An Emotional Sunday in Narrabeen - Stab Mag
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Photo by Miers/WSL

An Emotional Sunday in Narrabeen

If you’re not bashing your board and paddling down the beach for three hours after a Round of 32 loss, are you even trying?

news // Apr 18, 2021
Words by Chris Binns
Reading Time: 8 minutes

For all we know, Miguel Pupo is still in the Pacific Ocean somewhere off North Narrabeen, home of the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic. Five heats after he lost to John John Florence there was genuine concern about the forlorn figure who sat alone in the water down at Carpark Rights on sundown. Still wearing his jersey, not catching waves, simply staring out to sea. The water patrol checked in on Miguel a few times during his three-hour-long float therapy session and eventually Adriano de Souza, like the absolute bloody champion he is, paddled out to keep his mate company and lend a bit of a shoulder. 

It’s easy to put our favourite surfers on a pedestal when they’re ripping, and we’ll happily claim their successes as our own, but it’s also pretty simple to discard our heroes when they’re down, or sneer at their shortcomings and make wild claims about this guy or that being a kook. Moments like this remind you that at the end of the day, we’re all human beings, and that even elite athletes aren’t invincible. Miguel is on the other side of the world to his young family, is fresh out of two weeks in hotel quarantine, and has just gone back-to-back 17ths in his eighth year of seemingly endless frustration on tour. For most of the surfers on the CT, every single event they enter ends in a loss, and no matter how stable and on top of your game you are, eventually that has to take a toll.

Not even the most seamless slash could push Miggy past John’s lethal back foot. Photo: WSL/Miers

Miguel lost to John John Florence today, but even John would admit that Miggy should have beaten him after paddling into one of the waves of the day and showing us all that the easiest way to get a five is to catch an eight. Miguel had every opportunity to slam the door shut on John as he flew down the line and over and around sections, yet even though it all looked fluid and stylish, it lacked substance, and if we learned anything from Mikey February’s one lap of the Championship Tour, it is that looking cool doesn’t mean a thing on the scoreboard. Opportunity lost, Miguel could do little other than rain punches on his board, and eventually paddle off down the beach after John pocketed a pair of fives and marched on to the next round.

It was an interesting if long Sunday in Narrabeen. In front of a massive crowd, conditions looked amazing early, though an utterly deflated Connor O’Leary would beg to differ after barely firing a shot while losing to Mick Fanning and Jeremy Flores, who felt compelled to claim his winning six in a fashion more befitting one of his Pipe Masters victories. 

“Look, I need to apologise for that,” shrugged the Frenchman afterwards. “It was a shit wave but I needed to get fired up a little bit.” Oh Jeremy, please don’t go changing. 

Gotta love video-part shit in CT heats. You’ll have to go back and watch the replay of this air to fully appreciate it. Photo: Miers/WSL

The second heat started slowly and was then quickly put on hold due to someone sighting what was at most a baby shark (I’ve had that song stuck in my head all day long and hopefully you do now too. You’re welcome.) Fifteen minutes later we resumed what was now a heat at Red Bull Airborne, with Jack Freestone providing the day’s highlight reel moment for a wildly flung backhand rotation where both feet disconnected from his board at various points along the journey. Springing back up like one of those inflatable punching bag toy things, he claimed in a fashion that would have made Jeremy proud, but it was worthy, and earned him the win over local wildcard Dylan Moffat (who matched Jack’s air with one of his own), and a frustrated Leonardo Fioravanti. While Australia’s world title hopes are in short supply at the moment, it speaks volumes about the depth of underground talent Down Under when an unknown dude who works in the local Rip Curl store can come out of nowhere to beat a surfer so famous he’s sponsored by Gucci. 

Caio Ibelli and Mikey Wright accounted for the ever-unlucky Matt McGillivray in the third heat of the elimination round, before Ace Buchan joined Connor in the rattled-and-eliminated-early club, falling to Alex Ribeiro and Conner Coffin in a dud. 

On the women’s side of the draw, Laura Enever was unlucky to lose to Tyler Wright and Tati Weston-Webb, before Isabella Nichols went from finalist to a first-round bounce after she was beaten by Brisa Hennessy, and the day’s best overall performance from Johanne Defay. A pair of eights and a throwaway seven were Johanne’s reward for being on the best waves of the day and swinging hammers at solid sections the length of them. Every coach with a surfer remaining in the draw should make them watch this heat as the blueprint for success. 

This picture doesn’t do Johanne’s surfing justice. But we’d be remiss not to include her. Photo: WSL/ Miers

The six most painful heats of the whole shebang finally put to sleep, it was all men for the rest of the day, with a mixed bag of results for anyone who based their predictions on day one form. Filipe Toledo beat Mikey Wright by catching eight waves to Mikey’s one. Frederico Morais beat Michel Bourez by scoring 9.83 points in the first six minutes, compared to Michel’s 6.94 points in the last 14 minutes.

Ethan Ewing then upset Owen Wright, landing 13 points for four turns on two waves, compared to Owen’s 11 points for five turns and two airs on slightly smaller waves. Quality over quantity, I guess. Guest commentator Kelly Slater, FaceTiming from Hawaii, gave Owen the score on the webcast and was shocked when O’s last wave came in a long way short. 

Next Jadson Andre beat Jack Freestone in another shock result, though Jaddy has been a ball of energy this week and it is showing in his surfing. Jack missed three straight aerial attempts in the middle of the heat, and probably would have won if he’d stuck any of them. For a guy with Jack’s strike rate, it clearly just wasn’t meant to be today. 

If you told Medina he was only allowed to do floaters in a heat, he’d still find a way to win. Photo: WSL/Miers

Gabriel Medina took Dylan Moffat in a canter, though the local showed enough promise this week for Aussies to hope to see more of him on the Qualifying Series and beyond. Caio Ibelli then sold Seth Moniz a dud with two minutes remaining in their matchup to open the door, which he then marched through with priority and the day’s most over-the-top claim to celebrate his win. 

We discussed John and Miguel earlier, the highlight of which was easily John’s looooong drawn out carve at the 12-minute mark that may have only earned him five points, but more importantly drew gasps and groans of admiration from the Red Bull Athlete Zone. It was a pure surfing moment, and you should do yourself a favour and go find it in the heat analyzer. 

About the only turn that made us feel something today. Photo: WSL/Dunbar

Morgan Cibilic kept his Newcastle momentum going with yet another big win, this time over Julian Wilson, who couldn’t finish a wave and will go to West Oz desperate to surf a heat in conditions over two-feet. 

The Mick and Italo Ferreira matchup was as hyped as it deserved to be, but apart from a pair of back-to-back Italo air-reverses early on, there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about. Perhaps the most notable development was seeing Italo, who has barely noticed his opponents or priority since landing in Oz a month ago, pay Mick the huge compliment of finally switching up his attack. After earning all of his points 100m+ down the bank, with two scores on the board, Italo finally went and sat on a competitor, and for the final 12 minutes didn’t let Mick out of his sight. It wasn’t spectacular surfing, in fact there was barely any surfing to be seen from that point on, but after witnessing Italo’s fun-loving Energizer Bunny act these past few weeks, to see him click into ruthless competitor mode was a thoroughly enjoyable reminder that world champions, no matter how much peroxide they have in their hair, are lethal weapons when there are trophies on the line. 

How do you beat this? We’ve yet to see. Photo: WSL/Miers

On his final wave, Mick threw in a little air-reverse that he probably could have landed had he not been so shocked by how well he popped and spun. Once the final hooter went, Mick and Italo rode consecutive waves to the beach. Italo went switch, and would have won that exchange. It was a fun way to finish the heat, and for the majority of the 5,000 spectators, their day at the beach.

Conner Coffin got the day’s only real buzzer beater win after a long, nervous wait against Wade Carmichael. Jeremy’s run was finally ended, just, by Jack Robinson, and as if the day wasn’t long enough, a restart saw Kanoa Igarashi finally account for Deivid Silva in a 40-minute heat to close things out. Reports are mixed on tomorrow, fingers crossed we’re back on again.

Finally, a source close to the Brazilian camp says that Miguel was just having some time to himself, and that he’s in good spirits. After his long timeout he was seen paddling back to the main lineup after the final heat, where he snuck a few waves on dark before coming in smiling. You beauty. 

Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Men’s Elimination Round 2 Results:
HEAT 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.84 DEF. Mick Fanning (AUS) 10.27, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 4.60
HEAT 2: Jack Freestone (AUS) 12.24 DEF. Dylan Moffat (AUS) 11.90, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 9.57
HEAT 3: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 9.97 DEF. Mikey Wright (AUS) 9.94, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 7.70
HEAT 4: Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 10.66 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 8.60, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 5.20

Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Men’s Round of 32 (H1-12) Results:
HEAT 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 9.63 DEF. Mikey Wright (AUS) 4.33
HEAT 2: Frederico Morais (PRT) 9.83 DEF. Michel Bourez (FRA) 6.94
HEAT 3: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 13.10 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 11.83
HEAT 4: Jadson Andre (BRA) 11.66 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 10.07
HEAT 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 11.17 DEF. Dylan Moffat (AUS) 8.57
HEAT 6: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 11.17 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 9.60
HEAT 7: John John Florence (HAW) 11.10 DEF. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 9.56
HEAT 8: Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 10.67 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 7.43
HEAT 9: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.00 DEF. Mick Fanning (AUS) 9.33
HEAT 10: Conner Coffin (USA) 9.60 DEF. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 9.43

Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Men’s Remaining Round of 32 (H13-16) Matchups:
HEAT 13: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
HEAT 14: Yago Dora (BRA) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
HEAT 15: Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Adriano de Souza (BRA)
HEAT 16: Ryan Callinan (AUS) vs. Reef Heazlewood (AUS)

Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Women’s Elimination Round 2 Results:
HEAT 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) 9.10 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 8.96, Laura Enever (AUS) 8.94
HEAT 2: Johanne Defay (FRA) 16.66 DEF. Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 10.64, Isabella Nichols (AUS) 8.70

Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Women’s Round of 16 Matchups:
HEAT 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Brisa Hennessy (CRI)  
HEAT 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Keely Andrew (AUS) 
HEAT 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Macy Callaghan (AUS)
HEAT 4: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 
HEAT 5: Caroline Marks (USA) vs. Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN) 
HEAT 6: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)  
HEAT 7: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Sage Erickson (USA)  
HEAT 8: Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS)

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