Injuries And Excellence Define A Thumping Day At The Box
Leo Fioravanti dislocates his shoulder (again), Jadson Andre cuts his butt, and Jack Robbo posts multiple nines on a tube-filled Saturday.
“It’s absolutely cracking out here,” was Strider’s take on the morning conditions. “The holes are huge!”
He was right—the barrels were quite large. But so were the chops coming up the face, courtesy of 15-knot offshore gales, which made the waves infinitely harder to catch, let alone ride.
Before the start of the first heat, we saw Leo Fioravanti wincing and clutching his arm as he exited the water with the help of a WSL safety team. According to Rosy, Leo was quickly transported to a nearby hospital, where they popped his re-dislocated shoulder back in place.
Leo was forced to withdraw from his heat, giving one of the least-desired walkthroughs in surfing history to Jordy Smith. Imagine not getting your thirty minutes in today’s conditions because your competitor couldn’t surf—heartbreaking!
The first heat of the day was between Italo Ferreira and Soli Bailey. As a former Pipe winner and natural-footed surfer, Soli was the logical favorite. But barrels don’t follow logic, do they?
Case in point: Italo Ferreira’s first wave.
The only way to describe Italo’s ride was freakish. Perhaps even Slaterian. It certainly had shades of that Teahupo’o ride in 2005, what with the off-balance bottom turn under the lip and aggressive, no-grab line into the tube.
Being the first real score of the day, the judges had free reign to score Italo’s wave as they pleased. 8.17 was where they landed.
Strider thought not fair.
“That should have been a 10 for sure!” he screamed from the channel.
Barton Lynch was quick to agree, calling it the best 8.17 in the history of surfing.
This is an interesting talking point, because ultimately the ride was great because it was exciting, and it was exciting because Italo took a terrible line on the takeoff. Even the Sydney-based slab aficionado, Koby Abberton, thought so.
“He couldn’t have surfed that wave more wrong and still made it! Congrats amazing!” Koby commented on the WSL’s Instagram.
So, can you score what is essentially a mistake at a “perfect 10”? It seems counterintuitive, but then again, if Italo had taken a traditional line into that tube, it would have had nowhere near the impact of his unique approach.
We gained further context when Italo entered the booth, following his surprisingly easy victory over Soli Bailey.
“That was my first wave at The Box,” Ferreira revealed to the crew.
“Like, ever?” the commentators asked. “In freesurfs and everything?”
“Yes [laughs]. I’d never surfed there before.”
Italo also revealed that he couldn’t see much because of the sun, that he only made the drop because he rode his bigger board, and that he secretly grabbed his rail behind the curtain. Another classic Slater move.
Italo then explained that he’d prepared for the Box by watching videos of Jacob Wilcox and doing “late-drop training” at home. This reminded me of my college friend Erwin, who used to practice his pigdog pop-up on the carpet before swells at Blacks. It was adorable and hilarious and I hope Italo did the same.
Michel Bourez, who admitted to being up since midnight thanks to excitement and nerves, threaded a clean cathedral about halfway through his heat, only just keeping his nose above the water when the bottom went flat. Michel was riding an up-weighted Firewire to compensate for the wind and power of the Box; it seemed to suit the Tahitian, as he plowed through chandeliers without losing his line.
Michel’s competitor, Yago Dora, looked lost for the majority of the heat, but he did stick a cool air-drop to no-hand pit. I felt the judges underscored it at a mid-three. Yago deserved at least a four points for that freefall to cover-up. T’was highly technical.
“It’s gonna be scary when you have priority and those big ones start coming,” John Florence said, prior to his heat. “Like, ‘Okay, I’m going…'”
John ate shit on his first wave. I can’t remember the last time I saw the 2x Champ fall on a drop, but there he went, only to do it again later in the heat. The takeaway: Box is no joke.
John corrected his error(s) with a deep runner on the inside ledge, scoring a five. His opponent, Jack Freestone, came back with a five of his own, then a pair of threes. John made Jack pay for two non-deep pits, standing tall in a liquid sarcophagus for a high-six.
In the dying minutes, Jack Freestone got the chance he needed to defeat the Champ. With four minutes left, Jack stalled into a round, running cylinder. He was deep, but not too deep. “Right on the button”, as they say. Jack picked an optimal line and looked primed to exit the vortex.
“He’s got a big score coming his way!” Ronnie Blakey proclaimed, prematurely.
Then, bang. The foamball exploded under Jack’s feet, sending him either into the ceiling or straight through the floor. Whichever way Jack went, it wasn’t into the channel, and John squeaked through with a victory.
Common knowledge says that, unlike at most reef breaks around the world, you want to catch the first wave of the set at the Box. Reason being, this wave needs the extra water on the reef to retain its shape. Second and third waves often have lumps and gurgles as a result of the exposed rock shelf, leading to chandeliers and closeouts.
But Seabass does not care for rules. He just sees a wave, turns, and pulls in regardless of potential death or dismemberment. Today that mindset worked, as Seabass continually plowed through closeouts and collected scores. Meanwhile, his heatmate, the venerable tube monger Jeremy Flores, sat for most the match and picked bad waves when he did decide to surf.
This surprised many surf fans, myself included, until we learned that it was Jeremy’s first time surfing The Box, which then made us even more confused.
Because how is that even possible? I’d’ve thought Box would be Jezza’s favorite wave in the west.
Medina once tried to tell the Commissioner that he wasn’t going to surf the Box.
That was back in 2015, when Medina was but a wee little lad, and the waves were much bigger and meaner than they were this morning. Medina ended up surfing, and losing, that day against local wildcard Jay Davies, but scored one solid tube for the ego.
Today, Medina looked more physically and mentally prepared for Margaret’s deathly portal. He pulled in deep on the first wave of the heat and set a sharp line, only falling because of a vicious tube monster. Unfortunately for Medina, that set the stage for a hard-spitting 7.5 from his competitor, Caio Ibelli.
Caio, who is a childhood rival of Medina’s, continued to apply pressure to the 2x World Champ, banging a quick six as a backup while Medina waited out the back. After several more successful rides, Caio started to get a bit cocky, standing tall on an inside wave that, according to Pottz, could have scored higher if he’d added a layer of “drama.”
Medina was on the very next wave, which was much taller and wider than his competitor’s, but he had to drag his ass hard to get behind the curtain.
The judges loved the ride regardless, giving Medina a 7.83 to Caio’s low-five. This left Medina needing a 5.83 to take the lead from his bearded compatriot. The Champ had one decent attempt at the end of the heat, but the tube was too short, resulting in another early exit for Medina and his official departure from the CT’s top-10.
The world’s best (current) competitive surfer has had another terrible start to the season, which is genuinely hard to believe.
Kelly Slater got no sleep last night, probably. Because at this point in his career, the 11x Champ lives for days like today.
Slater knows he won’t win a World Title in 2019, but if he can surf a world-class reef with one other human in the water while simultaneously having his presence broadcast across the entire globe, the goat is more or less in heaven.
However, all that sleeplessness might have taken its toll, as today’s heat did go to plan.
Slater kept missing the tube entry, forcing him to drop straight down the wave and go around the first section only to kick-stall into the last part of the tube. It was not very effective, neither stylistically nor in score. Luckily for Slater, his opponent, Willian Cardoso, couldn’t get to his feet.
Strider blamed Slater’s underperformance on a light northerly wind, which was apparently crumbling the first section of the wave; Slater blamed his board.
The Syrian god switched from a 6’3 to a 6’1 about halfway through the heat, hoping that a decrease in length might enable a tighter angle of approach. Slater was kind of right, as he threaded a hollow mid-sizer from start to finish, nearly losing his balance halfway through but holding on by the tips of his toes.
This wave came in at a 5.83, which in the context of the heat was quite high—so high that Slater threw out a claim upon reaching the channel. This claim spoke to the fact that, for whatever reason, the cave goat never quite looked comfortable at the Box.
Slater’s best performance of the day came in a paddle battle against Big Willy, with the Brazilian starting ahead of, but eventually being overtaken by, the old Florida hassler.
I don’t know if that’s more impressive for the 47-year-old Slater or embarrassing for the 95 kilogram Cardoso.
Kelly won the heat, despite revealing disappointment about his performance in a post-heat interview.
Do you know who never surfs bad, though? Dolphins.
Conner Coffin followed their virtuous path to victory of Jesse Mendes, and Barton waxed all poetic about surfing as a sport embedded in nature. “You can’t share a dolphin tube in golf!” was the gist of the message.
He’s not wrong.
Even Kelly said, “That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Then he said, “I don’t know if I ever thought I’d be ahead of Gabriel on the ratings again [chuckles].”
What a lovable dickhead he is.
Jack Robbo launches a drone from his bedroom to check the waves at the Box every morning. Is there anything more 2019?
In Jack’s defense, he backs up this behavior by surfing The Box roughly tiers above anybody else in the world. Just ask Filipe Toledo, who was on the cruel end of Jack’s 18-point heat total—the highest of the entire year on the men’s Tour.
It’s hard to know if the conditions actually changed for Jack’s heat, or if the kid is just so damn talented that he rode the same waves as everybody else in a remarkably superior manner. Regardless, the WA local collected a seven, an eight, and two nines before he started mucking around on insiders, trying to land an air on the inside.
While it’s true Filipe was sent to Combotown within the first few minutes of the heat and never managed to escape, it’s worth noting that he didn’t look timid today. The Brazilian just happened to be completely out of position for the good ones when they came through, which is a problem in and of itself.
Seth Moniz took off late into a deep, breathing wedge. It wasn’t a big wave, but it packed all the juice, like a condensed version of Backdoor. Meanwhile, M-Rod looked completely out of his element, which we’ve established through Instagram is in chest-high, playful rights.
Owen wrangled two dirty beats for high-sevens, which should surprise absolutely no one. Zeke Lau pulled into gaping closeout after gaping closeout, never to find the light at the end of the funnel.
Kolohe Andino found himself up against the hometown rival, Griffin Colapinto, as the tide started to go sour.
The Tour vet used mental judo to push Griff over the falls on the first wave of the heat. Griff got so confused that he was unable to separate himself from his board as he fell, resulting in a buckle and various psychological wounds. He proceeded to pull back on another quality wave before jumping off the lip of a third.
Meanwhile, Kolohe threaded a super-deep tube to a triple Rude Arm claim, resulting in a laugh from the commentators and a nine from the judges. Brother forfeited his priority toward the end of the heat, granting Griffin one last chance to turn the decision, but the low tide transformed his wave into a steppy escalator to hell, forcing Griff to meet the rocky floor for the umpteenth time today.
In a post-heat interview, Kolohe admitted giving Griff some stone-face in the lineup.
“I did not want to lose that heat,” Brother told Rosy. “It means so much to me. There’s so many cherries and nuts and whipped cream and chocolate sauce on top of that one.”
Jadson Andre almost had the craziest tube of the day in the final Box heat. It was crazier than Italo’s even, but an overly-high line threw Jaddy over the handlebars and down to Davey Jones’ sex dungeon.
“He was on the precipice of glory and success,” were Barton’s words. How anybody dislikes the ’88 Champ’s commentary, I’ll never understand.
After several heroic falls, Jadson found himself needing just a five to surpass Julian Wilson. I say “just” a five, but in reality, there had only been one five in the entire heat (Julian’s) as a result of the drained-out tide. The waves had become borderline unsurfable, even for the world’s best.
With the clock dwindling, Jadson flipped last second on a large, over-vert wall, aiming his nose down the face to display total commitment. The Brazilian practically made the drop, but he went straight rather than knifing into the tube, resulting in a nose-dip to lobster-dive directly where the lip was falling.
After an entire day of watching guys eat shit at The Box, this fall looked particularly brutal.
“I hope he’s alright,” stated a concerned Barton Lynch.
Jadson emerged and immediately started signaling for help. This was both a good and bad sign, as his physical ability to wave meant the injury probably wasn’t dire, but the fact that Jadson required assistance at all did not bode well.
When they finally got Jaddy on the ski, we could that his wetsuit had been pulled all the way over his foot (how strange) and that he was clenching his back.
Having personally fractured a vertebra while surfing, I feared for Jadson’s wellbeing. Those fears grew when he had to be carried across the parking lot by his mates.
“There’s gonna be a bit of tap nose tonight,” Ronnie said, following a day of dramatic tubes and their inverse.
“Yeah, and X-rays,” I thought.
But before I knew it, Jadson was back on screen, sitting upright under his own power and smiling for the camera.
“I just cut my butt on the reef. It hurt so bad,” Jadson laughed. “I haven’t fully been able to check it, but I think I’m okay.”
KP moved the remaining heats to Main Break (one or two heats later than he should have, but hey, it was worth it), which resulted in a surprisingly lit match-up between Joan Duru (L) and Peterson Crisanto (W), a real sleeper between Ryan Callinan (W) and Deivid Silva (L), and the continuation of Kanoa’s (W) dominant run.
The women finished their three heats from yesterday (yes, Steph won) and the sun set over a stacked Indian Ocean.
What a day.
Margaret River Pro Men’s Round of 32 (Round 3) Results:
Heat 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.00 DEF. Soli Bailey (AUS) 3.50
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (FRA) 12.17 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 4.27
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW) 11.83 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 9.16
Heat 4: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 13.87 DEF. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 4.93
Heat 5: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 13.67 DEF. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.23
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 10.06 DEF. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 7.34
Heat 7: Jordy Smith (ZAF) DEF. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 8: Conner Coffin (USA) 12.33 DEF. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 9.20
Heat 9: Jack Robinson (AUS) 18.57 DEF. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 6.73
Heat 10: Seth Moniz (HAW) 12.77 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 2.14
Heat 11: Owen Wright (AUS) 15.40 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 5.50
Heat 12: Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.20 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.00
Heat 13: Julian Wilson (AUS) 7.47 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 4.30
Heat 14: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 14.23 DEF. Joan Duru (FRA) 14.10
Heat 15: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 10.83 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 7.63
Heat 16: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 14.83 DEF. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 11.10
Margaret River Pro Men’s Round of 16 (Round 4) Matchups:
Heat 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Michel Bourez (FRA)
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 3: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
Heat 5: Jack Robinson (AUS) vs. Seth Moniz (HAW)
Heat 6: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
Heat 8: Ryan Callinan (AUS) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
Margaret River Pro Women’s Round of 16 (Round 3) Remaining Heat Results:
Heat 6: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 11.44 DEF. Malia Manuel (HAW) 6.33
Heat 7: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 10.57 DEF. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 6.00
Heat 8: Lakey Peterson (USA) 15.17 DEF. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 10.13
Margaret River Pro Women’s Quarterfinals Matchups:
Heat 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA)
Heat 2: Caroline Marks (USA) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Brisa Hennessy (CRI)
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Lakey Peterson (USA)
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