Stab Magazine | Could Filipe Become The World's Best Thick-Wave Surfer?



Could Filipe Become The World’s Best Thick-Wave Surfer?

Mark Mathews weighs in.

news // Aug 20, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

At this very moment, Australia’s east coast is getting spanked by a real stepfather of a south swell. I decided to chase it with a couple of old friends, the type whose names you wouldn’t know but whose surfing, especially in waves of girth, would cock a brow. The night before the swell, we talked about waves that dip before they boom. We also talked about fear, ability, and ocean knowledge. Then we talked about Filipe Toledo. I posed a simple question to the group:

Could Filipe be the world’s best thick-wave* surfer, if he put his mind to it?

Here’s my thinking: Filipe’s physical capabilities are unmatched in the surfing world. I know John John Florence is a freak and Kelly Slater is king, but name one surfer whose motions are more precise and reactive than the soaring alpaca…you can’t! This, in my mind, makes Filipe the ideal prototype for waves that stop before they go. And while my friends are incredible in the grunty stuff, they haven’t yet earned the status of “expert”. So I asked Mark Mathews, who is one week away from a career-deciding surgery, what attributes are most important for the over-vert approach.

Hey Mark, simple question: Do you reckon Filipe could be the best thick-wave surfer in the world, if he put his mind to it?

Mark Mattews: 100% he could do it. When you’re that talented, you can learn how to do anything, and the skill of it isn’t that hard really. It’s just timing those waves.


mak mathew3

Mark, pre-knee-catastrophe

When talking with buddies the other night, we determined there were three aspects to approaching proper stoinkers: skill level, a confident mindset, and ocean knowledge. Would you say that’s pretty accurate?

To me, timing is most important. But confidence also plays a big role in that timing… it’s about deciding when to paddle for a wave and then truly committing.

Who are the best slab surfers in the world?

Aw, John would be the best, by far. Then there’s Kelly, Nate Florence is sick as well, and Hippo is really good.

Is there one specific attribute that stands out in those guys?

John and Kelly have this thing, Bruce and Andy too, where their bodies don’t go stiff. That makes such a difference to how well you ride a wave. It’d be like John stiffening up on a massive air… he’d never be able to land one, you know? It’s the same when he’s standing in a big barrel. 

Do you think some people are born with that confidence and fearlessness, or is it a barrier everyone’s gotta break through?

It’s just a barrier. I don’t think anyone’s really born to do that naturally — some people are just exposed to it early, so it looks natural to them. John, for example. 

Were you scared a lot when you were younger?

Definitely, but I was lucky to have guys like Kobe around to set the bar of what was possible at a really young age. So I followed them and eventually it was natural for me to not be afraid. Granted, I never had a choice, because I was never gonna be a top 10 tour surfer, so this was my only path. It’s obviously not the same for someone like Filipe.

But at the end of the day, you’ve gotta love the big stuff more than you’re scared of it. A lot of guys will surf big waves once, and they love it, but they don’t love it enough to keep coming back and doing it. They can’t deal with that fear over and over and over again, and that’s the difference. I’m not the best in big waves, but I can do it over and over and surf 100 more swells than everyone else.

Do you think comfort in heavy surf is the difference between Filipe being an incredible talent and a world champ?

Absolutely. Adriano de Souza is a perfect example. He got really good at Pipe, Chopes, and he figured out The Box. That was just time and conditioning, and now he’s a world champ.


Adriano de Souza and the perks of persistence. Photo: WSL

For Filipe, time will tell. If he puts in the work he’ll get there for sure. If his desire to win the title isn’t strong enough, then maybe he won’t.

It’s similar to TB. In the early days, Taj was leagues ahead in the small stuff, but it probably took him too long to get comfortable in heavier surf. Nowadays he’s fully charging, but you have to wonder, if Taj had confronted that aspect of his surfing a little sooner, would he have a title today? 

*Stab employees are no longer permitted to use the term ‘slab’, as per a mandate from HQ. Feel free to leave your best alternatives in the comments. 


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Live Now: Finals Day At Stab High Japan Presented By Monster Energy

The freshwater feud for Pro, Ladybird, and Bottle Rocket champion starts now.

Jun 22, 2024

Albee Layer Reluctantly Escapes Sudden-Death Round On Final Wave Of The Day, Advances to Day 2 of Stab High Japan 

“I just want to do my fucking wave, and then go home”

Jun 22, 2024

“Relax, It’s A Surf Contest In A Swimming Pool”

Our attempt at an unbiased comp wrap from afar, on Day One of Stab High…

Jun 22, 2024

Rasta Robb Gutter Stomps Backside Full-Rote, Scores a 3/50

Why wasn’t the reigning champ rewarded in heat 1 of Stab High Japan?

Jun 22, 2024

Full Replay: Day 1 of Stab High Japan Presented By Monster Energy

Click to watch (or rewatch) today's Qualifier and Sudden Death rounds.

Jun 21, 2024

Everything You Need to Know About The Most ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ Wave in the Mentawais

Tips from longtime HTs devotee, Liam Turner.

Jun 21, 2024

“You’re An Elite Freesurfer, I’m Just A Vlogger, Surely You Can Take Me Out”

King of Waco calls out Aussie freesurfers on Stab High live stream.

Jun 21, 2024

Please Don’t Do A Superman At Stab High Japan, Presented By Monster Energy 

Breaking down the best and worst airs, according to the stats. 

Jun 20, 2024

355 Days Later, We Still Don’t Know What Elo Did In Brazil

But here's your 2024 Rio Pro preview.

Jun 20, 2024

JJF + Medina To Continue Rampages In Brazil?

12x CT event winner and previous SITD pilot Taj Burrow says 'yes'.

Jun 19, 2024

Allow Us To Introduce The YETI Ladybirds And Bottle Rockets Of Stab High Japan Presented By Monster Energy

Here's our schoolyard pick for teams; who will win the most cred at the lunch…

Jun 17, 2024

Prediction: Moving The WSL Finals To Fiji Will Kill Off Two More Surfing Superstars

Is this JJF's time to collect his titles? We checked the stats.

Jun 17, 2024

Confirmed: Fiji To Host 2025 WSL Finals

Cloudbreak will remain on tour until 2026.

Jun 17, 2024

What’s The Secret To Powersurfing?

Taylor Knox, Kyuss King, and Jessi Miley-Dyer tackle a trio of questions in our third…

Jun 16, 2024

How To Win Stab High Japan, Presented By Monster Energy

A statistical analysis of the 493 airs attempted in previous chlorinated editions.

Jun 16, 2024

Watch: An Intimate Portrait Of The Wave, Village, And People At The End Of The Road

Oxbow’s ‘Children of Teahupo’o’ is playing exclusively on Stab Premium for the next two weeks. 

Jun 15, 2024

Fuck It, Run The Entire CT In Indo

A historic beginning to the Indonesian dry season.

Jun 14, 2024

Ferrari Boyz: Holly Wawn

"I've had 4, 5, maybe 6 cars... I'm a car dealer I reckon."

Jun 13, 2024
JUNE 22 & 23
-2 Days
19 Hours
43 Minutes
22 Seconds
Join Stab Premium