Maybe world number one not scared of Teahupoo but smarter than you think!
Earlier today, surf fans were shocked, but not surprised, I suppose, by the world number one surfer Filipe Toledo’s stunning choke at four-to-eight-foot Teahupoo, a reprise of his “stunning act of cowardice” from 2105 when he failed to catch even one wave in a heat there.
As Chas Smith wrote at the time, “Is not taking off on a wave in a WSL heat, in front of the world, the bravest thing ever?
Seven years is a long time and it might’ve been expected that Toledo, now twenty-seven and a favourite to win the world title at Lowers in September, would’ve become a little more comfortable at this difficult wave.
What value does a world title hold if you can’t surf the tour’s most demanding wave?
Instead, “Slater and Hedge traded waves, big and perfect, one after the other after the other with Toledo holding priority well out the back, refusing to paddle, one after the other after the other.”
With fifty seconds left, Toledo found a small wave on the inside, riding it to the channel for a 1.87.
But while fans and the press called it a fear-induced choke and as Toledo punched his board in the channel, at least one surfing notable, the commentator Chris Coté, theorised Toledo didn’t catch a wave worth a damn because he was keeping himself in cotton wool for Finals Day in September.
“I’m wondering if he’s actually being smart and playing the long game,” tweeted Coté. “Not risking injury in a non-elimination round heat when he’s already locked in to the final five? I respect that.”
Holes were quickly jabbed into the theory by surf fans,.
“Why even show up at Chopes then??” tweeted one. “Could have been at home training at Lowers this whole time. Imagine if no Finals day was taking place, he would lose his title to Jack today in the water. IMO – if he does win the title this year, it’s not as valid if he can’t send it at Chopes.”
Toledo salvaged some pride in his elimination heat against Nathan Hedge. Although he lost, Toledo scraped into a couple of medium-sized waves and rode ‘em beautifully for a pair of sevens.
A few years back, BeachGrit worked with a Toledo on his battle with fear, the film, we hoped, climaxing with Toledo paddling into a ten-footer at Teahupoo, emerging to indelicate screaming and a besmirched reputation wiped clean.
It was a project that had so many false starts, trips to Tahiti, missing swells and back and forthing that it was eventually shelved.
We cut the original feature back, stripped it to the original interview and sprinkled a little fairy dust here and there for a treatise on fear never conquered.