Filipe Toledo and Tahiti Pro winner Italo Ferreira, a study in contrasts.
Filipe Toledo and Tahiti Pro winner Italo Ferreira, a study in contrasts.

Calls for Filipe Toledo to relinquish Paris 2024 spot become a roar after Olympic gold medallist Italo Ferreira wins Tahiti Pro

He ain't  gonna win, so why go?

The byzantine selection process for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, slammed as “colossal failure” after Filipe Toledo was selected for Team Brazil over Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira, has, again, come under scrutiny following Italo’s win at the Tahiti Pro earlier today. 

In perfect six-to-ten-foot surf, 2019 world champ Italo Ferreira mowed through an on-fire Ramzi Boukhiam, fellow Brazilian Yago Dora and contest favourite John John Florence to win the prestigious event. 

In the starkest of contrast, one week ago Filipe Toledo, whose zero point heat total at Teahupoo and failure to score a meaningful wave in a heat against Kelly Slater and Nathan Hedge in 2022, is the stuff of legend, posted footage of an incomplete tube ride on a four-foot wave.

“Quick trip to Teahupoo with Team Brazil,” wrote an upbeat Toledo, failing to mention his grave disappointment at split town before the arrival of a ten-foot swell, which was enjoyed by teenagers and girls alike, as well as yesterday and today’s pits. 

Toledo, you’ll remember, quit the tour earlier this year after the tour opener at Pipeline. After an embarrassing 1.77 heat total in perfect six-foot barrels, Toledo withdrew from the event citing an unspecified illness.

Soon after, he withdrew from the tour entirely. 

Despite a third place in small surf at Teahupoo, Filipe Toledo remains unsuited to a wave whose code has now been accessed by half a dozen of the women surfers on tour. 

“Everybody’s scared of this wave, they just don’t talk about it,” he told the Australian press in 2023. “We just man up and try not to show any weakness with it. Of course there’s people who deal with the fear a lot better. There’s guys who have been surfing these waves their whole life and they know that feeling and how to control it a lot better.

“You have to be smart about it too. There are risks when you surf this wave and when you’ve already qualified for the finals, you think about these things.”

On any sort of level, it makes considerable sense for Filipe Toledo to shuck his Olympic spot for Italo Ferreira, a switcharoo that benefits both men. Italo gets to defend his gold medal and Filipe is saved the mind-fuck of melting down in front of a worldwide audience. 

He ain’t  gonna win, so why go?

In an ironic twist, it was against Ferreira in 2015 where Toledo suffered the ignominy of becoming one of only two surfers in pro surfing history to paddle in from a heat without a wave being caught. 

“Fail-wise, it was just beyond epic,” the surfing historian Matt Warshaw told BeachGrit. “And so very public… Filipe’s deal is un-spinnable. He isn’t ready for prime time at Teahupoo… I’m his biggest north-of-50 fan, and I feel sort of crushed by what I saw.” 

I see three options for Filipe.

He hands his ticket to Italo and is lauded for his patriotism, kindness etc. He charges. Or he goes, prays for no swell, and somehow, hopefully, slinks away from the Olympics with whatever is left of his reputation. 

Tell me: you’re Filipe Toledo. What do you do? 

Italo Ferreira wins Tahiti Pro.
"Job done," says Italo Ferreira, Tahiti Pro winner.

Re-animated Italo Ferreira beats John John Florence to win Tahiti Pro

Brilliant, horrifying, absolutely impossible to turn away from unless one happens to be named brave coward Filipe Toldeo.

Teahupo’o, or Alter Head, now, according to famed linguist Kaipo Guerrero, was the star of the day that may well have been the day of the 2024 World Surf League Championship Tour men’s season. Brilliant, horrifying, absolutely impossible to turn away from unless one happens to be named brave coward Filipe Toledo.

The Surfline forecast came true, WSL jinxing didn’t take hold until the very end and, at that very end, Italo Ferreira got the trinkets.

Posterity will celebrate the winner but there were so many moments worth remembering through the run.

Kelly Slater got gorgeously cocky in his quarterfinal loss to the “Rockin’ Moroccan” Ramzi Boukhaim, styling on a bomb before getting eaten whole but was otherwise vintage, especially when conjuring a score out of thin air in the round of 16. Boukhaim was a revelation both in the water and in front of the mic only coming undone in the semis.

Gabriel Medina strained Yeti and the World Surf League’s collaboration, almost winning two of the coveted YETI Tundras. John John Florence claimed that he was spitting up blood after a heavy wipeout, though the revelation was not chased by the commentary team nor mentioned again.

Alter Head revisited.

The heat that everyone wanted, John Florence versus Gabe Medina fizzled at the start, needing a restart, with the winner waiting to take on a 75% stoke-ed Italo Ferreira. Viewers were treated to more linguistic stylings until Medina went down on a tank, bloodying himself, smiling. Florence followed with a gaping 9.77. Basically a 10.00 if they hadn’t been outlawed moments earlier. His second wave, nothing spectacular, put Medina into a hard combination as opposed to the soft varietal.

Medina was the surfer of the day and let posterity remember that.

But Ferreira and Florence met at the end of the end of the road.

Florence took off first and got busted, Ferreira followed on a “wave of the day” according to Jesse Mendes who, somehow, became the lesser of evils over the course of the aforementioned one. Unfortunately, the broadcast missed Ferreira’s next channel igniter which, essentially, ended it for Florence before it even began for him.

Mana gives and mana takes, apparently.

Medina, though.

My goodness.

Oh wait. Florence just shot out of a wild one and almost undid himself via claim.

Never mind.

Full wrap from JP Currie tomorrow.

Mihimana Braye (pictured) taking scalp of World no. 1 Griffin Colapinto.
Mihimana Braye (pictured) taking scalp of World no. 1 Griffin Colapinto.

World’s no. 1 and 2 Griffin Colapinto and Jack Robinson fall in Tahiti Pro as Teahupo’o delivers wild show

"Surf contests need waves, good ones. When this happens, everything falls away but the surfing itself."

I watched Teahupo’o from the back of my van last night, absent from my family home. An absence that was unforced but not unnecessary.

I parked in a clearing by a river in a treasured area of woodland. My own personal oasis where sunlit boughs of hazel shimmer and you are lulled to sleep by the final throes of water tumbling from the high glens, before merging into itself in the main river.

When I started this gig I would stay up all night to watch southern hemisphere comps then begin writing immediately. But that approach isn’t sustainable without whisky and cocaine, and those are not sustainable habits.

And so now I like to mull things over for an hour or four, to swish up the dirt, and when it settles to see it all the clearer.

This morning I ran into the woods. The air was thick with the leaden hum of insects among the stillness of the unbroken day. Chaffinches wittered to each other among Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir.

I moved into the undulations of the trail, hips swerving, shoulders dipping, mind beginning to blaze.

Wild thoughts. Unhinged fantasies. Reveries dripping and begging among the sap oozing pines.

I thought about Teahupo’o. I thought about Chris Cote.

I thought about the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness.

Rhododendrons thickened, clambering and choking everything around them. Their invasiveness offset by their prettiness, a cerise dreamscape masking the tangled, strangling roots.

Originally imported from Asia in days of Victorian decadence, today they’re everywhere in Scotland, spread through the countryside like a poisonous confetti.

And I thought about how often we fall for beautiful, dangerous things.

I ran through a stretch of trail that winds among an old stand of Scots Pine. Many of them were dying. Rhododendrons clawed at them. Ashen, bark-stripped trunks screamed into a listless sky.

I turned this last image over in my mind as I ran, shaping the words to describe it like clay. I was consumed by reverie, flitting through a fantasy of my own design, tumbling through the beauty of it all like an astronaut without a ship.

And then, reader, I fell.

My feet disappeared from under me, swiped by a wet root, and for a moment I was weightless, before hitting the ground with some force.

I felt it was significant, this return to ground. A sign. Momentarily stunned, I recognised the inevitably of falling when trapped in the pursuit of beautiful things.

Beauty is deadly. Yet we will always chase it. It’s nature’s kill switch.

And once you understand this, all that’s left to do is weigh up if it’s worth it.

Is momentary bliss, fraught with danger, an acceptable trade for safe but enduring mundanity?

Those surfers at The End Of The Road, flinging themselves into the maw surely believe the answer is yes. The reward for commitment to one of those waves can only be theorised by the likes of me.

Both Jake Marshall and Cole Houshmand claimed they had ridden the waves of their life today. Young men they may be, but this should not lessen their claim.

There could be few complaints from anyone at Teahupo’o, once again exemplifying the lesson that hardly bears repeating: surf contests need waves, good ones. When this happens, everything falls away but the surfing itself.

Half of the eight men’s elimination heats were decided by less than a point.

Approaches to the heaving Pacific tubes varied from finesse to flagrant recklessness. For examples of the latter see Ramzi Boukhiam’s 9.13 against Liam O’Brien, and Cole Houshmand’s 9.57, both of which saw the men escape foamballs like they were fleeing the darkest depths of their souls.

For the finesse, see Yago Dora’s victory over Jack Robinson, who will surely be stewing at not going further here. The heat might have gone either way, but Dora sealed it late by taking off deeper than anyone had attempted to this point and threading a noticeably longer tube.

Liam O’Brien was similarly stylish in losing to Boukhiam. The margin between the two just 0.12 points. It was hair splitting between two committed surfers, which never feels entirely just.

The most assured victory of the day went to Barron Mamiya in his win over Matt McGilivray. Mamiya looked as comfortable as you might expect a Hawaiian Pipe specialist to be, notching his 16.83 heat total with his first two waves in the opening minutes of the heat. His rhythm was palpable, despite citing nerves in his post-heat interview.

But the jist of the day was very much blissed out gratitude. There was a sense that everyone involved with this Tour was relieved to see good waves for once.

For some, they were beautiful waves.

And even if the pursuit of beauty is reckless, or consequential, or even if it’s only temporary, to hold it in your hand, just for a moment, is surely worth it.

Open Thread: Comment Live on Finals Day of the Tahiti Pro

History will be made.

Glee in Tokyo.
Glee in Tokyo.

Official 2024 Olympic surfing heat draw announced teeing off wild celebration in Japan

"We got Pip! We got Pip!"

We surf fans are currently in the throes of thrill what with Teahupo’o putting on a spectacular show, yesterday, with more on tap for today. It is nearly impossible to look away from “head place,” as Kaipo Guerrero translated yesterday whilst perched in the brand new aluminum tower dug right into the reef, and, majestically, a whole ‘nother Teahupo’o event is just around the corner.

As you well know, Paris was gifted the 2024 Olympic Games years ago and chose to conduct the surfing component in its Polynesian territories.And, yesterday, the official heat draw was announced.

On the women’s side…

Heat 1: Yolanda Hopkins (POR), Caroline Marks (USA), Sarah Baum (RSA)
Heat 2: Sol Aguirre (PER), Janire Etxabarri (ESP), Vahine Fierro (FRA)
Heat 3: Anat Lelior (ISR), Sanoa Dempfle-Olin (CAN), Tyler Wright (AUS)
Heat 4: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Molly Picklum (AUS), Caitlin Simmers (USA)
Heat 5: Johanne Defay (FRA), Brisa Hennessy (CRC), Candelaria Resano (NCA)
Heat 6: Tainá Hinckel (BRA), Camila Kemp (GER), Luana Silva (BRA)
Heat 7: Nadia Erostarbe (ESP), Siqi Yang (CHN), Saffi Vette (NZL)
Heat 8: Carissa Moore (USA), Teresa Bonvalot (POR), Matsuda Shino (JPN)

And for the men…

Heat 1: Ethan Ewing (AUS), Tim Elter (GER), Jordy Smith (RSA)
Heat 2: Joan Duru (FRA), Jack Robinson (AUS), Matthew McGillivray (RSA)
Heat 3: Alonso Correa (PER), Filipe Toledo (BRA), Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Connor O’Leary (JPN), Bryan Perez (ESA)
Heat 5: Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR), Billy Stairmand (NZL), João Chianca (BRA)
Heat 6: Andy Criere (ESP), John John Florence (USA), Alan Cleland (MAR)
Heat 7: Kauli Vaast (FRA), Lucca Mesinas (PER), Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Heat 8: Rio Waida (INA), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), Inaba Reo (JPN)

It must be assumed that the streets of Tokyo were packed with revelers last night, celebrating last Olympic’s silver medalist Kanoa Igarashi heat three score of Filipe Toledo. The timid world champion has a long history of failing to paddle at Head Place all but guaranteeing Japan advancing to the bracket stage.

Other notable draws include heat 4, for the women, which rudely pits Tati Weston-Webb against Molly Picklum and Cait Simmers.

Which are you most looking forward to?