Thing 1 get back together with Thing 2 for the first time this year. Fun. He mustn’t have been too enthused about the surf. He probably would’ve done better had it been barreling, which reminds me, before the contest, wasn’t Richy Porta saying that the event would be tuberiding contest? Yeah, that was that.
14. Nat Young
After I sang his praises in the last instalment, Ol’ Grendl has to go and let me down at G-Land, losing to K-Hole on his backhand. Speaking of backhand surfing, Nat should be fine the rest of the year, able to harness the energy from his bulging thighs to monotonously and powerfully hump the midsection and blast the lip of every right he sees until Chopes and be rewarded with high scores.
13. Barron Mamiya
As much as I love watching Barron surf, dude got smashed by an on-fire Jadson in the Elimination Round. Rewatching their heat against each other, I came to the conclusion that Jaddy has a surf style oddly reminiscent of a mirrored aughties Kelly, all speed, “functional” stance, spastically long arms, a teetering on out-of-control approach, and power on top an eroding peninsula on the cranium. No shame in losing to the greatest. Hopefully, El Salvador is good and Barron’s able to light it up.
12. K-Hole Andino
Winner of the Heat for California: Mid-Tier Pro Division, K-Hole pulled ahead of Nat in the ratings. Is there a 949 beer? If so, K-Hole should advertise it.
11. Matthew McGillivray
Matty followed up his career-saving performance at Margs with another solid one, convincingly beating Caio and Ethan on his way to a quarterfinal result. While a good result, I mean, it’s not a last place, a quarterfinal in this format doesn’t mean much, unless you’re already in the Top 5, in which case, it’s pretty much imperative to make. It’s weird that in the new framework, nothing has been done about the points allotment. Last-place finishes should be severely punished. Also, non-elimination heats are still stupid.
10. Connor O’Leary
I’ve heard for years people clamoring for more rippable lefts on Tour to even the playing field for goofyfooted journeymen, who in most contests are forced to either surf on their backhand (allegedly harder) in fat or slightly overhead rights. Funny thing is, more rights on Tour is to their advantage, as they can repeatedly bash the lip with the same top turn and be rewarded, showing zero variety. Saying that, Connor is one of the few pleb goofies who would do better with more lefts, with enough variety in his turns to actually look nicer than a couple regular footed frontside check turns. None of the last-second pixie dust enjoyed by other surfers extended to him in his loss to Toledo in the semis.
9. Gabriel Medina
G-Land was a missed opportunity for Gabe. Really, he should have won the contest. If not for the favoritism to Jack by the judging panel for his last-second wave, he would’ve. Only getting 6085 points from the contest instead of the 10000 he would’ve for a win will make it a lot harder for him to make it to Trestles. He’ll need two or three wins to get himself into the Top 5 before year’s end. Let’s hope he does, so it blows up the Finals Day event concept.
8. Callum Robson
A disappointing result for Frosty Robson, who lost to Snake in the Elimination Round. His surfing can, especially in smaller waves, appear burdensome, at times his body bent as if he’s holding something heavy like a children’s illustrated atlas. Still ranked in the Top 10, look for the judges to keep the Morgan Magic going for him through J-Bay.
7. Ethan Ewing
Ethan lost but is still clinging on to a Top 5 spot. With John John out, he can breathe a little easier about keeping his spot, however, he will still have to fight with Griff, Kanoa, and Italo for one of three places. Working in his favor is the fact that he has the highest average score for all waves surfed among everyone on Tour, averaging 4.89 per every wave taken off on (approximately three-fifths of a point higher than the next Tour regular, Jack Robinson). He can make it through some heats with clunker waves, he just has to take off on some.
6. Italo Ferreira
Blitzing his opening round heat, it appeared like G-Land was going to be a great comp for Ike to “announce his intent” on the World Title in the words of announcer Richie Hat with a win. Alas, the waves turned to shit and he lost to Connor in the Round of 16 for a ninth place. Despite the result, I expect him to be able to push himself through to Trestles, much more easily than his non-Jack and Fil competitors. Why is he rated sixth? Because, out of the potential rivals for the last three spots, I think he has a worse chance of actually winning the whole thing should he get there not in first position (unlikely at this point). All it will take is one heat for him to go cold and he’s gone there… he does catch a lot of waves, though… no, not talking myself back in…
5. Kanoa Igarashi
Back in the Top 5, Kanoa is going to try to have to up his game and… sorry, I have nothing insightful to say about Kanoa.
4. Jadson Andre
Jaddy Boy had a great event, surfing like a small-wave, lessened, third iteration goofy-footed Slater on his way to a quarterfinal, where he lost to Titan Gabby. He was absolutely shredding (I had him winning his opening round heat against Ethan). I would like to say that I think he could’ve won the event had he gotten past Medina, but I know he probably would’ve lost to Jack, if not outright, then via some on-the-buzzer judging shenanigans. Whatever. It’s here that I will say that I imagine my repeated demonstrations of perverse infatuation with Jadson is probably like those people who keep asking you “isn’t he so cute?” about their nasty dog with the jacked up face and terrible personality. Again, whatever.
3. Griffin Colapinto
Despite a slow start to the year, Griff has started to look great, catching a bunch of waves, making heats he should, and always being willing to play along with the camera crew letting them into those inane conversations filled with empty coach speak and self-help trite that “mainstream” audiences just eat up. With the potential to win any event left, he can continue his upward trajectory in the WSL ratings. Unfortunately for him, he’s capped out here in my rankings unless he can bag a World Title.
2. Filipe Toledo
With his third final of the year, at a venue not many would’ve expected him to play the role of favorite, Fil remains on top of the WSL rankings. A frontrunner all year for me, with Gabe’s earlier than expected exit and his runner -up finish, I was inclined to put him at the top, but developments outside his control, consisting of Pritamo’s ever increasing lust for Jack Robinson, have forced me to place him at two. Three straight wins are not out of the question.
1. Jack Robinson
Does the WSL have a judging problem? Watching the final three heats of the contest at G-Land, all with last-second waves caught by trailing surfers, you’d not be wrong to think, “probably.” Jack’s scores appeared a little juiced, while Connor’s lowballed.
Is there some sort of directive to always give Robbo a boost, unduly skewing the scores in his favor? Without any of the judges coming out and saying so, that is impossible to prove, considering the highly subjective nature of determining what good, or at least better, surfing is. One person’s trash (cutbacks) is another’s treasure, blah, blah, blah. A narrative can be, and has been, put forth that sows doubt in everyone’s mind about the integrity of the judging.
That said, I decided to look into the data to see if Jack was potentially being judged differently than other competitors with the hypothesis that he is probably being judged by a tighter scale in terms that his wave scores will generally have a smaller spread than would be expected.
To do so, I plotted every single wave ridden on Tour this year (3438 in total) by score and the measure of dispersion (using Median Absolute Deviation) among the panel of judges examining each, all to get (Jack’s values highlighted):
Welp. I was really hopi… thinking that it was possible that his points would be clustered below the trendline, meaning his scores were tighter, but wuhhh… Cumulatively, he did have the third lowest value of Actual Deviation Minus Expected Deviation, but he also has ridden a ton more waves. The differences per wave are fractional and I’ve wasted my time and I’m not equipped to explain any of this.
It still makes sense to me that he gets a boost, though, mostly just because of what was shown about the judging process in Make or Break, where basically scores are shouted out by Pritamo, who then tells the others exactly which maneuvers are better, meaning that if Pri likes him, he gets a higher score. A fruitless expedition to try to prove, though.
Anyway, back-to-back event wins for Jack have him sniffing Fil’s fat ass, nose lodged firmly between the cheeks, in the race for the number one seed at Trestles.