Collisions, Late Arrivals, And A Few Surprise Losses - Stab Mag
He showed up late, but he showed up strong. Owen Wright. Photo: Matt Dunbar/World Surf League

Collisions, Late Arrivals, And A Few Surprise Losses

Day 2 at the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup feat. an unexpected swell.

Words by Chris Binns

While Bells Beach pumped for the duration of the Easter long weekend (of course it did), Novocastrians and the World Surf League caravan were given an extended holiday to try and put last Thursday’s April Fool’s Day swell behind them. 

After four days of chocolate eggs and a pancake-flat ocean, it was a shock this morning when the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup staff WhatsApp group lit up with an ON call in the pre-dawn. Lo and behold Merewether was kinda pumping, breaking on the outer bank in front of the ladies changerooms (known as Ladies) and running through to the inside section that breaks in front of the rocks (known as Rocks). The energy around the site was up 10-fold on last week’s lethargic re-launch, and we were go.

Early traffic in the water was frantic as surfers scrambled to familiarise themselves with a new CT venue. While we would never feel the need to put out the hat for our beloved pro surfing brethren, it does seem that time is nigh for the WSL to wrangle an agreement with local organisers to lockdown lineups on competition mornings and allow the Top 34 and 17 to get in some chaos-free reps before heats kick off. 

As if to prove the point Leo Fioravanti collided with a free surfer in the shorebreak as he wrapped his warmup, busting a fin box out of his number one craft in the process. Cue one fuming Italian, one pissed off Cronulla Shark (Leo’s coach Richard Marsh), and a ton of supportive moans and groans from Leo’s peers.

A fine place to apply anger. Leo eventually earned the day’s highest heat total on his backup board. Photo: Cait Miers/WSL

To say this swell came from nowhere would be an understatement. Yesterday, we filmed local lads Ryan Callinan and Morgan Cibilic for No Contest and neither of them thought much of the forecast beyond the end of the week. Speaking of Morgan, he injured a toe landing a floater awkwardly early this AM, and is doing all he can to be right for the next round. Finger crossed.

The surprise start caught Owen Wright off guard and he was late to work, joining Adriano de Souza and Matt Banting in the water some seven minutes after their heat kicked off. Owen took four minutes to paddle all the way to the top of the lineup, and although that’s what the rulebook asks of you, there was no reason Owen couldn’t have caught a two-second wave in the shorey and then hopped on the ski, or simply called for the ski and accepted third priority once out the back. 

Not that it really mattered.

O wound up his backhand to beat Adriano de Souza, while Matt Banting was bounced out in his first event in the big leagues since finishing 28th in 2016. While Matty is no doubt in great form, in rolling rights that bore more than a faint resemblance to a wobbly day at the Bells Bowl, the two tour veterans never looked troubled. New-father-of-two Owen would later admit that he’d forgotten there were two, not four, women’s elimination heats, while Ronnie Blakey added that in 2019 Owen didn’t surf once in the round that even the WSL’s own Fantasy Surfer competition pays no attention to.

In the next and most entertaining three-surfer heat of the day, with 90 seconds remaining Jack Robinson went from third to first priority in the space of one wave. Luck landed in his lap when Mikey fell after blocking Julian, but Jack still had to calm his nerves and wrangle his wave to the beach for the score. He kicked out on the sand to book a well-earned spot in the round of 32, where he’ll come up against Julian once again. 

Jack knocked Julian out of the Pipe Masters in December, so could this be the Newcastle resident’s revenge, and the start of surfing’s next great rivalry? Probably not, but it’s fun to imagine.  

Beyond those two noteworthy battles, Matt McGillivray, Jadson Andre, Malia Manuel and Sage Erickson also bowed out early. Meanwhile, Leo high-scored the day for the men, turning his busted-board frustrations into a nine and a near-seven, while Carissa Moore looks the lady to beat on the women’s side of the draw, demolishing local wildcard Philippa Anderson in a powerful performance as Philippa’s high flying brother Craig watched on from afar. 

With kids everywhere scrambling for the autograph of anyone in the competitor’s area (even if they later have to ask who exactly just scribbled on their hat), it was amusing to watch one of the planet’s highest profile free-surfers stroll anonymously through the crowd, with just pet puppy Bella for company.

Craig does have a peculiar way of flying under the radar. Photo: John Responded

As the ladies ran through the Round of 16, Tyler Wright’s loss served as the day’s biggest surprise. She’s joined by Sally Fitzgibbons, Tatiana Weston-Webb, and Lakey Peterson as red jerseys who are off to Narrabeen early. Tyler’s heat started at Rocks and finished on the rocks, as Courtney Conlogue surfed Ladies by herself. Although Tyler and coach Glenn Hall would have planned their attack on the inside bank carefully, when the judges refused to award priority to the two-time world champ, then all but refused to score her work, she soon changed tactic and headed for deeper water.

It was not a question of too little too late, as Tyler was still leading to the halfway point—but it wasn’t to last and after Courtney bagged a seven for a well-surfed set. Tyler wasn’t fazed, admitted she still had chances and wouldn’t have changed much beyond falling a couple of times. On to the next one she goes, in the yellow jersey or not still to be decided.

The Queen, doing Queen shit. Photo: Cait Miers/WSL

Elsewhere, Steph Gilmore looked great. Isabella Nicholls is going to win Rookie Of The Year regardless of where she finishes, but that promises to be high on the rankings. And now that she has Andrew “Gabriel Medina and Seth Moniz’s coach” King in her corner, could this be the year Keely Andrew’s results reflect her talent?

There’s a strong chance we’re back tomorrow but after today there are no certainties, and the swell was definitely waning in the afternoon’s later heats. Even matchups to look for in the men’s Round of 32 include Jack and Julian, Jeremy Flores and Adriano de Souza (in a bout that would also make a great cage fight), Kanoa Igarashi and Ethan Ewing, and Jack Freestone and Yago Dora. 

The forecast still looks delightful for later this week.

Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Women’s Elimination Round 2Results:
HEAT 1: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 13.00 DEF. Keely Andrew (AUS) 6.63, Malia Manuel (HAW) 3.67
HEAT 2: Macy Callaghan (AUS) 11.34 DEF. Johanne Defay (FRA) 9.00, Sage Erickson (USA) 5.30

Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Women’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.50 DEF. Macy Callaghan (AUS) 10.93
HEAT 2: Isabella Nichols (AUS) 14.10 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 12.53
HEAT 3: Keely Andrew (AUS) 14.23 DEF. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 9.23
HEAT 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 12.30 DEF. Tyler Wright (AUS) 10.74
HEAT 5: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.93 DEF. Philippa Anderson (AUS) 8.34
HEAT 6: Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.60 DEF. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 9.23
HEAT 7: Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 10.83 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 8.33
HEAT 8: Caroline Marks (USA) 8.66 DEF. Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 7.93

Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Women’s Quarterfinals Matchups:
HEAT 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Isabella Nichols (AUS)
HEAT 2: Keely Andrew (AUS) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA)
HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
HEAT 4: Bronte Macaulay (AUS) vs. Caroline Marks (USA)

Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Men’s Elimination Round 2Results:
HEAT 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.77 DEF. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.66, Matt Banting (AUS) 11.00  
HEAT 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.80 DEF. Jack Robinson (AUS) 10.90, Mikey Wright (AUS) 8.67 HEAT 3: Michel Bourez (FRA) 13.34 DEF. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 11.33, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 8.43  
HEAT 4: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 15.67 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 12.33, Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.40

Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Men’s Round of 32 Matchups:
HEAT 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)  
HEAT 2: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)  
HEAT 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Adriano de Souza (BRA)  
HEAT 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Jack Robinson (AUS) 
HEAT 5: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Morgan Cibilic (AUS)  
HEAT 6: Seth Moniz (HAW) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 
HEAT 7: Ryan Callinan (AUS) vs. Crosby Colapinto (USA)  
HEAT 8: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)  
HEAT 9: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Jackson Baker (AUS)  
HEAT 10: Michel Bourez (FRA) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)  

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