Brazil cheers! California weeps. Photo: WSL
Italo Extends The California Curse, Defeats Kolohe Andino With A Buzzer-Beater Punt
And Caroline Marks takes her first title in the women's.
Kolohe Andino woke up at 3:30 am for two months straight in the lead-up to the 2019 Championship Tour.
How does that correlate with superior surfing performance, you ask? It doesn’t. But, it probably had a huge psychological impact on the young American, who, coming into his 8th season on Tour, had yet to win a CT event.
“Californian surfers are brought up fucking soft and pampered,” Kolohe told Stab a few weeks back, regarding the decade-long gap since a male Golden Stater had won a CT event. “Miki Dora was one of the best surfers in the world, but he never competed. He was just this rad, fucking badass surf dude that lived on the beach, you know? And I feel like that spirit has kind of persisted within the California surfing culture. It's always been more about seeming "cool" than it is trying to win at all costs.”
But Kolohe Andino said fuck that, ditched his phone for a whole month, and started waking up at Satan’s hour to train, then surf, then surf again, going to bed before 8 pm in preparation for the new season. Again, the physical advantages of this obsessive behavior are limited. However they made Kolohe feel invincible. Like he’d put in more work than anybody and therefore earned the right to win.
I ran into Kolohe this morning during the pre-comp warm-up.
The waves, if we’re being generous, were half of yesterday’s overhead, gin-clear splendor. Waist high and weak was today's reality.
I asked Kolohe how he felt about the conditions.
“It’s alright,” he said. “Kinda like [Salt] Creek with an air wind.”
Shortly after, Kolohe saw a wave and darted toward the Dbah wall, tagging it a few times before paddling out for another. And another.
Brother catches a lot of waves in his freesurfs, and often quite bad ones, which is an act of dedication rather than poor judgment. He wants to be able to surf anything and surf it well.
Conner Coffin got robbed in Quarter one.
Needing a high-5 to defeat John Florence in the dying moments, Coffin laid down a Reynoldsian hack on a steep end section, leaning back into the wall and releasing the fins in brutal fashion. Not only is this an incredibly difficult maneuever from a technical standpoint, but it was such a welcome contrast to the stock air revs we’d seen from both competitors throughout the match. To my eye, it should have been enough to turn the heat. The judges disagreed. This would become a theme.
The other quarters: Kolohe defeated Seth Moniz with relentless aerial attempts. Medina looked more lost than my other sock, going down hard to the big man Jordy. Italo made quick work of Wade 'the Blade' Carmichael.
Malia and Sally both ripped in the women's semis, but they were no match for the speed and power of Carissa and Caroline.
Men's Semi 1, between John and Kolohe, was like two six-year-olds throwing marshmallows at each other and trying not to laugh. Doing fake air revs into a relentless wind, the boys collected single-digit totals in a heat where nobody was a winner but Kolohe Andino advanced. All those shitty waves he surfed in the off-season were paying off.
Then came Italo v. Jordy. The Brazilian started with a clean full-rote for 7-odd points. Jordy retaliated with a bigger, better spin that netted an extra point-and-a-half. Then he dropped a carve-to-straighty combo for a clean six, taking solid lead.
Italo came back with another full-rotation, this one slightly bigger but off-kilter, and landed deep in the foam. He needed the same score as his previous air to take the lead, and the judges gave him a half-point bonus.
Jordy never recovered.
Fair? Steph Gilmore didn't think so. "I think Jordy beat Italo," she wrote on Stab's Instagram.
Watch and decide for yourself.
Before the women's final, Caroline Marks' coach Mike Parsons told his rising star: "If you stay on your feet, you're going to win."
To give a statement like that some context, Caroline was up against Carissa Moore – 3x World Champion and widely considered the best female surfer in the world.
Crazy as it may sound, Caroline embraced her coach's optimism and earned her first CT win today, relying on her patented (in 1984) backside lippers to seal victories over Malia Manuel (semis) and Carissa Moore (final). In Dbah's sideshore conditions, Caroline's compact frame and low center-of-gravity provided a serious advantage over her competitors, who were forced to bounce around the chop while Caroline plowed right through it.
Caroline's victory is also historic in the sense of gender equality. In 2019, the WSL offers parity between its male and female athletes, meaning Caroline will head to Bells with $100,000 and the Jeep yellow jersey. Based off last year's performance, the Florida teen is just as likely to win the second event of the season in Torquay.
Now, for the moment that everybody's yapping about: the Men's final.
After winning Red Bull Airborne and putting together the best 40-minute competitive surfing performance we've ever seen (eight airs, no falls!), Italo Ferreira entered the final as the favorite over Kolohe 'Alarm Clock' Andino, who, to beat the horse well and truly dead, has never won a CT event.
You know what happened.
Italo did lots of little spins. Kolohe did slightly bigger spins with turns to follow. Italo needed a score at the end to win. Kolohe had priority. Kolohe let Italo go on a tiny burger (“I would have let that wave go 10/10 times," Kolohe would say after the loss. "It was knee high.”). Italo spun a flat-3 that, despite how impressive it was from an athletic standpoint, didn't seem like great "surfing", or at least not better than what Kolohe had done in the same heat. Judges gave it the nod. Hell broke loose.
Normally at CT events, the judges reside in a high and hidden perch, completely out of sight (and mind) from the general spectators. But because this event took place at a back-up venue, which lacked critical infrastructure, the judges were in a ground-level tent right in the center of the beach.
...Not a great place to judge a controversial heat.
After it was announced that Italo Ferreira had won the 2019 Quik Pro Dbah, spectators turned to the judges, offering single fingers and an array of insults as they made their way past the tents. While judges have become accustomed to facing hate online, this is one of the first times they've had to confront their critics on a tangible plane.
But at the end of the day, it's not (really) their fault.
Surfing is a subjective sport that's judged with an inherently flawed system by inherently flawed humans. So before bashing the plucky Brazilian or cancelling your WSL subscription (oh wait, it's free!), we beg you to keep one thought in mind:
Don't hate the player, hate the game.
(Also, vote in our poll below about whether or not Italo should have won.)