Caroline Marks And Gabriel Medina 2.0 Win 2021 Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic
It seems you can decimate the competition while wearing a short-arm and a smile.
Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic champion, world number one, throwing away high-eights in the final and doing it all with a smile? This marriage thing seems like it might just be working for Gabriel Medina.
Sure, Gabby’s won events here before, but Australia is not the Dark Knight’s traditional hunting ground. He might pick up a result at Snapper and he’ll generally go deep in the draw at Bells, but by the time he loses early to a local wildcard/shark/Box at Margaret River it seems like he can’t get outta the country fast enough. He then regains momentum through Europe, and comes steamrolling home in Hawaii, exactly the same way a certain three-time world champion Narrabeen wildcard used to do it.
In 2021 however, with the 2020 Pipeline Masters now opening proceeding, Gabriel has made three straight finals, losing the first two (Pipe and Newcastle) to his closest (only?) rivals John Florence and Italo Ferreira, before making mince-meat of the field here in Narrabeen to rocket to the top of the standings. West Oz is normally a troubling leg for Gab, but with a head of steam, a new coach, and a second event that will beautifully compliment his attack, who knows what we might be in for next? Let’s examine how we got here.
The sun rose over glorious conditions for finals day at the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic, the best we’ve seen yet. Thanks to the swell swinging around from the south to the east, previously small closeouts morphed overnight into overhead runners. Somewhat surprising but welcome news to wake up to.
The ladies kicked it off, Carissa Moore running through Keely Andrew first up to start the ball rolling. Far from her best surfing, but she didn’t need it to be. Tatiana Weston-Webb continued her lowkey run to the final with a post-to-post victory over Sally Fitzgibbons, who was favourite on paper but never really looked in the hunt against the Brazilwaiian.
Caroline Marks and Johanne Defay shaped up as the heat of the round, and when did we ever think we’d say that? Unlike Tatiana who flew under the radar to make the finals, Johanne propelled herself into favouritism courtesy of a couple of huge performances on her backhand, and was building momentum right up until she ran into Caroline. Once Courtney Conlogue knocked Stephanie Gilmore from the event there were no Aussies left, so we had to adopt one, and from the semis on Marksy seemed the local fave.
Men’s quarterfinal action saw Frederico Morais out-spray Ethan Ewing in the first one, the big man/big board/big turn point of difference really working for him. Next up came the Aussie underdog and the Brazilian megastar, Morgan Cibilic and Gabriel. With Gabby going supersonic yesterday Aussie fans feared the worst but hoped for the best. From nowhere, five minutes in, Morgan took off ridiculously late, to the point where from the beach it looked like he was going to get swallowed, and somehow snuck under the falling guillotine lip to snake his way through an incredible, deep tube. Morgs was spat out with a good score, bashed a couple of turns to make it a great score, and the beach went wild. It wasn’t to last, though it took Gab just about till the last five minutes to finally unleash the shackles and overhaul stoic Morgs, who held his nerve and sat out the back, letting Gab roam while he waited for a bomb that never came.
The heat already in his grasp Gabriel stomped a masterful air reverse on the hooter. As Gab landed the whitewater did the opposite of what it did to Italo yesterday, instead of swamping Gab it shunted him forward, and as it did he pounded his chest, pointed to his feet, and proved to the booth that he’d well and truly ridden out. Was it also a tribute to his fallen compatriot? In years past you would have said there was no chance, but with Gab 2.0 you can never be too sure. Mission accomplished, Gab turned, bowed to the ocean, and made his way through the throng and back to the competitor area, where he no doubt puts on some Norwegian black metal, rips into a voodoo doll of his next victim, and plugs into some kind of cyborg recharge station briefly.
Next up Conner Coffin and Kanoa Igarashi played out a shocker that featured a priority scuffle, a restart, and eventually an 11-point winning total from Coffin. After Kanoa felt he got the wrong end of the initial paddle punch-up he stewed on it longer than he should have, and apart from a 0.80 for a quick kickout, that was it. A forty-minute heat ended with Kanoa’s head in his hands after he all but did a Miguel Pupo while waiting for waves that never came. He was philosophical afterwards and threw a quick “on to the next one,” then promptly turned his sights to West Oz.
Yago Dora and Griffin Colapinto traded blows next in a lively duel that would have looked like a different beach to the one Kanoa just surfed at. The pair went back and forth, Griff’s 8.5 backhand air-rev at the halfway mark the difference that sent him to the semis.
The women hit the water for the semis and Carissa never really got going in her matchup with Tatiana. A tube at the midway mark for the goofyfooter wasn’t her highest score, but it was so well expertly navigated that its psychological impact could have been worth more than its point value anyway. On her next wave Carissa slipped and fell, Tati found another tube, then a minute later teed off on a right to lock in her highest score and have Riss playing catchup till time ran out.
Caroline Marks and Courtney Conlogue fought out a cracker, swinging hard and exchanging the lead numerous times. At the 10-minute mark Caroline had three fives and Courtney had a five, a six and a seven, both winning scores at various stages in this event. In a semi-final both knew they needed more but only Caroline kept building on her total, adding a six and a seven to sneak home by a meagre 0.03 margin at the death.
With Riss out of the draw, and her own bio-pic launching this week suddenly Caroline seemed the obvious choice in the ladies final against Tati; the first all goofy final since 2006, BTW. Caroline kept her momentum rolling from the get-go. Tatiana led momentarily, but the final was one way traffic. The waves were now predominantly lefts, and with a more powerful forehand and confidence to burn, the teenager whose family moved across the country from Florida to California to support her dreams repaid them with her third Championship Tour victory, and moved to second in the ratings in the process. Congrats to Caroline, that was a thoroughly entertaining display.
An interesting observation this week was that the women don’t often get to go left on tour, and a couple of higher profile surfers were caught out when the Narrabeen left was the best option and they refused to attack heats (mainly those on their backhand). A few others however—well played Caroline, Tatiana, Carissa and Johanne—licked their lips at the opportunity to head south. Margaret River is next up, reasonably well known by the field and the right is the usual scorer anyway, but after that the left at Rottnest’s Strickland Bay might be the most critical examination a lot of the ladies have seen in a long while. Results could be very interesting.
Semi one was the finals warmup for Gabby, semi two determined who he got to fight. Frederico put up a great show but it ended in a flat affair against Gab, who barely raised a sweat. No big moments, no huge airs or wild claims, the main point of interest was a paddle battle block thing that the judges refused to acknowledge, and that was that. Conner then outmuscled Griffin in the second, all-Californian semi, dropping two scores early and letting Griff chase lumps up and down the beach that never eventuated. There endeth Griff’s highly entertaining Narrabeen run.
Conditions cooled before the final. Dropped maybe a degree or two. Was this a southerly buster? Was rain or some kind of devil wind Conner’s only hope? Whatever it was, it only served to iron the creases out of the lineup, which was now a grey putting green, silky smooth under the faintest zephyr of breeze. Did somebody say Airshow?
As the final kicked off I got a smarmy message from a mate back home… “You sick of watching air reverses yet?” My answer was a simple no. Say what you will, and boy oh boy do the internet love sounding off on stuff they can’t do, but watching Gab and Italo and Felipe sizzle down the line at 1000mph will never get old. Even when you know what’s coming, even when you’ve seen it dozens of times before, even if your mate is about to lose a heat, the build up and anticipation never gets old. You. Can’t. Look. Away.
The execution? That’s something else all together.
When someone online laments that they prefer power surfing, they should remember that they would never do a turn on the psycho sections these guys huck off, and when they come up against a guy like Morgan Cibilic or Conner Coffin, who then do the wildest turns of their life, that is because these guys have forced them to, and they know they simply have to fight fire with fire.
Gabby’s final today was a masterclass. Whereas he had Italo on the ropes in Newcastle last week and couldn’t land the killer blow, this time around it was over in the space of two waves, five minutes apart. After landing huge scores all week for aerials or big turns, on his first volley Gab headed left and decided to combine them both. Two lightning cracks off the top released plumes of spray that were still raining down when he launched up and out and into a hands-free full rotation that he rode out of clean as a whistle. The judges threw a 9.27, the crowd went nuts. Four minutes later Gab swung onto his backhand, threw an elegant reo-setup, hit the throttle and launched an even bigger and cleaner rev. Gab gestured “10, please?” but better than that was the smile it came with; cheeky, comfortable, happy. At one point today sideline commentator, and excellent addition to the Wozzle roster, Stace Galbraith asked Gab why he no longer seemed hell bent on hassling for the first wave anymore.
“I just want to surf,” came the reply, “that’s what I like.” Again, the smile.
Conner was beaten not defeated. Chasing a two wave total for the majority of the heat he realised the futility of safety surfing, and as mentioned above, forced himself to find another gear. A few easy sixes were lost when he pushed them to their max, and given sixes were now vestigial why the hell wouldn’t he? In the dying minutes Conner found the wave he was waiting for and redlined off the bottom and turned all of that speed into two of the best contest turns of his life back to back. The crowd roared, Conner saved himself the indignity of being comboed, and walked off the beach with his head held high to go and celebrate with his Rip Curl teammate Gabby. As I write this their other Aussie mate Morgan Cibilic is being chaired around local margarita bar Mexicano, and no doubt wildcard mate Dylan Moffatt will be there too, either at the bar or at least behind it.
Scoring incredible waves over these last two weeks in New South Wales was always going to be a long shot and maybe it didn’t quite pan out that way, but the WSL couldn’t be happier to have got major league surfing back up and running again. Performances have been incredible, the beaches have been packed with fans in amazing spirits, we’ve had action galore and WA, where it has been pumping all autumn, is next.
How bloody good.
|Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Women’s Final Results:|
1 – Caroline Marks (USA) 12.57
2 – Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 11.34
Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Men’s Final Results:
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.77
2 – Conner Coffin (USA) 14.10
Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Women’s Semifinal Results:
HEAT 1: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 13.90 DEF. Carissa Moore (HAW) 10.80
HEAT 2: Caroline Marks (USA) 13.60 DEF. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 13.57
Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Men’s Semifinal Results:
HEAT 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.50 DEF. Frederico Morais (PRT) 10.70
HEAT 2: Conner Coffin (USA) 13.83 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 11.03
Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Women’s Quarterfinal Results:
HEAT 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.94 DEF. Keely Andrew (AUS) 10.16
HEAT 2: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 11.90 DEF. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 10.40
HEAT 3: Caroline Marks (USA) 12.50 DEF. Johanne Defay (FRA) 10.46
HEAT 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 12.16 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 9.17
Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Men’s Quarterfinal Results:
HEAT 1: Frederico Morais (PRT) 13.84 DEF. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 11.83
HEAT 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.97 DEF. Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 12.67
HEAT 3: Conner Coffin (USA) 11.06 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 0.80
HEAT 4: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.50 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 12.00
|WSL Women’s Championship Tour Leaderboard Top 5: |
1 – Carissa Moore (HAW) 23,885 pts
2 – Caroline Marks (USA) 18,695 pts
3 – Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 16,495 pts
4 – Tyler Wright (AUS) 15,220 pts
5 – Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14,235 pts
WSL Men’s Championship Tour Leaderboard Top 5:
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 25,600 pts
2 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) 19,405 pts
3 – John John Florence (HAW) 14,650 pts
4 – Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 12,810 pts
4 – Conner Coffin (USA) 12,810 pts
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