Isabella Nichols & John Florence (No Wait, I Mean) Jack Robinson Win The Margaret River Pro - Stab Mag
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Bruce, is that you? Photo: WSL

Isabella Nichols & John Florence (No Wait, I Mean) Jack Robinson Win The Margaret River Pro

Kaips balks and the ‘streamlined’ tour is decided.

news // May 4, 2022
Words by Chris Binns
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Huge finals day at Margs. So, what happened?

  • Jack Robinson wins Margaret River Pro 
  • Isabella Nichols completes Australian double, saves her soul
  • Ethan Ewing joins the party on a strong day for Aussie surfing, now sits #4 in the world.
  • Matt McGillivray goes from strength to strength, knocks Owen Wright from cut.
  • Focus shifts to Snapper for the Challengers, G-Land for the CTers

Two fresh names engraved on Surfer’s Point stairs.

West Australian surfing is tonight celebrating a hometown Margaret River Pro victory for the first time in 33 years after Jack Robinson beat perennial Mainbreak favourite John John Florence in a late-afternoon final that quickly morphed into an action-packed expression session. With the consistent swell waning ever-so-slightly at day’s end, things quickly turned from deep carves to more spontaneous artillery and suddenly it felt like a video part was being filmed, as two of the world’s most exciting boardsmen started trading blows. Highly entertaining stuff. 

Jack has now shot up to third in the world, closely followed by Ethan Ewing, whose third semifinal in four events puts him at number four. If yesterday was all about the mid-year cut, then today welcomed Australian surfing’s new guard to the business end of the rankings, and with the sun finally back out in the West, there was a raucous party atmosphere around the site all day, that will no doubt rage well beyond the dying light, to celebrate that fact.

On the women’s side of proceedings, Isabella Nichols snared a breakthrough maiden victory in accounting for CT rookie Gabriela Bryan, with both ladies’ efforts steering themselves out of the relegation zone and onto the back half of the tour. It was Nichols’ second final in just her second season, while Gabriela’s powerful surfing looks like it is here to stay. 

Sharp Eyes don’t lie. Photo: WSL

Come Ups

Peak performance: John John Florence, Semi Final 1, 18.90pts
Hit replay: R16 Ht 5, Ht 8, QF1, SF2, The Final
Monster manoeuvre: JJF’s 9.5 at the four-minute mark of the first quarterfinal  
One liner: “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!” Safe to say the 50-or-so patrons in the Coopers Caravan were having a fine time indulging in the sponsor’s product (beer) most of the day. The well-executed Jack Nicholson line from The Shining, pulled out everytime John John ran past pre-heat, was their standout material. 

A couple of wobbly heats saw finals day get off to a slow start, but the pace picked up when Matt McGillivary entered the fray with his place on tour on the line, again. Yesterday we saw Matty snatch victory from Kanoa Igarashi to keep his CT dreams alive, today he needed to beat Samuel Pupo to book his tickets to G-Land. McGillivray paddled out a man on a mission, surfed accordingly, and took lessons learned earlier in the event – big commitment to big turns on big sections equals big numbers – and applied them earnestly. He bulldozed Pupo, then used that confidence to stop Italo Ferreira’s slowly growing momentum in the quarters. He then lost to John in the semis, but nobody on planet earth could have held a candle to John over that sublime half-hour display. 

Elsewhere in the Round of 16, Ethan bested Caio in an entertaining affair, Jordy Smith narrowly accounted for Jadson Andre, and Jack bounced Barron Mamiya, just, in a battle of the young guns. 

Griffin couldn’t have done much more in quarterfinal number one, but when John John starts a heat with a 9.5 you’re always gonna be fighting for second. Ethan looked imperious in dispatching Nat, while Jack snuck past Jordy in the day’s sleepiest heat. 

Ethan’s board rides on a different angle than everybody else’s. Photo: WSL

In the women’s semifinals, Gabriela Bryan took out a high-scoring, power-packed showdown with Courtney Conlogue to book her ticket to the end game, while Isabella Nicholls made relatively easy work of hometown favourite Bronte Macaulay in semi number two. Homemade Jack and Bronte placards lined the surfers’ boardwalk, and it’s safe to say a whole lot of school excursions must have found themselves in Margaret River today, because there were kids absolutely everywhere.

In the men’s semis, John steamrolled Matty, as discussed before, while the second bout was the coronation of Australian surfing’s next great hopes. Jack and Ethan couldn’t come from further apart in Australia, but with just a year between them, they seem set to challenge the rest of the world for years to come. Both have taken their own paths to the Top 5, Ethan couldn’t buy a heat win in his rookie year and was sent back, Andy Irons style, to the QS after his first season. Second time around he’s finally found the formula, and with the most bulletproof technique and seamless style in the game, he can drop big scores effortlessly. 

By contrast, Jack has been on our minds since he was a pre-teen phenom with a bowl cut, hailed as the next big thing, and feared for his prowess in the pit. It seems like a decade ago he was monstering the Teahupo’o trials, or putting in standout performances at the Volcom Pipe Pro, while his QS game seemed to stall. Finally, with a few breakthrough results and a new team around him – take a bow wife Julia Muniz and coaches Leandro Dora and Matt Bemrose – Jack cracked the big leagues, and in his second year on tour, he now has two trophies to his name. Initial predictions for Jack were strong showings at hollow reef breaks, and being on the wrong end of whippings at pointbreaks and in beachies; turns his glaring weakness. After today those thoughts can well and truly get in the bin, as Jack’s dedication to grovel wizardry has been second to none, and as his 24-year-old body continues to bulk up, so do his carves. 

Jack still found the occasional tube today, where nobody else save John would see them, but it was his muscular railwork that powered him through the rounds. A pair of staunch eights beat Ethan’s nine and five-five to take the second semi, and a Margaret River promoter’s dream finals matchup between John John and Jack came to be.

Issy needed a win today. She got it. Photo: WSL

The women’s final was a relatively tame affair. Bella, keen to atone for her second-place finish in Newcastle last year, set the pace with a pair of sixes and was never headed by Bryan, who surfed far more conservatively than she had done in making the final. 2015 world junior champion Nichols will take confidence from her biggest career win to date, while Bryan will have learnt plenty of lessons in making the final, and the loss won’t hurt her either. Great stuff. 

Then came the showdown we’d all been waiting for. In Jack and John’s first ever man-on-man heat, it was the Hawaiian who drew first blood with a lazy five. The local replied with a seven for a pair of big laybacks, before John added another five to his scoreline. At this point, the two were sparring, feeling each other out, getting a read for the slowing conditions. Straight off the ski and without priority John skunk into a smaller inside wall and threw one of the turns of the day, a wild layback that saw John’s board side-slipping as its pilot sprung up like an inflatable punching bag. Two more rapidfire turns saw John’s heavy-hands claim appear for one of the first times all week. “If John had pockets in his wetsuit he’d probably surf with hands in them,” said the beach announcer, as the judges went excellent with an 8.5.

John only got one clean section the whole final. He did this to it. Photo: WSL

At the halfway mark, Jack raced down the line and into an enormous lofted straight air. Such was his amplitude that while Jack originally grabbed frontside he ended up switching to slob at the apex, as he tried to wrangle his board into a landable position. Jack came oh-so-close to sticking what would have been a massive score, but the attempt seemed to fire him and John up as the final really started to come alive. John replied instantly with a powerful 7.1, the highlight being the whipped rotation on the second turn and the voluminous spray on the ender, before Jack went pedal to the metal on a long wall and launched the exclamation point of the final. A well grabbed, perfectly spun air-reverse, three-feet above the lip and traversing a huge Margaret River section not only had the crowd roaring, but it garnered Jack 8.07 points.

This one was a bit awkward, but it was big enough to turn the heat. Photo: WSL

Jack elected to paddle back out while John rode the ski. That decision ended up handing the West Aussie priority, and a minute later he used it to catch the wave that would lead him to victory, on the back of two ultra-aggressive laybacks, the first a drifted grind of the coping, the second an end section punch that guaranteed him the lead, with 10 minutes remaining. While not speechless, the crowd was immediately quietened. Even the most parochial of punters had assumed a John victory was a given, it’s Mainbreak for christsake, but now people were daring to dream… this couldn’t actually happen, could it?

The ocean then went dormant for only the second time today – Jack vs Jordy the first – and somewhere behind John’s poker face the first hint of West Australian panic he’s experienced since 2016 started to bubble up. With five minutes remaining, he tore down the line and went for an air that Joe Turpel described as “disconnected”. John fell, went back to the drawing board. With four minutes to go, John had one last roll of the under-priority-dice. He stuck an air-reverse so flat he almost looked pissed off, and despite Richie Lovett saying “that was an amazing punt for anyone else,” and the 6.1 that followed, just like that the final was done. Incredible moment for Aussie surfing, and in particular for the legion of Jack friends, family and fans who lined Surfer’s Point today to bask in his true homecoming moment of glory.

No better feeling than winning at home. Photo: WSL

Let Downs

Caught behind: Kolohe Andino’s stomach bug was today’s saddest tale. In a great place – family in tow, good boards underfoot and a head of steam – Brother was very fired up for the finals. Instead, a night in hospital saw him ruled out of the event on the morning of the finals. Here’s hoping his guts are golden by Grajagan.
Blind mice: The Portuguese-speaking portion of the internet are baying for blood after Filipe Toledo lost a close one to Nat Young, but it was not worth getting worked up about. Tight calls happen, and many feel Nat won the first exchange, whereas the judges saw it the other way. Move on.
Say what? “Enjoy it, soak it up, John John Florence is your champion!” – Kaipo Guerrero with a call he’ll struggle to live down, while sharing a jetski victory lap with Jack Robinson. 

Italo looked alive for the first time in this event in his round of 16 demolition of Miguel Pupo. It was the kind of ominous showing that had punters heading for the gambling apps to load up on surfing’s Energizer Bunny, but as quickly as that form came it went, and Italo will head to Indonesia with a lot to think about from the Aussie leg. It’s been over 12 months since the man from Baia Formosa last won a CT, and while his surfing still has a truly unique spark, Italo has to figure out what is required to get him back on the top of the podium where he belongs, if he’s to threaten for word titles again anytime soon.

It’s not the best wave in the world. But fuck if it doesn’t lend itself to competition. Photo: WSL

Miscellanea

Jack and John have been friends for years, and share special relationships with each other’s hometowns. Many of John’s best movie parts have been filmed in the west, while Jack’s affinity with the North Shore is incomparable. Back in the day, a teenage Jack took in the Box selfies with John on a layday, and the house that John rented this year was two doors down from the house that Jack owns. Two of surfing’s quietest operators on land, Margaret River might want to party tonight, but there’s every chance these two are going double-or-nothing on the chessboard. 

The Box definitely had some crazy moments today, but there was simply no way known to man that 18 heats could have been run out there, given the vagaries of wind, tide etc. Safe to say that Nath Florence got more tubed than his brother today, however.

Everyone is very excited for G-Land, though it’s crazy how few of the tour surfers have been there before. Most of them are booked in to surf the first Challenger Series event, the Gold Coast Pro, which starts on Saturday, and the forecast looks great. Pulling the rashie back on straight away might be just the tonic for some of the cut victims, to remind them immediately that life rolls on, and if surfing flawless Snapper with nobody else out is the worse thing that ever happens to you, then you’ve sure got a charmed existence. On with the show!

Did Jack make anybody else money? Or cost you the whole kitty? Photo: WSL

Gamble Ramble:

Mikey nearly went huge today. Instead, he lost six dollars. Still came up overall in the event, but the final loss (even though it was still a win) crushed him.

R16

Hated all the matchups. Part of playing the game is knowing when to fold. 

QF

– $50 on JJF over Griffin at -300 to win $17 WON
– $30 on Ethan Ewing over Nat Young at -175 to win $12 WON
– $5 on Barron Mamiya at +200 to win $10 LOST
– $5 on Matthew McGillivray over Italo at + 240 to win $12 WON

SF

– $10 on Isabella Nichols at -135 to win $7 WON
– $5 on Gabriela Bryan at +155 to win $8 WON
– $100 on JJF over Matty McG at -300 to win $33 WON
– $25 on Ethan Ewing over Robbo at +100 to win $25 LOST

Final

– $25 on Isabella Nichols at -120 to win $20 WON

Event winner (picked pre-event)

– $200 on JJF at +350 to win $700 LOST
– $25 on Jack Robbo at +1000 to win $250 WON
– $100 on Filipe at +350 to win $350 LOST

Day 5 earnings: -$6
Event earnings: +$136
2022 Season earnings:  $796

(Full disclosure: Mikey also lost a side bet for $30 against my coworker in the Nat vs. Filipe heat.)

What an event. Photo: WSL

Results

Women’s CT: Made the Cut
Carissa Moore (HAW)
Brisa Hennessy (CRI)
Tyler Wright (AUS)
Lakey Peterson (USA)
Johanne Defay (FRA)
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Courtney Conlogue (USA)
Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 
Gabriela Bryan (HAW)
Isabella Nichols (AUS) 

Women’s CT: Missed the Cut
Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW)
Luana Silva (HAW)
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
Molly Picklum (AUS)
India Robinson (AUS)
Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Malia Manuel (HAW) 
Caroline Marks (USA)

Men’s CT: Made the Cut
Filipe Toledo (BRA)
Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
John John Florence (HAW)
Kelly Slater (USA)
Barron Mamiya (HAW)
Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Ethan Ewing (AUS)
Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Seth Moniz (HAW)
Callum Robson (AUS) 
Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Jack Robinson (AUS)
Kolohe Andino (USA)
Samuel Pupo (BRA) 
Jordy Smith (ZAF)
Nat Young (USA)
Connor O’Leary (AUS) 
Jake Marshall (USA)
Jackson Baker (AUS)
Jadson Andre (BRA)
Matthew McGillivray (ZAF)

Men’s CT: Missed the Cut
Morgan Cibilic (AUS)
Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 
Conner Coffin (USA)
Joao Chianca (BRA)
Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 
Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Frederico Morais (PRT)
Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Lucca Mesinas (PER)
Deivid Silva (BRA)
Owen Wright (AUS)

One men’s and one women’s season wildcard, as well as one men’s and one women’s wildcard per event, will join the CT field in the second half of the season. Gabriel Medina (BRA) was announced as the men’s WSL season wildcard, while the women’s WSL season wildcard will be announced by May 9, 2022. Event wildcards will be determined ahead of each upcoming CT event. 
Margaret River Pro Women’s Final Results:
1 – Isabella Nichols (AUS) 12.94 
2 – Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 10.00

Margaret River Pro Women’s Semifinal Results:
HEAT 1: Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 15.73 DEF. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 15.43
HEAT 2: Isabella Nichols (AUS) 15.93 DEF. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 11.34

Margaret River Pro Men’s Final Results:
1 – Jack Robinson (AUS) 16.24
2 – John John Florence (HAW) 15.60

Margaret River Pro Men’s Semifinal Results:
HEAT 1: John John Florence (HAW) 18.90 DEF. Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 11.94
HEAT 2: Jack Robinson (AUS) 16.27 DEF. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 14.53

Margaret River Pro Men’s Quarterfinal Results:
HEAT 1: John John Florence (HAW) 17.50 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 17.16
HEAT 2: Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 15.87 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.67
HEAT 3: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 15.70 DEF. Nat Young (USA) 12.40
HEAT 4: Jack Robinson (AUS) 14.40 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.00

Margaret River Pro Men’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: John John Florence (HAW) DEF. Kolohe Andino (USA)
HEAT 2: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 9.87 DEF. Callum Robson (AUS) 7.57
HEAT 3: Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 14.50 DEF. Samuel Pupo (BRA) 10.74
HEAT 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.83 DEF. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 8.83
HEAT 5: Nat Young (USA) 15.66 DEF. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.63
HEAT 6: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 16.43 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 14.03
HEAT 7: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.24 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 12.26
HEAT 8: Jack Robinson (AUS) 16.06 DEF. Barron Mamiya (HAW) 15.93

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