Rio Pro: Day 1
If you are of the wake-me-for-J-Bay school of thought you'd be feeling vindicated after Day 1 at Saquarema, held in rippy, closey wonky 4-5ft surf with a heap of top talent playing hooky.
The Women’s heats were a tough watch, consisting mostly of gals paddling against the rip flowing out against the corner at the Itauna end of the bay. The normally reliable soft and shreddable left had morphed into a right into the rip, the type of wave every East Coast Aussie surfer knows intimately. Fun when they are on, frustrating as hell when the water sucking out drags you every which way but onto the bank and the waves when they come are better for whitewater rafting.
Five-time World Champ Carissa Moore spent thirty five minutes getting a workout for a combined heat total of 1.8, which gives an indication of what was on offer.
Tyler was absent, apparently cruelled by visa issues, which I guess we have to take at face value, although Kelly's blatant BS'ing is making it harder to take what a pro surfer says without squinting up the eyes and asking “Huh?”
Injuries, visa issues, junky surf - the opening day was a tough slog to find a gripping narrative.
To be honest, the high point of women's surfing this year was the Challenger Series comp at Snapper in May. Pickles, Caity Simmers etc etc throwing down huge turns and sick combos. It feels like the future of women’s surfing is here already, but is sitting on the sidelines while the Woz plays a loyalty card to sponsors and keeps giving Sally Fitz wildcards. Since being cut Sally has surfed every comp. She has won two heats in total, which equates to two fifth place finishes and $40,000 USD in prize money. That surely has to be one of the easiest pay days in world sport. The women's post-cut tour needs a serious rethink.
We are in Brazil. Population north of 212 million, roughly ten times the size of Australia with a surf mad, mostly coastal-dwelling population. Where are all the surf girls? The sole Brazilian woman on tour- Tatiana Weston-Webb -was born and bred on Kauai. Not a single Brazilian female surfer could be found to fill a wildcard spot?
That spot was granted to 18-year old Peruvian Sol Aguirre who now faces Carissa Moore in the Elimination Round.
What is going on here?
Is it a cultural thing? Are we still back in the Puberty Blues days where the gals looked fabulous on the beach and kept the towels warm while the boys laid on the shreds?
The existence of Maya Gabeira would suggest otherwise.
Brazilians, if you are reading, chime in here and help us solve the mysterious lack of female Brazilian surfers on tour or up and coming.
An increase in action for the men’s heats. They seemed to make more of the rippy rights, and to be fair to the women, conditions did improve.
The top guys in contention for the five all fired, although Colapinto was just edged out of first place and relegated to the Elimination Round by former CT'er Michael Rodrigues.
Jack Robbo looked a million dollars against two dangerous young Brazilians, Sammy Pupo and wildcard Mateus Herdy. Against the rip and a breezy air wind Jack had plenty of options. Bountiful gaffs, fin drifts, and a very lofted straight air, ala Andy Irons in the 2006 Final at Barra de la Cruz. Every heat he surfs like this ups the odds for a Trestles win - where judges go gaga for repertoire and extended hang time. If he finished the year number one, or possibly two, the odds would have to shorten, even against Fil Toledo.
Fil was solid in his opener. This is happy place for Toledo. Unlike Medina who has wilted under the positive pressure, and has enjoyed more the villain role, Toledo thrives with the adoration. Another quarter or semis, a good result at J’Bay and Pip can relax at Chopes, knowing the Trestles Final 5 spot is locked in.
Medina looked sleepy. As the reality of missing the five dawns and sans Charlie whipping his young charge onwards, Gabe seems content to hang with the boys and enjoy the camaraderie.
The heat of the day was Heat 5 with Kanoa, Yago, and Kolohe. All threw up some scores, with Kanoa and Andino finding some throaty nugs against the rip. But it was Yago who embraced the left with smooth carving and who came away with the W. His 7.13 for a gorgeously surfed left - a complete rebuttal of the position that Brazilians have no style - was the best wave of the day for mine, even if it did lack the explosiveness of Robinson’s big air.
What Surf Gods have the WSL angered with the mid-season cut? The chief rationale, even able to be argued by Oklahoman VAL Erik Logan, was that the condensed tour would be able to utilise a single swell cycle. Which makes perfect sense. Except since then, in three separate oceans it hasn't happened.
It's angered the GOAT so much he can't even be bothered to get on a plane and show up.
The condensed field promised so much, and yet, absent Kelly and John and the great days we saw earlier in the year, it just hasn't managed to produce the excitement it promised.
I guess we will wait until J-Bay and Chopes to deliver judgement, but something seems to need tweaking and I don't know what it is.
// STEVE SHEARER
Not just east coasters are familiar with the setup looked like a hard day at the Portsea Office to me. Jack is on fire at the moment and could easily be world Champ if he keeps it up and Yago is always smooth as silk.
I hear you there... I was loving watching "pros" paddle against the elements... I have had many moments surfing those same rips in South Oz
Would we be suggesting tweaks FR if Huey had been on board with decent waves? In support of Sal, she goes hard when its solid and, a bit like Owen, was a victim of poo surf in her first round and elimination heats.
I know I am giving her a hard time, mostly because I reckon Pickles was above her in the rankings and it just rankles to see her getting such an easy run- at this stage of her career.
With so few women being able to access the top ranks, it's retarding the progress of womens surfing to artificially have her there.
That said, I hope she gets a wildcard to Chopes.
I reckon Sally could justify those wildcards if she charges there.
As for the surf, yeah: if it was pumping I'd be cheering.
But these on again, off again conditions are revealing the limitations of the format and condensed field, especially with the women.
Those girls in the CS gold coast final both deserve CT spots don't you think FR. That Caitlin Simmers looks the goods. If she can replicate in the heavy water she could be top 5 easy. Understand your point on Sal, but she has proved herself as near the top of the tree in big Fiji and Maui - there are a few others on the tour a fair bit below her caliber IMHO. Personally think there is still a big gap from the top 3 girls (Tyler, Steph and Carissa), but that looks to be changing.
What do you think of the stops on the tour this year FR? IF it turned on, I thought it looked pretty good. I personally don't mind seeing the variety and a 'common' wave or two like Brazil - l feel a champ should be able to surf beachies and Chopes. I am also not sure that the CS 'trains' the up and comers properly - by that I mean the CS is largely waves the average punter can surf and the CT is more waves the average punter can only dream of being able to take on. Big change for those guys as the skill/style it takes to win a CS is vastly different to a CT.
The highlight of women’s surfing so far this year for me was the Krui Pro. Girls were out in 6ft plus on one of the days and handled it great. Sophie McCulloch is a real talent
I do wonder why Kelly quietly boycotts Brazil. I wonder if he is genuinely scared or had bad times there and rather than voice those reasons every year (and make Brazil look bad) his injury is a gentle way to avoid a hurtful truth for Brazil? He's not an idiot or a prick, he seems quite thoughtful. To blatantly say "Brazil sucks, I feel uncomfortable" would be doing a disservice to Brazil. Maybe by serving Brazil thoughtfully and respectfully, he cops some criticism?
It's a long flight there and it's just not the kind of wave that gets him amped at all since around his mid 30's it seems.
He knows he's a longer shot for a win there than anywhere else,even though he is in most events now,and he did get a win there a about a decade ago i believe.
I think it was just a hit and run mission to Brazil even in the 90's for him.
There's not really other consistant good spots to chase on an extended trip around the contest like in Australia,and i'm guessing he never bough a property there to hang out in like he has at some of the other stops on tour.
He's well past the parties and girly scene too,which pretty much anyone who goes to Brazil says is better than the waves hands down.
Watching that flick at Ulu's - don't you think he did look a bit ginger/half fit?
Not an idiot or a prick? What about all that antivax shit etc. Many would say he's clearly an idiot. The prick thing is too subjective.
He still fucken snaked me at Deadmans though
My dog ate my legrope?
Jeez, I hope Chopes is pumping. Robbo should dominate it. Him and Medina to final if its over 6 foot.
Scenarios i'd like to see.
Kelly to win it as an official 50 year old (he was a week short at pipe).
It's only chopes or pipe (in proper swell) he has any half decent chance for a win anymore.
Robbo to win it in an event that's in waves he's always been most hyped for.
Medina to win it to break into the final 5 (presuming he's done really well in brazil and jbay to make it possible).
And JJF to get his overdue first win there and get back into the 5 if he doesn't at jbay.
It's gonna be a big spanner in the works at trestles if medina makes it there i reckon.
It's gonna rate as the most amazing world title win in history if he can get it.
"something seems to need tweaking"
Nope - the reduced field is fine, just need for the meteorological forces to cooperate and provide swell and good local conditions in the event window, something that hasn't happened yet and that no one has control over.
When it does come together, it should be spectacular -
i really like how in this reduced field format,the women can win their first round heat and then they're in the quarter finals,for the same pay as the guys.
I'll like it even more when one of them pulls out of their first round heat and the other competitor gets a walk through straight to the quarters,and still bank that coin before even surfing lol.
That's when this new format will look like a complete joke.
The cut shouldn't of happend for the women,and it should've been even numbers of men and women in the events.
That sounds like equality right there to me.
I definitely agree that the conditions were fairly average for the women which made it extremely hard.
….but…. As much as I enjoy all aspects of surfing I gotta say the divide between the men’s and women’s performance appears to be widening. Aside from the promise of the next Gen who are not on the tour by enlarge (Gabby B excepted), we are seeing nothing new. In fact are we seeing regression?
Carissa is no where near her previous world title best and that’s saying something given she’s currently number one. Steph same boat, Lakey can do airs but doesn’t. I’d say Johanne Defay is the exception, her star is rising.
And then there is Teahupoo.
It is need of a serious refresh but given such unequal numbers (compared to male tour) and therefore reduced opportunity to qualify for the big leagues, I’m finding it hard to see what will change.
It's looking like Carissa is going to safety surf her way to besting Steph and Layne's 7 world titles.
She'll get 8 then retire and go make a family with her hubby is my prediction if things stay the same.
Prob the only thing that will stop her is if they decide to start giving world titles to Caroline Marks' backhand rios.
I don't reckon Steph will get another one,(i hope she does),she seems to have lost that hunger,hasn't been consistant enough for years now,and her shortcomings in some conditions,particularly in lefts,seems to be more apparent these day than back when she was winning world titles.
Although if she can win jbay where she's a favourite,and bring her position higher at trestles for a better chance at winning,it'll happen.
I agree, the women don't seem to be getting much better....no real progression or standouts amongst them.
Pickles? Stimmers? I assume you're only talking CT women with that comment
Thanks for the recap Steve, only watched about 40mins before turning off. Those photos of Jack and Kanoa are epic!
Mate you are an extremely talented writer/ analyser, definitely have a gift. Seems like every right up you lay into Sally Fitz. What an Aussie legend, totally makes the most out of her talent, great role model, positive attitude, go sal, in my opinion you totally deserve the wildcards your getting. Also kapoi g has to be in my opinion one of the most awesome funny humans and just general spreader of pure stoke I’ve ever come across. Hope you never lose that joyful glint in your eye that makes me giggle constantly
Sally Fitz should not be there. Only reason i can think is she is in all their fucking ads.
40K - wow. just to think that money could have gone to an up and coming kid instead of an older surfer way past her prime.
Good wrap FR and good on you for always putting your nuts on the line and saying it like you see it.
In regards to the women, they definitely had the harder conditions, and i thought some of them did quite well considering. Watching Joao Chianca in a later heat not being able to get a score above a 3 and mistiming sections..at his home break, i reckon it shows it was a bit luck of the draw out there. There was some solid surfing considering the conditions.
In the mens, that air Robbo did was mental. But to see Toledo get the same score in the very next heat for an air he did that was half the loft, half the distance covered and half the sheer rawness of it left me baffled and i cracked the shits and went to bed. Seems that all the brazzo whinging about scores is paying dividends.
As for the up coming Chopes event i hope we dont hear any of the girls or guys say that they havent surfed it before....no excuses please at this level.
"But I like to think how nice it's gonna be, maybe, in California. Never cold. An' fruite ever'place an' people just bein in the nicest places, little white houses among the orange trees."
(Had to go to one of those sites where Lit undergrads cut and paste their degrees to get that one, liked the idea of an Oklahoman VAL movin' to Californy.)