An Unpredictable Day At The World’s Newest CT Venue - Stab Mag
Any guesses as to who had the day's highest heat total? Photo: Matt Dunbar/WSL

An Unpredictable Day At The World’s Newest CT Venue

High highs and low lows as the Search hits Rottnest Island.

news // May 16, 2021
Words by Tim Hawken
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Imagine if golf holes moved and trees occasionally fell on top of players mid swing. 

In surfing, the playing field is a true wildcard. That fact was fully on display at Strickland Bay today, showing why our ‘sport’ is such an amazing (and sometimes frustrating) spectacle. We turned up at the main break at Rottnest Island this morning, not too sure what to expect from the wave’s tour debut. It was almost like the place itself didn’t know what to expect either, throwing up surprises from heat to heat. Some of the best matchups on paper were waiting games. Some of the more innocuous draws threw up major fireworks.

The biggest showstopper should have been between reigning world champ Italo Ferreira, 2015 world champ Adriano de Souza, and the greatest surfer West Oz has ever produced, Taj Burrow. Nope. 

Keen eyes would have noticed this man in a Stab In The Dark trailer on the webcast. Photo: Cait Miers/WSL

Adriano won with a single wave—a 6.5. Italo and Taj were left scratching their heads with next to nothing. Taj sat with priority for 29 minutes of the 30-minute heat, only to barely scratch into a 0.7 at the end. Not the glorious return back to competition anyone wanted. All you can do is laugh at those moments. Italo did exactly that with his hilarious story post on Instagram. Still, it’s that same unpredictability in surfing that makes the good heats even more exciting when they happen. 

Pupo v Seth v Flores had sparks from start to finish. Flores opened with a 7.5 making most people think he’d be in the box seat to get through. But then Pupo racked up a 7.77 and Seth slammed out a 7.73 to leapfrog into the front. Seth looked like he would take it out, but Miggy nailed a wave at the end which had his fellow Brazilians absolutely erupting in the competitors area to applaud his prowess—or so we all thought. 

It turns out ‘Miggy’s cheer squad’ was actually watching the UFC on someone’s phone, where a clutch win was taking place at the same time as Miggy’s last wave. You’ve got to love the passion either way.  

Miguel Pupo surfed applaudably anyway. Photo: Cait Miers/WSL

The next matchup was better again. Bourez slid out of the gates and under the lip for a long technical barrel. One of the judges even dropped a 10 (maybe the Scrooge who stitched up John John at Margies was trying to redeem his character?). Yago wouldn’t be outdone though. Smooth carves netted him a total of 16.10 points for the win. Meanwhile, Caio was left sitting in third with a total of 11.57 that would have seen him scrape through a lot of other heats. 

On the women’s side, Macy Callaghan finally cracked through the glass ceiling winning her first heat of the year. The sophomore lit it up on her backhand to take down 7x world champ Steph Gilmore and Bronte Macaulay. It’s great to see Macy’s approach finally rewarded with a win and hopefully a seed in Round 3 that won’t have her come up against someone like Carissa or Sally.

Spraying Mace. Photo: Matt Dunbar/WSL

The most commanding performances for the day came from the normal heavy hitters though. Gabriel Medina, for instance, went on a tear. He landed a high, clean alley oop, flowing into an air reverse straight after for a 9.33. He backed it up with a couple of 7s too, never looking in doubt for the win. Carissa Moore put on a clinic on the left as well, blasting a 9.5 on her best score and sailing through. 

On the other end of the performance scale, every single wildcard surfer was shafted into the Elimination Round (except for one). Stuey Kennedy, Taj Burrow, Liam O’Brien, Jacob Wilcox, and Mia McCarthy all now find themselves fighting for a chance to keep going in the event. Only Kael Walsh managed to get the fast-track through, and then just barely. He fell on some enormous airs, before taking the safe approach for some fairly forgettable 4s to make it through. 

However, the day’s most interesting guests were actually the crew in the booth. Two indigenous surfers came in to talk about the history of Wadjemup (the traditional Noongar name for Rottnest). Professor, and Elder, Lenny Collard spoke of the dark deeds of this sunny land, which was a prison site and worse during the colonial era. He explained that there is a unique balance of good and bad energy that has to be recognised, to understand the place our surfing world has had the privilege to visit. That energy was certainly mirrored in the ocean throughout the day, with pain and pleasure being dealt out on a miniature scale. Yindjibarndi surfer Simon Zuvich talked about how surfing is a great vehicle for reconciliation to help create bridges within the Australian community. Simon’s message was one of hope, where world-class athletes can help acknowledge the traditional culture of the area, and where indigenous surfers like Soli Bailey can also make it onto the world stage and find a career doing what they love.

Scenes from the opening ceremony. Photo: Cait Miers/WSL

It was a really cool moment to see the difference surfing can make while it was happening live in the water at the same time. There is still a long way to go for lasting reconciliation to be made, but it’s a good start and hopefully one that continues to grow in momentum in modern times. 

Back into competition, we’re ready to see more surfing in the coming days. The eliminators are set with some doozies in the pipeline. Likely things will run tomorrow in smaller, cleaner surf. Further out, it gets a lot more fickle. 

Stay tuned for more at Stickland Bay, Wadjemup.

Rip Curl Rottnest Search Men’s Seeding Round 1 Results: 
HEAT 1: Mikey Wright (AUS) 10.97 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 10.00, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 5.60
HEAT 2: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 12.77 DEF. Jack Robinson (AUS) 11.20, Jacob Willcox (AUS) 10.76
HEAT 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.93 DEF. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 9.40, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 8.13
HEAT 4: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 12.60 DEF. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 6.70, Liam O’Brien (AUS) 5.30
HEAT 5: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 6.50 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 5.83, Taj Burrow (AUS) 0.70
HEAT 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.00 DEF. Kael Walsh (AUS) 9.00, Jack Freestone (AUS) 5.96
HEAT 7: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 15.20 DEF. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 15.03, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 10.94
HEAT 8: Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 13.57 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 13.43, Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 11.50
HEAT 9: Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.83 DEF. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 11.27, Jadson Andre (BRA) 5.03
HEAT 10: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.70 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 13.66, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.53
HEAT 11: Yago Dora (BRA) 16.16 DEF. Michel Bourez (FRA) 15.76, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 11.57
HEAT 12: Deivid Silva (BRA) 12.50 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.20, Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 6.06

Rip Curl Rottnest Search Men’s Elimination Round 2 Matchups: 
HEAT 1: Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS) vs. Taj Burrow (AUS) 
HEAT 2: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) vs. Liam O’Brien (AUS)  
HEAT 3: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA) vs. Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 
HEAT 4: Morgan Cibilic (AUS) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA) vs. Jacob Willcox (AUS)

Rip Curl Rottnest Search Women’s Seeding Round 1 Results: 
HEAT 1: Macy Callaghan (AUS) 13.00 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.70, Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 8.76
HEAT 2: Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN) 7.80 DEF. Keely Andrew (AUS) 6.83, Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 6.17
HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 16.17 DEF. Malia Manuel (HAW) 14.50, Mia McCarthy (AUS) 5.64
HEAT 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.63 DEF. Caroline Marks (USA) 13.04, Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 12.93
HEAT 5: Sage Erickson (USA) 14.60 DEF. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.07, Isabella Nichols (AUS) 12.84
HEAT 6: Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.10 DEF. Tyler Wright (AUS) 11.56, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 9.16

Rip Curl Rottnest Search Women’s Elimination Round 2 Matchups: 
HEAT 1: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) vs. Mia McCarthy (AUS)  
HEAT 2: Isabella Nichols (AUS) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) vs. Brisa Hennessy (CRI)


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