The entirety of the scoring criteria for the season to date is to be scrapped. One manoeuvre waves are the order of the day.
Not perhaps a day for the annals of surf history, but not without interest either.
I do enjoy Rio. The fans (real, as opposed to a WSL figment) make it seem like there’s something at stake, even if there isn’t.
Pre-comp, the ghost of judges past, Richie Porta, informed us via a short video clip posted to the WSL channels what the judges “may” be looking for. But if the wording was noncommittal, the examples given certainly were not.
The first was Carissa, scoring 9.5 for two solid yet unflashy backhand snaps. In light of the recent scoring debacles it was more than a little jarring. I wondered briefly if Porta was mocking us.
Is he even employed by the WSL anymore? In what capacity? Or has he just run off with the keys and is posting these things for his own titillation whilst still (apparently) under house arrest?
The second example given was an 8.67 for Italo for a well-executed backhand rotation of the type he can do to a tune. If this sort of surfing scores high eights then there can’t be many safer surfers to bet on here than Ferreira.
The third example was Filipe, in last year’s final I believe, getting a ten for a single aerial.
It seems that in Rio the entirety of the scoring criteria for the season to date is to be scrapped. One manoeuvre waves are the order of the day.
Given the recent furore about progression and above the lip surfing being unrewarded in favour of flow, it beggars belief that this is where we are. It’s a judging aneurysm that takes a special kind of doublethink to understand. No wonder the athletes are confused. I can’t think of another sport where the success criteria is in such constant state of flux.
Or perhaps it’s just WSL capitulation to the global superpower that is Brazilian surfing. ELo flew in as an envoy, joining the booth today to wax lyrical about Rio as a surf destination and how absolutely awfully fantastically spiffingly wonderful the people are.
There was some classic ELo awkwardness, of course, when he referenced Tatiana Weston Webb, “or ‘Tati’ as they call her here” in a half-questioning tone, turning to Jesse Mendes for reassurance, as if the abbreviation of her name was some kind of obscure or sordid nickname.
Maybe he’ll be wearing a t-shirt with her tatis on it next.
And where, pray tell, is JMD? Conspicuous in her absence, if not missed, there is no explanation for her recent disappearance.
But onto the surfing.
Rio Waida’s airy style very nearly saw him through the first heat of the day, if not for a buzzer beater win for Ethan Ewing who squeaked into first place by just 0.07 points.
The red jerseys of top seeds Chianca and Toledo took the next two heats, though the latter was run close by a sparky Sammy Pupo, who, upon seeing, I realised I’ve actually quite missed. In general I’m supportive of the mid-season cut, but there will always be one or two surfers on the wrong side of it who seem more unlucky than lacking quality. Sammy Pupo exemplifies that emerging archetype, just as Chianca did last year.
In a rare useful statistic from the broadcast team we were reminded (listen up, degenerate gamblers) that Filipe Toledo has won four from eight competitions here, and has an 83% heat winning percentage. Impressive. Enough for Mitch to claim it was the most dominant any surfer in history has been at one location. I’m not sure about that. Not because I have a counter-argument to hand, but just because Salazar is increasingly full of shite.
Which reminds me, I twigged today one of the things that niggles me about Joe Turpel. It’s the gross segues where he infers things that people do once are things they do all the time. For example, he might say something like: “Liam O’Brien. What a guy. Great hair. And now he’s using that hair to defeat number one ranked surfers in the world on the Championship Tour!”
Yago Dora and Italo Ferreira were impressive as expected in opening round victories, so too Medina who narrowly lost out to Dora.
But the highest heat total of the day went to a perhaps less fancied John Florence, courtesy of a nine point ride for a single backside alley-oop, as prophesied by Richie Porta.
The air was solid enough and with impressive altitude, but it was one manoeuvre on a fading swell, and to my eye not as good as similar airs from both Italo and Yago that scored less.
But it was good to see John get a victory and find a little verve that’s been hard to come by recently. I wondered, as I saw him pre-heat with Ross Williams, if that coaching partnership is really the right one for him. Florence clearly needs no coaching in terms of talent, but I’d guess he does need a very specific kind of motivational coach. I wouldn’t be so bold as to guess what that looks like. Maybe Williams is it. But I wonder if trying something different might reignite the spark that’s been missing from his competitive surfing.
Looking ahead, on evidence of the standards set by today’s scoring we can expect lots of hucking and hoping from here on in.
Money on Ferreira and Dora. Outside bets on Waida.