Finals Series Decides Ultimate Surfers

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Form Guide

I’m struck by cognitive dissonance this morning.

Two conflicting thoughts are fighting for primacy upstairs.

- The Woz are an embarrassment to the sport.

- The Woz are fearless innovators.

On the one hand they’ve gone all in on ‘Ultimate Surfer’, which is the last word in disaster viewing; a beyond-ironic caricature of surfing where the skits are as authentic as the ocean they surf in.

And on the other hand, today they crowned an ultimate surfer - two in fact - via the Finals Series at Trestles, an untried concept in surfing and one that attracted a raft of criticism, yet in execution worked wonderfully.

Today, Gabriel Medina secured his third world title

As has been mentioned on Swellnet before, the conversation to put the last two surfers into the water at the same time began the same year the Woz bought the ASP. That was 2013 when Kelly Slater fell one heat short of the title, which instead was held aloft by Mick Fanning before second place Slater even hit the water.

The conversation got louder in the intervening years and despite Italo vs Gabs in 2019 being one of the great winner-takes-all Pipeline finals, in mid-2020 the Woz, now under the auspices of dayglo Erik 'Elo' Logan, announced the Finals Series.

Pro surfing has had contests decided by best-of-three finals before, they were common through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but this was the first time since the tour began in 1976 that the world title was decided by a one-day contest.

“What if fifth place gets on a roll and wins the day and the title,” was a common complaint - though not so much from Australians as Morgs was in fifth - and even Gabs opposed the format, telling the New York Times:

“I don’t like it because I don’t think it’s fair. You spend your life, a year-long, and now the last event in September, you’re gonna decide all your year?

Yet the fairness of the old system - a clutch comp at Pipe with wildcards in the draw - was also questionable, as Joel Pakinson well knows. In 2009, after winning three of the first five contests and leading going into Pipe, Parko was knocked out of title contention by little-known Gavin Gillette, then placed 388 in the world.

"To have it stolen from under you like Joel just did, it's got to be pretty disheartening for Joel right now," Slater said after that incident.

Today there were no wildcards, only the top five men and women, and it was engineered so that first place has a distinct advantage: they're seeded directly into the finals so surf fewer times, but nor does it come down to the luck of one single heat.

Cushioned by the format, Carissa Moore came back from losing her opening heat to win her fifth world title

After fog cancelled yesterday’s planned surfing, what could’ve been a disaster turned into a blessing as the waves were better and during the business end broke under brilliant blue skies. And the surfing unfolded much like the format promised with each heat getting progressively better and more exciting - there was even a shark scare to secure those MSM headlines.

In both the men’s and women, the Woz must feel vindicated that Gabs and Carissa - the two leading surfers going into Trestles - won on the day. Yet even more so, that the best-of-three final format allowed Carissa to prevail after an opening dud heat.

No doubt there were mitigating factors for choosing Trestles: close to Woz HQ, same goes surf industry, it's in season in September, while SoCal has minimal COVID restrictions, and as a proof of concept there’s no reason it couldn’t work at even better venues. Try as I might, I can’t think of a location where the format would fall down.

So this is it then. The Woz have determined their ultimate surfers, and they’ve done it in a fair and exciting manner. Everyone’s a winner. We can all agree on that, yes?

Next step, kill the Ultimate Surfer, and this won’t be the last Woz-positive opinion piece you’ll read on Swellnet.

Postscript: As for Pipe, which has closed 27 years of the pro tour’s 45 seasons, it’ll now act as the opener, the spectacle relying more on the quality of the wave than the final rankings it used to determine. It’ll also drop both the ‘Masters’ tag - it’s just the Billabong Pipe Pro now - and the wildcard entries. As for wave quality: late January, height of the season, no sand on the reef, the timing is great.

Comments

Rusty Forest's picture
Rusty Forest's picture
Rusty Forest Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 11:42am

Carissa on Bertlman styled board art, and body torque in that photo!!

calk's picture
calk's picture
calk Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 2:01pm

It reminds me a lot of Slater's Al Merrick. Seventh board down on this link:

http://surfboardline.com/kelly-slater/

Maybe it was inspired by Bertlmann?

Rusty Forest's picture
Rusty Forest's picture
Rusty Forest Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 2:54pm

Maybe indeed. I would like to think they are both nodding to a great innovator.

abc-od's picture
abc-od's picture
abc-od Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 12:18pm

I was a doubter...think I even criticised it in here!...but I really enjoyed the format. Except for the timezone. Next time Indonesia?

etarip's picture
etarip's picture
etarip Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 1:17pm

I think Indonesia might *just* work for US prime time, if that’s the market. 7am kick off in Indo would be 5pm in LA.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 1:38pm

Was an epic night/ morning of surf fandom.

You want the best surfers in the world going hammer and tong in excellent waves trying to outdo the man / woman trying to push them out of the spotlight ? Here you go . Get it up ya. Relentless, mindless slashing.

Great fun.

Still going. Got to belt a few lips between then and now . Not much option but to stay awake and crack another coldie or two until the days done. Pretty epic day all up.

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 1:36pm

Shame the best surfer in the world wasn't there.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 1:40pm

Silver Surfer isn’t human, cobber. He doesn’t count.

Unless you mean Lash Clone or The Pig of Steel ?

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 2:06pm

Bumfluff man of course, perhaps that's where his power comes from.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 5:13pm

Forgot about him!

I don’t think he’s in the mix at trestles. Maybe I’m out of the loop? I still think Toledo was unbeatable!

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango Friday, 17 Sep 2021 at 11:41pm

Lash Clone vs Pig of Steel....now there's a contest I'd watch.

david de Figueiredo's picture
david de Figueiredo's picture
david de Figueiredo Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 12:04pm

Who's that?

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 1:48pm

I’m calling that Trestles in today’s form is more entertaining than any perfectly foiled reef wave in Indo.

I don’t need or want the best in the world parking themselves in perfect pits. Any bastard can do that. I want to see them either throttling superhuman ledge caverns or expanding on what humans believe is capable on a surfboard in ultra rippable waves like those today.

How’s the difference between the surging you saw in the lead up to the comp and the surfing during today? That’s the sole benefit of competitive surfing right there…..fuckers pushing each other out of their skin.

palpacino's picture
palpacino's picture
palpacino Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 2:33pm

Did you catch Nick Van Rump’s clip at perfect empty 6ft Macca’s Blowin?

Imagine today in those hi-fi waves!

Plus it would be evening East Coast OZ. Ice cold Dan Murphy’s Bintangs to wash down the Woolies bought Mi Goreng.
I’m there!

Roadkill's picture
Roadkill's picture
Roadkill Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 1:54pm

I loved it but the format in as much it was deciding a world champ was wrong.

Gabs was so far in front for the year points wise…yet Cibilic could have won and be crowned world champ. That is the part they need to address.

Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67 Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 5:26pm

Harsh RK. Morgs earned his top five spot as much as Jaddy earned his CT ticket requalifying via the QS over and over... hate the game not the player. Just sayin

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 6:00pm

I think he is?

Roadkill's picture
Roadkill's picture
Roadkill Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 6:30am

Yep…my comment was 100% about the game and not the player.

david de Figueiredo's picture
david de Figueiredo's picture
david de Figueiredo Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 12:08pm

I agree totally, he'd already won the title on points alone!

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 1:54pm

thats true but only for Gabe and Toledo.

everyone else was pretty ordinary.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 2:45pm

the other thing: did they get the right Top 5?

Connor and Morgs were really making up the numbers without an air game.

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 6:19pm

The top 5 was the top 5 wasn’t it.

Looking just below though and I imagine the likes of Yago, Griffen Cola and Kanoa wouldve had a day out at that kind of trestles.

I don’t see the Conner hype. Nor do I like the style of Morgs. With nothing against rail surfing (I love it), their games might be obsolete in 2022 and beyond

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 4:34pm

Missed the majority of it but watched from 6:00am onwards.

If it was at pipe/backdoor it would have been good, i like the best of three heats thing, but such an anticlimax at Trestles, Pipe/Backdoor should always be the last comp.

Much prefer Toledos variety and style to Gabs, but Gabs was the clear winner, Toledo just didnt have his mojo going.

I love quads but i dont think it was a good choice for Toledo, im not sure he would have lost control so much on a thruster, i think thats one of quads downfall, lack of control if push them too hard.

What Kelly says about the tail lifting makes sense.

BTW. Completely agree with Roadkill comment just above too.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 7:02pm

In the lead up free surfs Medina dominated over the last week. Made waves from any take off position, in, around, over, above any section that came his way, then hooks and slashes in the right spots. Speed out of nowhere. On the spot for peaks, big sets, wide ones - all in a super crowded line up.

The alpha surfer at the moment.

The video is worth a watch to see Medina take over the line up by sheer talent, paddle speed, being on the spot every time and everyone being in awe.

Kelly barely makes a presence despite the video title

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 7:14pm

Bet the locals loved having him out there on the peak.
Must be full snapper rules out there eh?

david de Figueiredo's picture
david de Figueiredo's picture
david de Figueiredo Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 12:14pm

Haha, solitude, I like the comment the Snapper rules!

greg-n.williams's picture
greg-n.williams's picture
greg-n.williams Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 7:17pm

By far the best surfing was by Toledo against Italo! Toledo seem to peak in that heat! Congrats to both world champs at the end of the day both No1's prevailed!

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 7:25pm

I read an interview with Medina after he had one 2 titles. He was asked, what do you want to achieve in the sport. He said, I want to win 3 world titles like my hero, Mick Fanning.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 8:20pm

Mick fanning has huge respect for Medina. When commentating he said Medina was just solid muscle, can out paddle anyone, recover from moves with super core strength and has so much variety of moves.

Style not as good as JJ or Toledo.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 8:37pm

Just watched the replays Gabe and Flippy ripped the bags out of the those soft waves. If Flippy could adapt some of his turns to larger heavier conditions he could nail a world title. Thought his rail surfing had more variety than Gabe but Gabe was flying, literally and deserved the win. Geez that wave has a soft take off need a more serious wave to add more spice to it for mine and a barrel section. 6 out of 10 for the woz but with a decent wave could be a 10/10.

Bob Sacamano's picture
Bob Sacamano's picture
Bob Sacamano Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 12:53pm

I never get sick of this photo

pebbleamongsttherocks's picture
pebbleamongsttherocks's picture
pebbleamongstth... Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 10:58pm

All holding thumbs that the semi-success of Trestles doesn't bring it back for 2022, or better yet cancel the f&^kin Finals. Lances (note: not HTs, idiot), Maccas would be a fest if so.
Sometimes adapting and progression (note: eyes and $$) with the times can be counterproductive and counterintuitive.

theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 11:14am

Jeez if I was the Woz Id retire while I was ahead. You cant beat that day for surf & sun quality. Tin arse luck... next year will be 2ft onshore slop

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 12:57pm

SW, sorry about a link to BG. But this is just soooooooo funny!

https://beachgrit.com/2021/09/kelly-slater-delivers-unmatched-finals-day...

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 1:45pm

Yes Gold Kelly.

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 3:44pm

Haha! Brilliant!!

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 7:38pm

Geez... I had to scroll through a million ads to get to the meat of the "story," on Beach Grit which in the end was a fun little satirical nugget. I think SW might be missing the opportunity to suck some $$$ from the google bickies (cookies) we leave scattered across the interweb. I mean, who on here would pass up the opportunity to get discounted incontinence undies. We are an ageing demographic on here after all.

Mike H Cross's picture
Mike H Cross's picture
Mike H Cross Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 8:17pm

Were the incontinence undies on special per chance?

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 9:21pm

My incontinence is kept at bay by a regular robust kegel exercise regime, so I did not take note of the price, as no need to purchase. I did invest in hair plugs and testosterone replacement therapy though. As I round the corner of my mid (to late) life crisis, I'm thinking of getting one of those new fangled 'flight board' electric foil thingy's that keep popping up on my facey news feed. Don't hate me.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 1:48pm

yes frog gotta chuckle alright

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 2:48pm

I didnt mind the event maybe because im staved for surfing events at
the highest order just like my motor racing I will watch anything. Found it
entertaining I thought the girls should of surfed at a higher standard and
ive never seen Steph surf that poorly ever , does anyone know if she was
injured, sick or something. Medina deserved the win no question there.
Morgan well I know he finished 5th which was brilliant but im not convinced
he is the real deal as yet.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 6:07pm

Early on the waves seemed thicker with some bump and often a short ride into a messy closeout. No-one seemed comfortable and getting flow was hard. Steph just picked some poor waves and could not get her rhythm going. Seemed and looked like chunky high tide Bells with a close out shorebreak coming at them fast, then it just got better and better... more peeled offering multiple turns as Trestles should be. Tide, current, sun, swell direction shift all played a part somehow. Woz got lucky it improved.

willibutler's picture
willibutler's picture
willibutler Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 8:30pm

https://m.

Should’ve waited

jasper99's picture
jasper99's picture
jasper99 Friday, 17 Sep 2021 at 9:38am

Got to admit I didn't watch the event live but however did catch the replays. Glad Gabby and Carissa won but I'm not into the concept at all especially in a shortened year (6 comps was it?).

Correct me if I'm wrong but out of the 10 surfers competing only 2 improved their positions Defay and Toledo and only by 1 place so whats the point?

The way it was was fine and determined the best competitive surfers for the year over the 11 events and 9 best results counting. Whats wrong with that?

I know they want to be like other sports (NFL,NBA etc) but they are team sports. May as well just be like the old Bodyboard world titles and have 1 comp at Pipe to determine the world champ. That would be quicker and cheaper....

Current Affair's picture
Current Affair's picture
Current Affair Friday, 17 Sep 2021 at 4:37pm

Well the WSL got all the fanfare of a normal event but only had to pay 10 surfers. I wonder how the other surfers feel about this as many of them seemed to be there for free surfs for some reason. Mikey Wright was there as an example. The waves were good for Trestles which appears to be another win for the one day event.