Can you believe it's almost finals day? Photos: WSL
47-Year-Old Kelly Slater Still The Best At Pipe, Florence And Medina Not Far Behind
And with Filipe and Jordy eliminated, it will almost certainly be Medina or Italo who wears the crown (soz Brother).
“We both have our own goals,” Jadson Andre declared, prior to his Round 3 heat against World Title frontrunner Italo Ferreira. "He’s going for a World Title, and I’ve always wanted to win at Pipeline, Teahupo’o, and Huntington.”
That was Jadson’s justification for showing no mercy against his faux lil bro, Italo Ferreira, this morning at Pipeline. But as we’ve seen over the past few years, the student was quick to become the master in Ferreira and Andre’s ongoing friendship. With a measly 8.53 points, Italo won again today.
In a similarly tight heat, Peterson Crisanto—who had never surfed Pipeline until yesterday—slipped past Conner Coffin, pushing the Brazilian above Deivid Silva in the rankings and further jeopardizing Morgan Cibilic’s tentative Tour slot.
Coming to Morgan’s rescue is another Brazilian, Yago Dora, who with a win over Owen Wright, is just one or two heats away from double-qualifying and guaranteeing Morgan’s CT spot. For this week and this week only, Yago is Newcastle, Asutralia’s favorite surfer.
Oh, and despite his loss, Owen unoffcially became an Olympian today.
Speaking of sushi rolls, Julian Wilson ended Willian Cardoso’s Championship Tour career today, unless of course Willian requalifies again next year, which would be equally disappointing and unsurprising—the big man can grovel but lacks any penchant for medium-sized tube riding.
Title contender Filipe Toledo maintained yesterday’s relatively impressive form, banking two decent scores under priority and putting the hobbled Kiwi, Ricardo Christie, in a fight or flight situation.
Harnessing the power of his Pounamu neckpiece, Ricardo dropped in to sucky lefthander and nearly lost his head to the lip, pulling under the curtain with milliseconds to spare and riding the foamball to its pillowy end. Ricardo then backed his wave up in rapid succession and, within a matter of minutes, usurped the lead.
A couple priority mistakes later and Filipe’s World Title and Olympic dreams were officially quashed.
This is the third time Filipe has lost a Title race at Pipe but the first time he looked comfortable doing so. By that I mean: he looked comfortable in the water. Positive signs performance-wise.
In the post-heat interview, Filipe seemed resigned rather than upset. Like he'd known this would be the outcome all along, and he was simply playing his part in God’s bigger plan. As if there were such a thing.
Jack Freestone pushed past his so-called “best friend on Tour”, Ryan Callinan, which has both Olympic and Triple Crown implications. Essentially, Ryan is out (of both) and Jack is still in (barely).
In one of the best heats of the day, soon-to-be rookie of the year Seth Moniz faced off against the lethal local wildcard Billy Kemper. Trading extended Pipe lefts, the Hawaiians went blow-for-blow, but it was Seth’s slippery maneuvering that outpaced Billy’s persistent haymakers.
My guess is that Billy will bottle up the anger from this loss, put it in a giant needle, and inject it straight into his temples prior to his Jaws heat tomorrow.
The best moment of the day came when Kelly Slater Kelly Slater’d a hapless Joan Duru. Sitting with second priority and needing a score to advance, Kelly baited the Frenchman into an admittedly nice-looking left while he swung right on a closeout.
Kelly pumped through countless sections, trying to locate an escape through any crack or crevice but was denied time and again. Finally, thanks to a slight backwash flare, the lip parted for just half’a second, giving Kelly enough time to reveal himself at Off the Wall.
The WSL’s attempts to define their scoring criteria has exhausted every superlative in the English language, but what constitutes a 10-point ride is really quite simple: if you’re so incredibly amazed at a wave that you literally jump out of your seat and applause, that’s a 10. Today, Slater sparked that reaction from thousands of surf fans around the world, the five judges among them.
“I guess I should have gone right,” was all Joan could muster in his post-elimination interview.
Except it wouldn't have mattered. If Joan went right, he never would have made the wave, and Kelly probably would have gone left and gotten the score anyway. Sometimes you truly can't win. Check mate.
Medina continued his utter domination of Pipeline today, clocking another 17-point heat total in what should have been a simple victory over local wildcard Imaikalani deVault.
But then, something happened.
Holding priority with 11 minutes to go, the surfer in combination stroked into the day’s most sublimely tapered wall, grabbed his rail, and coursed through the tightening funnel until the channel exhausted its force.
The judges were a bit overzealous with their 9.57 score, especially when compared to Medina’s electric mid-eights, but Imai’s wave rightfully put him back in the heat. A priority error by Gab then left the Hawaiian with control of the lineup, needing just a 7.5 to take the win. As one commentator noted, this is the best position anyone could hope to be in against the 2x Champ.
Unfortunately for Imai, the wave he needed never arrived. As the final horn blew, a pensive Charlie Medina shook his fist on the waterline. Medina to finals day.
John and Zeke showed slight signs of animosity in the opening minutes of their heat, but John cleverly caught an insider to gift Lau priority, making it impossible for Zeke to waste half the heat hassling. Florence knew that the more time he had to actually surf, the better his chances of winning became. This strategy paid dividends, as John clocked an 8.8 and a 9.7 in a devastating victory over the schoolyard bully. One more heat win, and John will face Medina in the quarters.
By the time Jordy Smith paddled out, there was a distinct funk in the breeze.
“I’m starting to feel a bit of west in the wind,” Pete Mel said from the lineup. “I hope it doesn’t ruffle the surface too much.”
It ruffled the surface a whole lot.
In a span of ten minutes, the waves became ugly and misshapen, almost entirely indistinguishable from their formerly immaculate selves. For Jordy, whose Title hopes hinged on a heat win, adapting was the only option. And try as he might, the South African couldn’t find a wave above a four.
This was actually fine for most of the heat, as Jordy's competitor, Jesse Mendes, couldn’t score above a three, but then Jordy made a crucial error.
The defendant would argue that his action was but a harmless wave inspection, and that he never had any intention of actually going on the wave, but the judges stripped Jordy of his priority nonetheless.
To my eyes, they made the right call.
This led to Jesse securing the biggest score of the heat and, ultimately, the win. Jordy was shattered in his presser.
“It’s just unfortunate, because I know in my heart that I didn’t want that wave,” Jordy said, fighting back tears. “To go through the whole year and have it end like this, it doesn’t feel… good.”
It'd be tough to disagree. While Jordy was always a longshot coming into Pipe, it does feel like he was disproportionately crueled in this incident. Priority struggle aside, for the waves to go from an 8 to a 2 in the middle of a World Title heat should arguably constitute a re-surf.
Maybe not. I don’t know. I just feel bad for Jordy.
For obvious reasons, they put the event on hold after Griffin Cola bested Adrian Buchan. With just two heats left to run, the event organizers awaited a miraculous wind change that somehow happened.
In oily but disjointed conditions, Michel Bourez marched past Deivid Silva and Kolohe Andino eliminated Sebastian Zietz, officially knocking Bass off the 2020 Tour. Kolohe’s win also kept his Title hopes alive, but if Gabby or Italo win their next heat, he’s officially out.
Depending on what tomorrow’s swell brings, the Pipe Masters will either finish on Friday or Tuesday. As of now, it seems quite clear who will win the World Title. The only true obstacle in Medina’s path is John Florence, and he’s partially crippled (though his heat total today says otherwise).