Stab Magazine | Florence And Medina Thrive While The Rest Struggle To Survive At Colossal Bells

Florence And Medina Thrive While The Rest Struggle To Survive At Colossal Bells

And for the first time in years, Kelly Slater rode a PU surfboard in competition. 

news // Apr 26, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 8 minutes

What a fucking day.

Fifty-year storm? Maybe, but probably not. The locals we’ve asked about it have all said no, but the sheer carnage we saw this afternoon was enough to make us second guess. There were countless broken boards, leashes, leash plugs, and Italo Ferreira got the worst pounding of his life. More on that later.

After much fanfare, the women did end up surfing on the day of days, albeit in the morning when the waves were much more manageable. Their quarters ran first thing, with the only noteworthy rides coming from Courtney Conlogue, who managed the increased wave size with a board that looked to be at least 6’6, and Caroline Marks, who banged a few meaty sections for a seven.

The WSL gave the men 50-minute overlapping heats, which to my knowledge is unprecedented.

Medina didn’t need it. Within the 30 minutes that a heat would typically span, Medina collected a nine and an eight, exposing the wildcard phenom for what he is: a kid. Reef Heazlewood’s surfing has impressed us immeasurably over the past two events, but in eight-to-ten-foot Bells he was an afterthought for Medina, who seeped testosterone on every grab-rail bottom turn and vicious backside hanger.


Gabriel Medina 0412Bells19Dunbar
Gabriel Medina


Owen Wright also looked at ease in the juice, proven by his victory over the big lad from New Zealand, Ricardo Christie.

John Florence surpassed both of the studs above with a display reminiscent of his 2017 assault on Margaret River. Florence sliced through turbulent water with ease and delivered devastating blow after devastating blow to Bells’ feathering lip, securing an 8 and a 9.5 in the process. 

Italo Ferreira, despite riding a very large board, struggled off the bottom of the lumpy, quickly growing lines, and even Jordy, the biggest man on Tour, seemed a bit lost in the sauce.

In Jordy’s defense, he’d been forced to ride completely unknown crafts after making the regrettable decision of sending his larger equipment to WA prior to the Bells event. So Jordy was stuck borrowing the step-ups of his local caddy and confidant, Mr. Jack Perry, whose 6’8 Dahlberg looked a little too big under the Saffa’s feet, prompting a switch to the 6’6 Arakawa, which worked much better but still had Jordy leagues behind Florence.


Kelly Slater3401Bells19Cestari
Kelly Slater, on the Simon


Speaking of boards, Slater started his Round of 16 heat riding a 6’0 Webber in Slater Designs tech. The craft looked twitchy and unpredictable, forcing Slater to return to shore and grab a trusty Simon Anderson, which looked no less than 6’4 and was adorned with an unmissable RAGE traction pad. This is noteworthy not just because it’s the first time Kelly has ridden a PU board in competition in years, but also because, by the looks of that Simon, it had been stashed down here for a good 5-10 years, and RAGE has been around for less than three.

That means Slater either borrowed the board from a buddy (the more likely option) or he applied the new pad to an old board in the past couple years, in which case you’d have to ask: why didn’t he use one of his own traction products?

And let’s just assume there were no Slater Designs pads available in the greater-Torquay region. Unlikely, but we’ll roll with it. Why, in that case, would the GOAT opt for a pad with the most blatant, unmissable branding in all of surfing?

The only logical conclusion is that Slater borrowed the board, or he reaaally wants to be cool. Here’s Rage’s response:

Screen Shot 2019 04 26 at 7.30.19 PM

To many a surf fan’s dismay, Slater didn’t magically return to his mid-2000s glory upon riding the Simon. To my eye, the board looked rather long and stiff beneath the 11-time Champ, which was a nice departure from the current norm, but it will probably cause him to ride a different design tomorrow. And yes, Slater made his heat, but only because Peterson was afraid of the Bowl.

Worth noting: Slater is the only surfer still in the draw who has yet to score above 12 points in a heat.

In the following heats, R-Cal bested Conner Coffin with a lip-heavy approach, Filipe dusted Seth Moniz with an exquisite carving display, and Jacob Wilcox, who arrived in this event via the trials, made the most of Deivid Silva’s unfortunate board-breaking incident, taking the heat-winning wave while Deivid struggled to collect a new craft and return to the lineup.  

But the back half of the draw is where most of the talent (and other forms of entertainment) lies.

Medina went straight back into beast mode against Willian Cardoso, who was forced to watch as the 2018 Champ collected a nine and an eight in opening 15 minutes, quickly dissolving any delusion of an upset. Halfway through that heat, John and Owen entered the lineup in what looked to be a fairly even, or at least competitive, match-up.

The opening sequence was troubling for John fans, with the Prodigal Son scoring 6.93 to Owen’s 8.17 – numbers that multiple commentators believed unfairly distant.

John got karmic justice when Owen broke his board, forcing him to return to shore to grab a backup. Only problem was, Owen’s replacement stick had no wax, so he had to spend a few minutes on the beach finding, and applying, an entirely fresh coat of foot-hold. (This would not be the last backup board faux pas on Big Friday.)


John John Florence 9221Bells19Dunbar
John Florence


By the time Owen returned to the lineup, John had already taken the lead, which he then bettered, and bettered again, with an unbelievable display of power and control. What John, and Gabriel to a slightly lesser extent, did today was a not-so-subtle reminder of their sheer surfing dominance. When the conditions are of a certain magnitude, nobody comes close. They are physically stronger, more aggressive, and read waves better than anybody in the world. They are the best and second-best surfers on Earth, bar fucking none.

For me, John takes the cake, but I understand how the argument can be made for Medina as well. It’s a shame they have to meet each other in the quarters.

Jumping back into the chaos, Jeremy Flores broke his new 6’3 mid-heat and, for some reason, hadn’t waxed up his other one, let alone brought another board down to the beach, which meant he had to run all the way up the stairs to grab his 5’10 backup.

Five. Ten.

The waves, at this point in the afternoon, were 8-12 foot by conservative standards. And Jeremy had to ride a 5’10. Poor guy, but he also could have done a lot more to help himself in this situation. We’ll chalk it up to the constant responsibilities of being a new father, which could have obstructed Jezza’s standard pre-heat routine.

In the Frenchman’s favor was the fact that his competitor, Italo Ferreira, was having plenty of troubles of his own. The Ferrari got so belted that he ripped out his leash plug and was washed around the rocks into Winki, and those were separate instances. In another troubling moment, Italo buckled his board and had to swim to shore. The thing is Italo’s caddy was nowhere to be found, so a security guard waddled down the beach with his backup board and handed it over.


Ferreira I0787 BellsDunbar19
Worth showing again. Italo Ferreira


After “winning” the heat – which in a sense, today, survival was a victory in and of itself – Italo was so exhausted that he couldn’t even make it up the stairs. He collapsed halfway and, after a brief rest, proclaimed over the webcast:

“That was crazy moment. I never saw the jetski, I was walking on the rocks, but surfers [at Winki] said the jetski was coming so I jumped back in. That was the most crazy moment I’ve ever been in. Tomorrow is another day. I’m so tired, I need to relax.”

Meanwhile Jordy Smith, in the last heat of the day, was having his own equipment issues. First he broke his board. Jordy’s caddy, Jack Perry, sprinted all the way up the beach to meet him, then all the way back down the beach to give Jordy his board. He’s the only caddy who deserves his money today.


Jordy Smith 3154Bells19Cestari
Jordy Smith


After regaining the lineup and riding a few more waves on the 6’8 Dahlberg, Jordy was caught inside on a legitimate 12-footer that crashed directly on his head. The leash popped like a weasel. Back to the beach went Jordy, collecting the cordless craft before it hit the shoreline and heading straight back out to the lineup.

Luckily for Jords, his competitor, Kanoa Igarashi, refused to catch anything over six-feet, squandering the blond man’s scoring capacity. Jordy limped away with the win.

So that was it, and everyone who watched with me agreed: this was the most entertaining afternoon of surfing we’ve seen in a long time.

Tomorrow the waves will be slightly smaller but still quite solid. The WSL plans to run straight through from 7 am til 1 pm, crowning the champions before the tide goes swamp.

One would hope that all of the remaining competitors are fast asleep by now. They’re gonna need all the rest they can get.


Ryan Callinan3468Bells19Cestari
Ryan Callinan



Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Quarterfinal Results:
Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) 8.67 DEF. Coco Ho (HAW) 8.16  
Heat 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.17 DEF. Carissa Moore (HAW) 9.37  
Heat 3: Malia Manuel (HAW) 10.77 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 8.70  
Heat 4: Caroline Marks (USA) 11.83 DEF. Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 5.97

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Semifinal Matchups:
Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA)  
Heat 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Caroline Marks (USA)

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Remaining Men’s Round 3 (H9-16) Results: 
Heat 9: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.03 DEF. Reef Heazlewood (AUS) 7.80  
Heat 10: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 12.20 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 9.63  
Heat 11: Owen Wright (AUS) 16.10 DEF. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 12.07  
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW) 17.67 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 11.24  
Heat 13: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.76 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 9.10  
Heat 14: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.03 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.44  
Heat 15: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 12.07 DEF. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.93  
Heat 16: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.10 DEF. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 13.27

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Round 4 Results: 
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 10.80 DEF. Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 6.87  
Heat 2: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 13.93 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 9.93  
Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.10 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 7.13  
Heat 4: Jacob Willcox (AUS) 11.80 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 10.04  
Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.27 DEF. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 7.76  
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW) 18.16 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 16.97  
Heat 7: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.20 DEF. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 6.03  
Heat 8: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.10 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 11.03

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS)  
Heat 2: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Jacob Willcox (AUS)  
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. John John Florence (HAW)  
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)


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