Even if Toledo deserves the title on the day it will leave a sour taste in the mouths of some. Don’t be surprised if this sways the judges.
The end of the year is upon us. A time to reflect, a time to heal. But not before we deal with the immediate future, the big hurrah: The Final Five at Trestles’ famed and overrated cobblestones!
Try as they might, the WSL just don’t seem able to conjure any anticipation for this, their grand showcase. Everything they do seems flimsy, somehow. More chintzy high school prom than world title showdown.
Has your phone been buzzing away with god-awful WSL notifications too?
How bad is that content? How can it be so bad?
So busy. Such blandness. Such sanitised, homogenous pish.
Whatever happens next within that organisation, they need to hire some professionals, ideally people who actually surf and care. The quality of their media output is so lacklustre, so amateur, that I almost never look at it. Which leaves me wondering: who is? I mean, it’s part of my job to take an interest in this stuff, but they offer nothing of substance, and nothing that doesn’t come with a sheen of try-hard flimsiness.
What about those jerseys? Are they the most embarrassing merchandise ever cooked up by an apparently professional sporting organisation? You’d be forgiven for assuming that all creative work had already been outsourced to a primitive chatbot. If not, it should be.
And the practice session stream…what the actual fuck was that? Aside from Erin Brooks, who seems quite lovely, it was an abomination.
Clearly, the WSL still has a serious identity crisis. It doesn’t know if it’s they, them or ze. It’s an ongoing problem for pro surfing, but not more so than in the last couple of years. It’s not serious or organised enough to be defined as a proper sport (and the cap don’t really fit) but embracing the stoner Cali vibe just makes it look like an idiot.
Regardless, we’ll watch the Finals in spite of them, and here’s what to make of the men:
When my partner was pregnant she lost an entire load of washing. She found it later. In the freezer, obviously.
Another morning she texted me in a panic from work. Had I seen her phone? Had she left it in the van when I’d dropped her off? She couldn’t find it anywhere!
Have you checked your hand? I asked.
Baby brain’s a real thing. For someone like Jack, who likes (needs) to keep a tight leash on the mush between his ears, it could be a killer.
As a man and a surfer, I’m a fan. This Tour is better for the presence of Jack Robinson, his tube wizardry, and his latent psychopathy.
Does any of that mean I think he can beat Ethan, Griff or Filipe at Trestles? Not likely.
And he does need to have a word with whoever is advising him on the non-endemic fashion alignments and his general social media output, because it is crrriiiiiinnngggeee. “Reminiscing on my first times in the ocean with the clean scent of #PoloBlue” he says in one post, whilst wearing an unbuttoned white shirt, holding a bottle of aftershave and looking constipated.
See you next year, Jack. Your washing’s in the freezer.
Joao announced himself on Tour this year with great vengeance and furious anger by hammering and slicing his way to world number one in the early part of the season. Three semi-finals and a victory in the first five events is no fluke.
There remains the sense that Chianca will be most at home in meaty waves rather than dribbly cobblestone points, and taking the title at Trestles from his position seems unlikely. But it won’t be his last shot. Though a little skittish and elbowy at times, Chianca attacks sections like they killed his pets.
I find Joao an intriguing character. The contrast between his softly spoken interviews, where he professes gratitude and humility, and his tear-your-face-off, paddle around, over, up and in you approach in the water is truly fascinating. He comes from the Brazilian school of surfing that enjoys blood in the water, it doesn’t matter who it belongs to. If we had a whole Tour of guys like this pro surfing would be a mainstream sport.
He said it best himself: cold blood, warm heart. (Though I’m not totally buying the latter.)
Don’t be surprised if he wins his first match-up against Robinson through sheer force of animal energy. If you believe in more, bet on it. You’ll get 25/1 and more from most bookmakers.
If you’d asked me about Ewing’s chances a week ago I’d have told you they were adjacent to zero. Not because he supposedly had a broken back (medical marvel or misreported?) but because I just don’t think he has the game to tackle Filipe in small to medium waves.
However, to Antipodean delight, I’ve got a little inkling that we might see Ewing make it all the way to a match-up with Filipe after all.
Beyond the capacity for superhuman healing, Ewing has otherworldly, picture-perfect style that make fifty-year-old men weak at the knees. And, as has been well established throughout the course of this season, the judges (and the surf industry, for that matter) are largely men in their fifties and sixties. Ethan might as well be a winsome blonde au pair.
He’d be a popular world champ, a victory for aesthetics and eugenics. He can lay a surfboard on a rail like almost no-one else in the world.
Unfortunately Filipe Toledo is almost no-one else.
Little Griff has won my heart this year. Underneath all the self-help psychobabble there’s just a homeschooled simpleton waiting to break free, eat crisp sandwiches and rub Nutella all over his face.
Only the sourest of pusses (or Brazilian fans) could dislike Griffin, smiling widely and nodding along to his little rap beats, imagining he’s straight gangster. To be fair, men like him have propped up the rap industry for years. Nothing quite says gangster like homeschooling, golf carts, and second and third homes at the beach.
Regardless, he’s here on merit. He has the game to beat Filipe, and homefield advantage. More importantly, Toledo knows it.
And if he doesn’t? Well we can read all about it in pidgin English on Instagram, via a photo of a crumpled diary piece covered in snot and tears.
For most, Filipe has been a lock for this world title all year. Not just because he’s our reigning champ, but because no-one in the world generates speed and explosiveness in small to medium waves like he does.
I like the big hair he’s sporting this season. I like that he looks like a grubby little taxi driver, with eyes that will almost certainly rob you. But above all I like how fast he goes, how he generates speed like he has jets.
And I especially admire his sickle-like turns. And yes, they are as good as Ethan’s. Not quite as stylish, perhaps, but technically perfect.
He’ll need to sound out the judges. Do they want carves and flow? Or would they prefer some balls-out aerials? No matter for Filipe, he can do it all. If he puts his laces through one early it’s game over. If Griff or Ethan get a jump on him we’ll be in for a match.
But even if Toledo deserves the title on the day (and because he’s earned the number one spot this season) it will leave a sour taste in the mouths of some. Don’t be surprised if this sentiment bubbling below the surface sways the judges into some controversial decisions.
Don’t be surprised if we have a world title marred by judging controversy. Wouldn’t that be an appropriate reflection of the season and the organisation?
Ironically, as a distraction from the gaudy production, it might also be the best thing for them.
I’m off to place some bets.