A new day has dawned, both literally and metaphorically, in competitive professional surfing. A figurative turning of the page but maybe also a literal one there, too, if you so happened to print out the MEO Rip Curl Portugal Pro’s heat sheets on real paper in order to parse what actually transpired during the finals.
Conditions? The water was “heavy” according to Peter Mel, “six to eight foot full on crazy beachbreak,” and did not look particularly inviting, many rips, much sand filtering through square barrels, though the sun shone and the beach crowd made happy noises, packed shoulder to shoulder, dreams of caldeirada dancing in their heads.
Griffin stunned Gabriel in their round of 16 heat, bagging a spicy meatball with minutes left on the clock to send the former champion to his exit though couldn’t muster the same magic in the quarters, including a .97 in his score line against Yago Dora. Dora, who had axed Italo Ferreira in his round of 16 showing then took Colapinto’s mangy scalp could not stand against the self-realized Jack Robinson, who arrived into the finals all calm and collected.
On the other side, Joao “Chumbawamba” Chianca drank a whisky drink in beating “Mr. 10” Connor O’Leary in the quarters then drank a lager drink in beating Callum Robson in the semis to arrive, chin to chin, with Robinson in the aforementioned ender. Let us recall, as well, that it was Chianca who put an early finish to Kelly Slater, pushing the world’s greatest surfer to the dreaded midseason cut line.
Portugal’s president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa showed up to witness the finals live and in person no doubt infuriating World Surf League twin Chiefs Erik Logan and Jessi Miley-Dyer as they had decided to forego the event in order to fete themselves in Austin, Texas. Imagine how much social media praise the two could have heaped upon themselves, shoulder to shoulder with elected sovereignty. Imagine the tight shakas and tighter smiles.
Those finals, in any case, kicked off in the “best surf of the whole competition.” Mel announced that “it seems we are witnessing the future of professional surfing right here” in the form of Chumbawamba and Robbo and it didn’t seem patently ludicrous.
Robinson struck first, a small-ish barrel to floater. Chianca one-upped him directly with an air drop to a square pit. Neither looked exhausted even though they had each surfed multiple hours in shifting chilly peaks. Three forty minute heats. Back and forth they went as the tide filled in, Jesse Mendes surprising with a warm tone and fine insight alongside Mel and Kaipo Guerrero in the booth.
With eighteen minutes and change, Chianca had Robinson combinationed, living in combolandia, needing two scores in order to overcome and win.
Chianca kept the pedal to the medal, providing no quarter, building a score total including a nine plus rides plus eights etc. too and with ten minutes left, Robinson was all but finished.
Robinson bagged a solid right, near the end, just after yet another Chianca left, who sat out the back claiming his to be a ten.
With Chianca’s win, the stage is set perfectly for him and other all-around greats, surfers who both charge the big and fly in the little, to become undone by Filipe Toledo at Lower Trestles Final’s Day even though they will have him beat, badly, point-wise and even though he will refuse to paddle Teahupo’o.