Big Gouges, Bigger Sections - Stab Mag

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No more rail left to lay. Photo by Tony Heff/WSL

Big Gouges, Bigger Sections

Day One of the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach saw not a single air attempt, and it was glorious.

features // Feb 14, 2023
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 6 minutes

In smiling contrast to last week’s Pipe contest, Jessi Miley-Dyer began today by cheerfully announcing that waves were actually breaking at the contest site.

Huge win.

It was solid Sunset with blustery trades, making for a day of lumpy, large, evasive bowls.

As expected, those surfers with elevated positional IQ and sure-footing were the ones creating excitement on the day.

And there was a lot of excitement.


  • Stephanie Gilmore still has the magic
  • Molly Picklum picks her way through a slow heat with mature wave selection
  • Kanoa comes out on top in a heat of heavy-footed hangers — looks far more confident in his World Title belief than he did at Pipe
  • Ethan Ewing gets a very unsurprising 9
  • Slater puts four and a half fins on the back of his board, looks uncharacteristically great at his least favorite wave on tour
  • John John Florence surfs exactly like you thought he would
Tyler, laying it down. Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League


Peak performance:  Stephanie Gilmore, Carissa Moore, Macy Callaghan, John John Florence, Kanoa Igarashi, Filipe Toledo.

Hit replay: Women’s OR H5, Mens OR H1, H6, H8

Monster maneuvers:

  • Macy Callaghan 4-turn heat winner
  • Ethan Ewing’s 9-point rail cleansing
  • Seth Moniz’ barn door barrel
  • Filipe Toledo’s double dropwallet
  • John John’s entire heat


“Mālama Honua — take care of the world, because everything is connected”   — A cosmic Kaipo proverb hits different on a Monday morning.

A solid performance and a classic Steph smile. Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League

With a rare Strider/Pete Mel combo occupying enthusiastic spots in the commentary booth, the morning sounded like a chat with old friends. After a reportedly exciting dawn patrol, the ocean slowed for the first women’s matchup. As if she had no idea it was lully, Molly Picklum put herself on every single scoreable wave that rolled through, and continued to emphatically announce her return to the CT.

Stephanie Gilmore floated through the morning on a cloud of confidence — and on what looked to be the perfect board choice.

“I feel like I was just trying to redeem myself from my last performance out there,” breathed a relieved Steph, after blowing by Zoe McDougall and Isabella Nichols.

Redemption achieved. Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

Lots of wind-related chats today, as the only women truly slicing through the sideshore speed-bumps were the ones with World Titles in their pockets — or with the last name Sakura Johnson. 

Carissa dominated her heat (duh) while Bettylou and Tyler Wright blitzed back and forth in theirs, leaving Caity Simmers out of rotation. The Toasted gal seemed perpetually on the bumpiest waves, often left watching Bettylou zapping cleaner sections from the channel.

Opening round losses were, however, no matter for Caity or Gabriela Bryan, who both switched on better wave selection and better surfing to dodge a 17th.

Courtney Conlogue bowed out with back to back last places, and Teresa Bonvalot booked her flight home to Portugal — possibly heading into a wildcard appearance at a venue that will far better suit her surfing.

How do you say buckets in Portuguese? What about Japanese? Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

The men’s opening round began with a barrage of hefty sections, met with ferocity by a trio of metaphorical lions. Matty McGillivray, Kanoa Igarashi, and Michael Rodrigues all delivered surfing that would make Sunny Garcia proud. Kanoa put up the day’s highest heat, and Matty headed to the danger zone — despite having a total that would’ve seen him advance in most every other matchup.

The onslaught continued, with Ethan Ewing pocketing a slick 9 and Seth Moniz navigating a doggy door fit for a small elephant.

Barron Mamiya and Caio Ibelli made Zeke Lau look like a kitten, Jake Marshall looked like him beating John John Florence last year wasn’t just a fluke, and Jack Robinson looked like a schoolkids highlighter. With his yellow jersey/board combo, the Aussie was narrowly nudged into the elimination round by a somewhat questionable Eli Hanneman 5.17 — and he looked dumbfounded.

Maybe it’s high time Robbo gets robbed — but will it be enough to quiet those theorists who believe the WSL has been intentionally overscoring him? Robbo-gate continues.

Can Caio continue his Hawaiian lion run? Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

In his debut CT heat, Kai Lenny dropped one of the best turns of the day — it didn’t count. The judges deemed he succumbed to the whitewater too early, in a call similar to the Italo Narrabeen debacle. Granted, they still gave Kai a 3, but the turn probably deserved a 7.

In the same heat, Liam O’Brien paddled for a wave and missed it with priority, giving up the cherished P to Filipe, who then also paddled for a wave and missed it. In frustrated belief that it was the wrong call, the Brazilian champ frantically waved his hand in the air and kicked his feet. Strangely, the judges obliged and returned his priority. Satisfied with their compliance, he hopped up on the next wave and ravaged two sections for an 8 and the heat win. Amidst all the priority swapping, the commentators missed it, but upon rewatching multiple times, it’s clear they reversed the call on Fil’s wave.

Granted, Kai had already gone on a wave, so the reversal didn’t directly affect the outcome of the heat, but it was an un-ignorable oddity.

With the kicking, it looked like a paddle effort to us. Definitely marginal though. Maybe winning a world title now gives you one pass to tell the judges they’re wrong?

Kelly paddled out on a somewhat experimental five fin, that he later explained was preshaped by Electric Acid shaper Greg Weber and finished by local underground shaper Trinko. According to Stab’s Hawaiian intel, Trinko is from Puerto Rico, and was taught by Eric Arakawa, under whom he’s ghost-shaped on and off for years.

Atop it, Kelly looked like he actually enjoyed surfing Sunset.

Also, nobody went to his birthday party? And free tacos at his house tonight?

Worth noting, perennial Premium commenter Chad LeBrone has been prophesying a Slatz Sunset win for weeks, so maybe Trinko has the magic Kels needs.

Oh, and John John surfed better than everyone in another hot and heavyfooted heat with Joao Chianca — but you already knew that.

The older Kelly gets, the more his interviews feel like he’s sitting in his living room talking to friends. Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League


Caught Inside: Teresa Bonvalot

Blind Mice: Eli Hanneman’s 5.17 was arguable, but I’ll leave it to the commenters to find the answer.

Say what?: “Laura…you know you’ve got a screw loose.” – Strider regarding Laura’s massive outer reef paddle effort.

No complaints today.

The biggest — and only — let-down was the fact that Hurley advertised to our inner child with their Super Surfer video game, but then told us it isn’t released yet. Say what you will about Hurley’s Miami Vice style event merch, but I will be restraining any judgment until I have a go at the helm of the Super Surfer controls.

Wonder if Kelly has any photos like this, of him with John as a grom. Who knows, maybe this kid will grow up to beat a 53 year old JJF at sunset. Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

Gamble Ramble:

The waves were good and Mikey C’s luck wasn’t.

Based on the 800-something bucks he pocketed last week, he can afford to lose a few.

All he needs is a Jordy Smith win tomorrow and he’s back in the green.

Women’s Opening Round:

$20 on Bettylou Sakura Johnson at +175 (to win $35) WON
$200 on Carissa Moore at -185 (to win $108) WON
$30 on Zoe McDougall at +500 (to win $150) LOST
$50 on Tatiana Weston-Webb at +135 (to win $68) LOST
$20 on Sally Fitz at +200 (to win $40) LOST

Men’s Opening Round:

$40 on Jordy Smith at +115 (to win $46)
$20 on Callum Robson at +175 (to win $53)
$10 on Ian Gentil at +315 (to win $31)
$10 on Maxime Huscenot at +365 (to win $37) LOST
$20 on LOB at +350 (to win $70) LOST
$20 on Nat Young at +400 (to win $80) LOST
$20 on Zeke Lau at +165 (to win $33) LOST

Day Total: -27$

Event Total: -27$


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