Stab Magazine | Heats that were better than Finals (this year)
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Heats that were better than Finals (this year)

Words by Morgan Williamson  How anticlimactic our sport can be! All too often, the best days of surf occur prior to the final. It’s because surfing isn’t made for competition. There’s too many variables, hope for ultimate control is futile! A double edged sword of beauty sewn in chaos. All to do with swell window, […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Words by Morgan Williamson 

How anticlimactic our sport can be! All too often, the best days of surf occur prior to the final. It’s because surfing isn’t made for competition. There’s too many variables, hope for ultimate control is futile! A double edged sword of beauty sewn in chaos. All to do with swell window, wind and tide. During today’s Billabong Pro, Tahiti we saw some heats that entertained, but none as much as John John Florence and Gabriel Medina. How passionate is our wish for early heats to be the final! We’ve said and heard; Pottz, Turpel and the WSL cast say: ah, that should’ve been the final. Wishful thinking. Us surf-folk are never truly satisfied. Proper rising and falling action doesn’t coexist with the format designed by the WSL. Often, we end up with lacklustre finals; a flickering star in a galaxy of supernova. So, we reviewed heats from the last 12 months. Beginning and ending with dear John… few other have put up so many nines only to be eliminated by slightly higher nines. There’s something in that: the best surfers bringing out the best in their opponents…

John John Florence 19.77 and Kelly Slater 19.77 Billabong Pro Tahiti 2014 Semis

The infamous John John and Kelly heat from Chopes last year is where our journey will commence. A contest that’ll go down in history as the best to happen in competitive surfing (until it’s not). Actually, all spoken word of this mystical event is rife with ‘best ever’ platitudes. We watched, cheered, eyes glued to the screens as our favs battled it out in perfect, massive, gut-wrenching Chopes. It was hard to watch and dangerous. A separation of men from boys. While the chargers charged, some backed out of competition. But the pleasure was ours. Kelly and John lined up in the semis. And, our hearts dropped! The world’s best backhand tuberiders were about to be featured in the greatest surf to ever host competition. An exchanging of perfect and nearly-perfect scores ensued. When it came down to it, Kelly was supreme. But, who actually deserved to win was a point of much discussion (as it so often is in surfing). Should John have claimed a bit more? Did his silky smooth, casual exits from waves riddled with consequence hurt his scores? Could the judges not see how critical his surfing was? Well, those are questions still tossed around from time to time. But the truth is we craved it to be the final. Kelly and John, the King and the Prince. It could’ve been written better; it should’ve been the final.

Jordy Smith 17.76 and Mick Fanning 15.60, Ripcurl Pro Bells Beach Quarters 2015

Bells is boring at best. This year featured wonky, fat pointbreak junk. The final consisted of Mick and Adriano. They tied with identical scores of 15.27, which in itself is the essence of anti-drama. And as they say, is like kissing your sister. Mick was given the win after the fact in a countback scenario. And Jords and Mick in the quarters was the heat to watch. With a back and forth of some the highest wave scores in the event, it was two surfers thoroughly rising to the challenge and hacking away at a misshapen righthand pointbreak. And, it was far more exciting than Mick and Adriano’s final.

Owen Wright 20 and Adam Melling 17.70, Fiji Pro Round Five 2015

Owen in Fiji this year was stupid. The first surfer to ever post two perfect heat scores in competition during what’s been hands down the most exciting contest this year. As the final with Owen also consisted of two perfect waves, Jules was set up to fail continuing the rhythm which got him through the comp. Prior to the final, Owen’s perfect heat score seemed like a bad omen. An early peak in competition is the tide cliche. Heat three round five should’ve been the final. Mello surfed the best heat of his life, putting up a 9.70 in firing Cloudbreak with a heat total of 17.70. But unfortunately the only thing that triumphs over near perfection is sheer perfection.

Kelly Slater 18.10 and Gabriel Medina 17.23, J-Bay Open Quarterfinal 2015 

Granted, this is by default. J-Bay had no final, there was a shark or something. Mick, like, punched it… it maybe made the news or whatever. There’s no doubt that Jules and Mick would’ve been one hell of a final. Both surfers were in pristine form. Mick was unstoppable and thankfully elusive to those grey bellied predators the surf world can’t seem to stop chattering about. But fuck, the final before the called off final was Kelly and Gabs in the quarters. After an event plagued by mediocre waves the last day was gifted with perfect head high Jeffrey’s bay. Kelly carved and hacked out a nine point ride, and strengthen his heat score with a subsequent 9.10. Gabs was looking good, just not enough. He put up an 8.43 and an 8.80 utilizing rail work too aggressive for his fins but in the end came up short.

Gabriel Medina 19 and John John Florence 18.84, Billabong Pro Tahiti Round Three 2015

When John and Gabs matched up so early in the competition it was disappointing. Both gents surf Chopes so well. To see one forced early out is unfortunate. But it was one hell of a battle. Between the two, 20 waves were ridden, six of which were up in the nine-point range. The final obvi hasn’t happened, but if it ends up more exciting than their heat in round three, you can colour us sideways. John lost by a meagre 0.16 and continues his form of exiting the Billabong Pro despite putting in some of the contest’s best-ever performances. Bad luck maybe, but fuck, he’s the most exciting surfer to watch at Chopes. Can’t wait for the freesurf footage! And, bravo Gabs!

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