Pipe 2023: Finals Day
Pipe 2023: Finals Day
To be fair to the WSL, today's second-worst day ever at Pipe, and undisputed worst Finals Day ever (#nodebate), vindicates their decision to send the Women out on the worst day ever for their Quarter-Final match-ups.
Hindsight and a surf that deteriorated to pure dog caca, makes that difficult call the correct one. So, props to JMD. Today's Finals Day also vindicates the decision - also hugely influenced by JMD - to activate (if that is the correct corpo buzzword) a Women's tour event at Pipe.
Runner-up Tyler Wright, in her podium speech, claimed the event showed, “how much more comfortable we've got out there in twelve months,” and proceeded to give thanks to the WSL and JMD.
The best heat of the day, a wave for wave battle between Men's winner Jack Robinson and past winner John Florence, was followed by the second-best heat of the day, the Semi-Final between Tyler Wright and Lakey Peterson. Honestly, the direct comparison between the two heats was not disrespectful to Women's surfing. John side-slipped out of the lip to be in the tube before he was at the bottom of the wave then belted it twice for a 7.17. Tyler did the same thing to finish with an aggressive float for an 8. Even if those scores were reversed it still showed a stunning closing of the gap.
Oh, I know it wasn't proper Pipe, we all saw that and gracious winner Carissa Moore was quick to acknowledge that fact after winning the Final. More importantly she let us know (if we were listening) that she had trained for proper Pipe, was ready for proper Pipe, and actively wished for it. That’s a huge statement of intent. I think, based on Carissa's record, we should take her at her word.
Jack's heat, like other close heats he has won, both against John, Medina, and others, could have gone either way. Florence had looked imperious in adopting the core skill required to progress through today: take off under it, thread the tube, and squeak out of a straight closeout as the wave slowed for a half-second on the Ain'ts sandbar crack. Problem was, Jack could do that too, so John's pretty little house he had built was far from secure against the rabid opportunism of Robinson.
It seemed to go the way of so many Jack Robinson heats. Five minutes to go and he needs a score - in this case a 7.87 - while John has the heat well in hand with priority. Robbo nabs a 6.67 and needs a 6.21 with three minutes to play. Is there another surfer in the draw, any surfer in history save Kelly Slater in his second run of titles, who you'd feel more confident in your gut to get the score?
It seemed inevitable that Jack would sneak in behind a rolling wedge, get tubed, sneak out the Ain'ts crack and belt the closeout for a 7.
Close, but judges for now, still seem enraptured by that sense of fast twitch unpredictability Jack brings to those clutch rides.
What happened to Toledo? Ironically, Pip hunted tubes on a toy day where his turns would have won almost any heat while a certified Pipe tube hound in Joao Chianca beat him with turns. One big air probably would have won Pip the heat. Subsequently, Chianca was beaten by the craftiness of Robinson.
By this stage Pipe didn't even resemble a surf spot. I remember the first time I laid eyes on Pipe in similar conditions - I could not discern a recognisable surf spot. I thought the closeout looking beachie with a dark bottom could not be it. Somehow, in amongst the chaotic, closed-out wind ravaged 'peaks' Jack found some little nugs.
Enough to get through.
Carissa did the late drop to tube for an 8.00 in the only good wave of the heat to defeat Sakura Johnson. The old guard still showing that when things get grindy you have to be able to win ugly and not forget mathematics - best two waves win.
One good tube ride in the Final and a single turn closeout smash was enough for Riss to take out the Final against Tyler.
No-one wins ugly better than Leo Fioravanti, and I mean that as compliment. He'll battle and scrap and make every heat into a Challenger Series slop and slug fest if he needs to. In that respect, there is science to his approach. You win the paddle battle, you get the best wave of the heat, and you can win if opportunity is limited, which it was.
That was enough to get him past Jordy and Caio before his own strategy bit him on the balls. Kicking out early of a wave instead of belting the end section enabled him to win the paddle battle against Robbo but cost him a point and change. Was that decisive? In a low scoring Final, it probably was.
No matter though, Leo has secured his season with the second place finish.
Fiji, J-Bay, Teahupoo, Trestles, France, Portugal, Pipe. That was the second half of the year for 2016 and 2107, the years John John went back to back World Titles.
Now we get Surf Ranch, El Salvador, Brazil, J-Bay, Tahiti, and Trestles for the Finals Day.
Objectively, it's a far inferior schedule, a shadow of the Dream Tour.
Elo has presided over perhaps the biggest disintegration of wave and schedule quality in Rabbit's post-'95 Dream Tour era. Creeping fan disengagement can be largely sheeted home to this fact alone, no matter how much corporate fuckery we are forced to endure.
Gabs, Jack, JJF, Toledo, Ferreira, Ewing, Moore, Gilmore, Wright, Pickles etc etc. The talent has never looked better.
The schedule never worse.
Congrats to Carissa and Jack; their talent was not matched by the wave quality and I think that will be a common theme for 2023.
// STEVE SHEARER