Italo Ferreira And Carissa Moore Are The Champions
Medina’s claim, though.
Italo Ferreira and Carissa Moore are back on top of the WSL rankings after winning today’s Rip Curl Newcastle Cup, on a delightful sunny Saturday Down Under.
After a turbulent year for the WSL that saw the Hawaiian and mainland American leg cancelled, and a four-stop Aussie run pulled together at short notice soon after, Italo and Riss were far from the only smiling faces at the conclusion of a great event that went off without a hitch, in front of a rowdy socially-distanced crowd.
So how did we get here? Yesterday I made two predictions, Filipe Toledo was the man to beat, and Carissa Moore would take the women’s competition in a canter. I was right on the latter, though Filipe never looked like winning today. Carissa steamrolled her semi (Caroline) and final (Isabella) with the momentum generated by yesterday’s hall of fame aerial, while Filipe couldn’t get things going in his semi, and instead set Italo on his path to success.
Conditions this morning were surprising. The various forecast models had been talking up this big bump for a long time, yet missed with everything else they called. Sure enough temperatures dropped overnight, a southerly front rolled up the coast, and we woke to gloomy grey skies and a moody ocean being pulled this way and that by a muscular swell. The initial surfing was to take place on the inside Rocks section, while the outside Ladies bank was still in hair and makeup, readying for her matinee performance.
Adriano de Souza was the first to fall, losing to Gabriel Medina in the battle of Brazil’s first two world champions. Gabriel hung on in a tight but unspectacular tussle, doing the end section dance better than his veteran foe to book a ticket to the semis with a minimum of fuss. On the beach Gabby and Adriano, never overly chummy in days gone by, shared a long embrace and walked up the beach together, sharing words and smiles and pats on the back till Gab turned to do his post-heat interview, and ADS hit the fence to sign autographs and take selfies with the crowd, enjoying his retirement tour as much as ever.
Next came the hometown battle that Newcastle could only ever have dreamed of: Morgan Cibilic, slayer of dragons, taking on Ryan Callinan, best human in the world, out the front of the Merewether Surf Club. Ryan opened up with a deft tube that gave him the lead for the majority of the bout. Morgs, his SharpEye the embodiment of a board that looks good underfoot, never doubted himself, and little by little chipped away at his older mate’s lead. With minutes remaining and half way back out to Ryan, Morgs snavelled a little wedge that stood up in the middle of nowhere. Needing a 5.67 he swung two turns, the first a smooth arc in a very tight corner, and bagged a 5.7 for the lead.
The judges were starting to get into that awkward space where they pile scores on top of each other, and this came to a head with three minutes left. Ryan now needed a 4.88 and repeated Morgan’s under-priority manoeuvre to rattle off four quick turns on an inbetweener for a… 4.87. The two surfers were tied, but as the siren sounded it was Morgan who led on the strength of owning the best single wave. Morgs and Ryan looked at each other awkwardly, the Merewether faithful did the same, and a slightly confused air briefly settled over the contest. Morgs moves on though we were all the winners. Especially the merch stall, who sold out of Cibilic and Callinan jerseys before anyone else in the draw this week. Unprecedented scenes.
Deivid Silva was the underdog on the final day, and he knew it. What he probably didn’t know was how much Aussies love an underdog, and as he ran down to for his battle with the wildly popular Italo the Newcastle crowd, already in great spirits as their two hometown heroes swung blows in the water, roared for Deivid at a level he’s probably never experienced outside of Brazil or Portugal. He looked bemused, but was that a little lift of the shoulders we saw? His opening wave, a 5.23 that could easily have been higher, suggested that maybe his lethal backhand gained 10% from the pre-heat confidence boost. A 7 soon after confirmed it, and Italo was left chasing a score for the final 20 minutes.
As he did all week, Italo surfed the Middles bank by himself, while Deivid did his work at Rocks. And as he did all week, Italo surfed against himself, never bothering with priority, paddle battles, mind games et al. With free reign to do as he pleased it always seemed a question of when, not if, and sure enough a swiftly spun and solidly stomped air-rev lead to a three-part claim (the usual point to his people, into chest thump, this time with bonus double flex) and an 8.5 for the win. On to the next.
As Conner Coffin became the first competitor to tackle the outer bank for the week, the sun broke through and four-foot sets strafed the lineup. Just like that, final day hit top gear. It seemed a bold move by the Californian, but with the tide draining it was going to happen eventually and no doubt Team Micro decided Conner’s best chances of victory lay more out the back on big open faces than they did on the trickier inside Rocks, where Filipe had looked invincible all week. It was the right move, but a lack of opportunities left Conner short on supply when Filipe, after building a lead on the inside, eventually paddled out to join him. At this stage I was still confident Filipe was the favourite.
From this point on everything was contested on the outer Ladies bank, though things did not run as traditionalists would have expected. After surfing Middles and Rocks all week, Brazil’s two goofies decreed that the Ladies Left was now a ramp, and turned the semis and final into an air show. When Gabriel launched and landed an astronomical frontside air-reverse that gets exponentially bigger with every viewing (you’d claim, too), Morgan knew his run was over. A gorgeous draining barrel, the aftermath banged to the beach, was a fitting end to a magnificent showing from the little-heralded Aussie.
Italo and Filipe fought the second semi, the Brazilian superstar trio fittingly the last three men standing in Newcastle. By now Italo looked spent. A week of catching 1000 waves a day, running everywhere and apparently never sitting still seemed to have caught up with surfing’s own Energizer Bunny. A couple of times against Filipe he looked winded, or struggled to finish waves. An obvious Italo air-rev ramp became a floater, and thoughts turned to his Hawaiian hip injury from late last year. Remember his pain at the Pipeline Masters? That.
Somehow though, Italo came alive whenever he stood up. Red Bull, adrenaline, you name it, when Italo scratched into a wave that mattered his body responded accordingly, and he took the win from Filipe relatively easily, no doubt thankful that conditions looked to be favouring the backhanders on the right, with their ability to hook hard and vertically on the first two quick steep sections. On the left ramp it was all one-way traffic.
Before the final you felt this one was Gabriel’s for the taking. It was his third straight final (Pipe, Pipe, Newcastle), and who on earth could ever see him losing three in a row, especially against a shattered Ferreira? Somehow, again, Italo conjured up the waves he needed, found the energy required, and locked in two sevens earlyish. The first featured meat-and-potatoes backhand rail work to begin with, then somehow culminated in a forehand air reverse from nowhere to close things down. The second, a single banger BS air-rev. It was a lead, but a pair of sevens never seemed safe, especially with Gabby holding the final’s best score, an 8.6, earned on turns.
The second half of the final was tough to watch as Gabby stalked his prey. Italo was out on his feet, yet the Dark Prince couldn’t land a killer blow. Needing a 6.34, nothing for our two-time world champ, Gab swung eight times without inflicting any damage. The horn went, and Italo staggered to the sand, punch drunk and victorious.
Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Women’s Final Results:1 – Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.732 – Isabella Nichols (AUS) 8.34
Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Women’s Semifinals Results:HEAT 1: Isabella Nichols (AUS) 13.20 DEF. Keely Andrew (AUS) 12.13HEAT 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 17.74 DEF. Caroline Marks (USA) 10.17
Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Men’s Final Results:1 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.942 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.27
Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Men’s Semifinal Results:HEAT 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.77 DEF. Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 14.07HEAT 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16.10 DEF. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.57
Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Men’s Quarterfinals Results:HEAT 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 10.27 DEF. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.07HEAT 2: Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 10.37 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 10.37HEAT 3: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.67 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 12.40HEAT 4: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 13.83 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 13.0
2021 WSL Women’s CT Leaderboard Top 5:
1 – Carissa Moore (HAW) 17,800 pts
2 – Tyler Wright (AUS) 12,610 pts
3 – Isabella Nichols (AUS) 10,410 pts
4 – Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 9,490 pts
5 – Caroline Marks (USA) 8,695 pts
5 – Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 8,695 pts
5 – Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 8,695 pts
2021 WSL Men’s CT Leaderboard Top 5:
1 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16,085 pts
2 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15,600 pts
3 – John John Florence (HAW) 11,330 pts
4 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 8,065 pts
4 – Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 8,065 pts
4 – Ryan Callinan (AUS) 8,065 pts
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