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

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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.

Soza

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. 

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