"I’m convinced Jack Robinson feels he can bend things to his will, waves, judges, heats. But this time it wasn’t to be."
When the two Australian hangers on, Robson and O’Leary, had finally been dispatched, and we reached a conclusion that felt somehow inevitable from the outset, the first all-Brazilian finals day since 1963, some things became clear.
Firstly, and most importantly, it was clear why we’ve reached this point.
It’s not because there’s a home-field advantage, or that the fans are baying lunatics.
And it’s not because the waves are shit.
There’s no problem with the country or competition.
It’s not even god’s work.
It’s simply because Brazilians are the best surfers.
Toledo and Ferreira can final anywhere, as we know, but Sammy Pupo and Yago Dora look like they belong, too.
We know Dora is capable of excellence in any conditions. His competitive mettle might still be questioned, but he’s given a good account of himself so far, especially given recent injury history.
Sammy Pupo is still a little green, as all rookies are, but he looks as well rounded in skills as anyone, and perhaps has a tantalising mix of fire and composure.
Much has been made of the Brazilian camaraderie on Tour this year. Although this is hardly new, it does seem more potent than ever in producing hungry, competitive surfers with a clear groundswell of energy behind them.
Compare the situation of the Brazilian surfers to that of Nat Young and Jake Marshall, for example. By all accounts their main support network in Brazil is simply each other.
But it’s not just because we’re in Brazil that this energy is apparent among those in green and gold. All year long they’ve stayed together, trained together, eaten together, and supported each member of the pack when he breaks off to hunt down a heat victory.
It must be intimidating to go up against them when each is borne on a thrumming tide of support.
How else do we explain the career-best performances of the likes of Miggy Pupo and Jadson Andre?
My other recognition was just how much the WSL needs Brazil.
Surfing in Brazil is too important for the WSL to neglect. Moreover, the fans deserve better than surfers opting out with questionable injuries or visa issues.
In the absence of proof, these surfers should be fined going forward.
Why would you not go where the fans are? In sports, sometimes you just need to give people what they want. That’s part of your job.
The job looked tough today. It was a big playing field, as they say. Lots of water moving, as they also say.
Rippy, backwashy. Likely as hard to surf as it was to watch.
Lefts were all that was on offer but they were of dubious quality. Surfers struggled to find positions among shifting peaks.
It felt longer than a two-day lay off when proceedings began. It’s hard not to lose impetus when something is so stop-start, nevermind if that something is supposed elite sporting competition.
And if it’s hard for us as fans, imagine how the surfers feel.
How do you maintain a game-face over multiple days of being at a loose end?
I found myself wondering about ways to change it, ways to stop the athletes and fans becoming disengaged. Same conclusions as it ever was: a smaller field, and/or strike missions, and/or artificial waves.
The other option is to embrace what we have. Make something of it, make it a point of difference among other sports.
I confess to having no idea what this looks like. Hopefully not Kaipo doing adverts.
A man far more composed today was Jack Robinson, despite a round of 16 loss that could’ve gone either way.
Just 0.07 points separated him from Mateus Herdy when the 7.07 he waited for on the sand came in as a flat seven.
Given what we’ve seen from Robinson all year, I was ready to believe. Joe and Pete were, too. Uncharacteristically for Joe, he unequivocally stated his belief that Jack had achieved the score he needed right on the buzzer.
Robinson went through his routine. First he crouched with the board across his lap and his head bowed. Then he turned and walked, straight shouldered, towards the athlete area, before stopping and closing his eyes again, murmuring incantations.
I’m convinced he feels he can bend things to his will, waves, judges, heats. But this time it wasn’t to be. He was chillingly gracious and professional in his post-heat interview, accepting of the decisions and the result.
More uncertain was a scoring oddity that happened in the round of 16 match-up between Dora and Ewing.
Take note, conspiracy theorists
With about 21.43 left in the heat, Dora was awarded a 7.27.
Except a couple of seconds later the score magically changed to a 7.23?!
Go and watch it for yourself.
It made no difference to the outcome of the heat, and didn’t even shift things in the moment, but it was bizarre.
Filipe and Italo both marched through confidently from their heats today.
At some point, and to no-one’s surprise (except, clearly, him) Filipe was announced as having qualified for the final 5. It was an emotional moment (for him).
He cried, he prayed.
Kaipo said his success is due to a “love bubble” around him.
I don’t know what he meant but it sounds gross.
As for Italo, twice today in interviews with Luisa, he was strange and shaky. The closest approximation I could make of his countenance was that of a junkie in the morning queue for methadone. He put it down to cold, saying he doesn’t like to surf in a wetsuit, but it was unnerving.
But he’s through, along with his brethren.
At the close of play today, as Yago Dora arrived on the beach, having vanquished the great white hopes of Callum Robson, the sun dipped, and Robson was reduced to a silhouetted head, floating in a blazing orange sunset.
A lone Australian, cast adrift as a sea of fans cheered his loss wildly from the shore.
The crowd chanted the seconds as the clock counted down.
And for once, it felt like a sport people cared about.