Jack Robinson Requalifies For 2022 Tour With Last-Event Heroics
He and Steph Gilmore just won in Barra de la Cruz
The 2021 Corona Open Mexico may have been simultaneously the most meaningful and meaningless CT event of all time.
It was everything to some, nothing to others.
This year, as we all know, will mark the rollout of the WSL’s new Finals format. Top 5 surfers, Lowers, a single day, the Superbowl of surfing, head-to-head, brackets, fireworks, volcanos, 5 billion+ viewership, bitcoins, etc.
Heading into Mexico, which was supposed to be the second to last normal CT of the season, a few men and women were already locked into their respective top fives. When the announcement of Tahiti’s cancelation came yesterday, this only engraved their standings in stone or perhaps Italian marble.
For example, Gabriel Medina could have skipped both Mexico and Tahiti (if it ran) and may not have even lost his number 1 seed for Lowers. In that regard, this event meant absolutely nothing to him. Anybody whose mind goes to the financial perks of winning a comp should read this to get a sense of why Gabe couldn’t be fucked.
But the event truly meant everything to others — like Jack Robinson and Malia Manuel, both of whom needed a big result to re-qualify for 2022, and Conner Coffin, who used the event to surge into the Top 5, much to Rip Curl’s delight.
It’s not like anyone purposely threw a heat. But when a surfer who has little to gain comes up against someone whose career is on the line, well, things happen. We saw the lopsided nature of this event’s meaning reflected in the surfers who made it to finals day, at least on the men’s side of the draw. Here were our semifinalists:
Deivid Silva (BRA) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Jack Robinson (AUS) vs. Mateus Herdy (BRA)
None of them are even in the Top 5 conversation, nor have they been all year. One perk of making it to finals day, though? The surf was kind of pumping. Not 2006 pumping, but this morning still featured the best surf of the waiting period. Deivid and Leo’s heat, which Deivid won, wasn’t much to write home about. Jack and Mateus’ was.
I said this on Day 1, but it’s worth repeating. The WSL should ignore all of their rules and put Mateus on the CT for 2022. Fuck it, he’s that good. The air he landed to beat Italo yesterday was my favorite of the year. Was it the highest? The fastest? The most tweaked? Nah. But taking that approach to such a section deserves a standing ovation.
He got got by Robbo today though, who was on a heater. Barrels bring the best out in him. The new Sharp Eyes also seem to be helping. Perhaps learning that he couldn’t bank on Tahiti this year helped him find a new gear.
The women’s semifinalists were more on par with what you’d expect:
Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Other than Malia, all of these women are confirmed for the Top 5. Underdoggery has its perks, though. Malia kept her roll alive in a back-and-forth battle with Sally, even paying homage to Andy Irons on the wave that sealed it for her. That was cool.
The Steph Gilmore VS Carissa Moore semi wasn’t as good as it looked on paper/screen. Steph’s got 5 years and 3 World Titles on Carissa. It’s impossible to catch up to someone’s age, but all signs point to Carissa chipping away at her comparative Title deficit this year. Still, Steph clipped her today — perhaps firing a shot at Riss’ confidence before Lowers.
Then, the finals.
Heading into this year, everyone knew what rookie Jack Robinson was capable of — a capability that was finally realized in Mexico. This exposes the cruelty of the reintroduced mid-year cutoff. The Championship Tour is a system. One that can take time to learn, regardless of how talented you are. Giving an exciting rookie a mere five events to figure it out is going to be an issue. Jack would have been cooked.
But, in a system that allowed him to stick around for a full year and figure things out, he ended up winning an event. That barrel out the back/carves through the middle/air on the end section worked for him at Barra.
Shoutout to Deivid Silva, though. There were heats in which he made being on your backhand look like an advantage, and that’s saying a lot. And seeing the Brazilian camaraderie on tour (Filipe sprinted to the top of point with Deivid as he was doing a lap for the final) brings joy to my heart. We need more of that shit.
In the women’s final, Malia took a little while to find her groove — Steph was no doubt on the better waves and stacked 15.83 points. Malia eventually answered, and gathered a 15.27 point total of her own, but it was too little. And so Stephanie Gilmore won an event at a barreling, long-walled right, surprising not a single soul.
And that concluded the event. So meaningful. So meaningless.
Much like surfing itself.
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