How To (Nearly) Combo 7x World Champ Stephanie Gilmore At Her Home Break
Caroline Marks shows us the way.
How did you start your morning?
A steaming cup of coffee? A prolonged Instagram scroll? A sneaky sparrows session?
John Florence started his morning with a spitting tube straight into a staunch air reverse. Good thing, too, up against one of the Quik Pro favorites, Filipe Toledo, who was hungry for a big result following his 25th at Snapper last year.
That wave, which scored a 7.33, was Florence’s best of the morning, and when paired with his 6.73 was enough to squeak past the gymnastic Brazilian, who earned the heat’s highest single score for a carve to spin combo.
“I think John is all healed,” Filipe said in his post-heat interview, clearly annoyed by the loss but also impressed with Florence’s return to competition.
Juan Juan beat The Freak in chest high wedges. A feat worthy of celebration.
Duranbah was clean and pristine at first light, but as the morning high filled its guts, the waves took on an unfavorable wonk. This became apparent by heat 3, which featured Hawaiian rookie Seth Moniz and Sunny Coast wildcard Reef Heazlewood.
Despite not being on Tour, Reef was the favorite in this match, both on the WSL’s fan poll and the Aussie betting sites. A marginal lead was all had, but a lead nonetheless.
Reef fell on what looked like an already-completed full-rotation. Seth was on the very next wave, a beautiful looking left, and tagged it three times for a high-six. Steady.
Reef fought back with his now-patented frontside slob – loftier and more controlled than any of his peers’. This air will define Reef’s ultra-bright future, but today it was only worth 6.3 – slightly less than Seth’s three-banger, which in retrospect seems a bit silly.
Irrelevant in the long run, as Reef never found a legitimate back-up, granting the “underdog” rookie a clear path to the quarters.
Not bad, but not like yesterday.
Medina versus Yago was the heat that everybody wanted to see, especially after their performances yesterday, which included a 19-point total from Medina and three full-rotation airs plus a silky fin flare from Mr. Dora.
Medina won with merciless competitive tactics, and the Brazilians’ Round 4 match was a bit of a fizzer. Which is kind of a weird thing to say, considering three full-rotation airs were landed in their 40-minute meet, but we live in a relative world and this heat made me yawn. When you’re expecting an atom bomb performance, fireworks no longer cut it.
Surely Italo would spark some enthusiasm. After his performance, yesterday—which we initially claimed included seven airs in 40 minutes, but after closer expectation proved to have two airs on one wave, making for eight airs in 40—I expected nothing less than an utter decimation of poor Willian.
As it turned out, the Panda nearly won. With the tide pushing high and winds dropping to a doldrum, Italo looked out of sorts – bogging tail, choosing bad waves, and mistiming his turns.
But Italo catches a shit-ton of waves, and eventually something is gonna stick. Today that came in the form of a tic-tac right and a full-rote left – consecutive rides which netted him 12.7 points.
“A good camouflage board is hard to find.”
Willian—who if you look past the internet’s fat-shaming and Brazilian prejudices, surfs really fucking well—needed just a mid-six to steal the lead. This was an unforeseeable reality, but one in which we were all forced to live. Could Italo really lose to the Panda in chest-high warm wedges?
Things only got worse when Italo blew out the fin box of his magic Timmy Patterson. As Stab’s tour- and housemate, commentator, and Dad Joke ace, Chris Binns’ noted: a good camouflage board is hard to find.
The natural instinct for a surfer whose board becomes incapacitated is to head to the beach for another. But let’s think about this particular scenario.
Five minutes left in the heat. Italo leading by a narrow margin. His competitor further on the inside, meaning Italo would retain priority should he choose to paddle back out rather than retrieving unblemished equipment from the shore.
The question: statistically speaking, should Italo have gone in? Or should he have stayed out the back and done his best to “block” Willian for the remainder of the heat? If there only two or three minutes remaining, the answer to this question would be a resounding “stay”. But five minutes is tricky. You know you won’t be able to better your score, barring some crazy, bottom-turn-less punt, so using your priority to block your competitor is your only use.
What would you do?
Italo opted for the board swap option, which makes sense—he’s not a defensive surfer. He wants to win with knockout punches, not some arbitrary decision. Luckily for Italo, in the time that it took for him to gather the intact vessel, Willian never found the wave he needed.
Altogether, this morning’s performances hit around 40% of yesterday’s luncacy. And after Wade Carmichael out-finessed Michel Bourez, it was onto the Women’s quarters.
A tough loss, but one for Steph to build on from 2019.
The first heat was huge on paper – 7x World Champ Steph Gilmore vs. 17-year-old Occy surfalike Caroline Marks – but how often do those matches live up to the hype?
In the females’ favor was the quickly dropping tide, which removed the unnecessary lumps, and the dropping wind, which had a remarkable effect on the waves’ aesthetics. It was fucking gorgeous out there.
Stephanie started the heat with an off-the-wall right for a low-7. This could have been enough to fluster some competitors, especially those who are not legally adults, but not Caroline Marks. She came back with a long, running right, tagging the lip four times in rapid succession without as much as a pump in between. Eight points.
Then she did it again, and again, leaving Steph, a blonde buoy, out the back.
While spectating this public shaming from the water-line, I ran into Caroline’s older brother Luke – a former-pro in his youth, but now his little sister’s biggest fan.
17-year-old Florida gal smashes 7x Champ, and local gal, Steph Gilmore.
Stab: When you were growing up, did you know Caroline was going to do this?
Luke: “When we were younger, Caroline didn’t really care about surfing. She would come with us sometimes, but it wasn’t something she was especially passionate about. Then, when was she was 11 or 12, Caroline started competing but she didn’t like it, because she wasn’t winning.
“So she quit for like 6 months, and she just surfed every day. She started getting good really quickly, so I told her, “I think you can start competing again,” [laughs]. Then she started winning everything, and she hasn’t stopped since.”
Stab: And she’s still so young. She has so much room to grow.
“Yeah, she’s been practicing her airs a lot. She’s getting pretty good at them. I’d say she’s at a 33% make rate right now. I told her that even if she’s doing stock air reverses in heats, the judges are gonna love it because nobody else is doing them.”
Stab: Hopefully finals day is run in some of that Dbah air-wind. I’d love to see her flex on the veterans. But even if not, her turns are easily good enough to win. Look at what she’s done to Steph!
“Yeah, she’s really strong. She just surfs and trains every day. She loves it. And heats like this are where it all pays off.”
Caroline’s performance was impressive on many different levels, but especially in how easily she disarmed the Champ. Steph never scored more than a one as her backup, and Caroline waltzed to a win.
At this point I received news that the event was going to Snapper, so I promptly shouldered my tote and made the short but exhausting hike from New South Wales to Queensland, and over the Dnah hill.
There’s a call at 6:30 AM to run the Men’s quarters tomorrow. If they’re able to complete those four heats, it’s very likely they’ll finish the event on the afternoon low tide.
Long Read: An Angel At My Table
From Stab Issue 15, October 2006: Chris Davidson has one more shot at the big…
Watch: Kalani David’s Last Dance
A final surf part from the Hawaiian surf/skate prodigy.
Taylor Steele Won’t Let Surf Filmmaking Die Without a Fight
Movies shown, filmmaking advice, punk rock at the 2022 Solento Surf Festival.
Wait, Are We Going To See Moana Jones In The Olympics At Teahupo’o?
Team USA (women) and Japan (men) should be able to choose anyone they want to…
Donald Brink and Matt Biolos Win Mick Fanning’s Electric Acid Surfboard Test
And we had a party in Oceanside to celebrate.
Kanoa Igarashi and Kirra Pinkerton Answer Call Of Duty, Win Medals Of Honor In 2022 ISA World Games
Teams Japan, USA, and France move into Victor’s Village.
The Best Euro Surf Trips That Mightn’t Be On Your Radar
Want to know which less-trodden nation offers the most potential?
Former CT Surfer Chris Davidson Passes Away At Age 45
A radical life tragically ends outside a bar in New South Wales.
The Team Ukraine Interview
“There are mines near the shore, and already a lot of people have died…so it’s…
Mormaii Founder Raided By Brazilian Feds On Suspicion Of Plotting Against Democracy
Curiously, he's the second surf brand founder to become entangled in a political scandal of…
The Electric Acid Surfboard Test With Mick Fanning, Episode 4
There are three boards left. Which one is Mick taking home?
Photos: Welcome To Vans Stab High Indonesia, Presented By Monster Energy
Welcome to Lakey Peak. Now do airs.
Taro Watanabe Is The Love Child Of Your Favorite 80’s Surfers
Watch his new edit 'Sonic Youth' now.
The Four-Finned, Carbon-Wrapped, Vacuum-Bagged Board That Won The 2022 World Title
The minds behind Sharp Eye and Dark Arts break down Filipe's winning plank.
Selema Masekela Discusses The New Film “Sweet Adventure,” A New Love For El Salvador and His Not-So-New Music Career
"It's literally the entirety of my life coming full circle in a way that I…