Stab Magazine | John Florence Rains Nines In The Final, Dampens Kolohe's Dreams Of Victory

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John Florence Rains Nines In The Final, Dampens Kolohe’s Dreams Of Victory

The California curse remains!

news // Jun 4, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 8 minutes

The waves were solid for finals day at the Margaret River Pro, but not solid enough for the Box.

And for those (like myself) who might have been wondering, the answer is no—the WSL didn’t turn a blind eye to the Box just to save the gals’ hides. According to my eyes in the sky, that lovely slice of reef was looking painfully slow today. A few candid tubes on offer, but wholly uncontestable.

Besides—six-foot, offshore Main Break ain’t a bad consolation prize. It’s like watching the 10 you were flirting with get kicked out of the bar for spewing on herself, but then a respectable seven falls in your lap. So you say thank-you-very-much and cherish those curves!

Watching the first wave of the Women’s semi, it was clear that Sally Fitz had made a board change. I’m calling at least four inches longer than her Sunday sled. Meanwhile, Tati’s board looked no longer than usual, but that could be a depth perception issue. With a stance that spans the divide between Kauai and Brazil, it wouldn’t be difficult for Tati to hide a few extra inches between her feet. 

The opening exchange was strong, and equal. Like all women!

Fitzgibbons 527A2348 MRP19 Cestari

Peep all the real estate up front. Sal loves a step-up.

Sally dropped a 6.5 for a carve to closeout snap, while that same combo netted Tati 6.33. Potts thought Tati should have had the advantage, which I bring up solely to ask our readers: how do you feel about the commentators spouting their judging criticisms? Do you feel increased solidarity with Pottz, Strider, and Ronnie (Joe would never dare debate a score) now that they can share an honest opinion with impunity? Or has this concession by the WSL given you time to come up with more grievances?

Sally backed up her first score with a five-something, leaving Tati in need of a smallish number for the lead. After several near misses, Tati remained in second with two minutes remaining. That’s when, out of certainly somewhere, a wave appeared and swung in her direction. Tati scratched in through the wind, performed a large, lopping turn on the first section, followed with a snap, mini-carve, and end-section survival float. 

It was the score she needed, without question. The judges awarded it justly

Then, for the first time since her nationality switch in 2018, Tati did something truly Brazilian. She got up on the mic, looked straight into the camera, and thanked God for sending her that last wave. If that doesn’t win over the Brazilian public, nothing will.

Webb 527A2251 MRP19 Cestari

The WSL camera crew caught an incredible exchange on the staircase. Mike ‘Snips’ Parson, head coach to Lakey Peterson, offered this final piece of advice before his pupil mounted the ski: “So on the first exchange, you either try to screw [Carissa] up a little bit or you get the first good wave.”

Snips said this with a broadcasting camera right in his face. The man is made of stone!

Then, in a moment of great irony, Lakey fucked up her coach’s only instruction, allowing Carissa to mad-dog the first wave of the heat despite the Californian being deeper on the peak. Carissa converted that set into a cool 7.17.

Then on her second wave, Carissa Moore did the best turn of the women’s event. A huge, searing carve that put two-thirds of the men’s Tour to shame. She backed it up with a softer carve then fell on the end section whack. With the scale set on Carissa’s first 7.17, surely this would go excellent.

The judges said no. And it wasn’t even that close, really, at a 7.6.

I found this puzzling. How could the best turn of the event followed by a soft carve be just half a point higher than Carissa’s weak wrap to half-snap on the wave prior?

 

Moore 527A2416 MRP19 Cestari

There’s only one other surfer who did a turn like this today, and he won the men’s event.

On the very next wave, Lakey performed a middling carve into a clean snap and lipline float. The judges threw a 7.6 on that wave as well, which made total sense in relation to Carissa’s 7.17, but was it equal to Carissa’s John John-esque swoop? No fucking way.

The judges then threw Lakey an eight for a wave that was probably worse than her seven, thus compounding Carissa’s psychological trauma. The 3x Champ was in a state of confusion, and rightfully so. With her carves not being rewarded, Riss went to her trademarked drop-wallet snap, which lacked impact due to the heavy offshores.  

Meanwhile, Lakey clocked another high-seven for clean, confident surfing. No doubt aided by the judges’ consistent approval.

Then, with nine minutes to go, a shark scare. The gals sprinted to the skis. Hearts in throats etc.

“Just a little shark chasing a bait ball,” was the official call. “We’re back out there!”

So surf it hurts.

Peterson 527A2462 MRP19 Cestari

Don’t get us wrong, Lakey surfed exceptionally well today. But turns like Carissa’s must be recognized in their superiority. 

Carissa got an 8.2 after the intermission for a wave that looked average in comparison to her 7.6. She finished on her feet though, which I guess is all that mattered to the judges. Seven-seven-seven became Carissa’s new requirement, but she was not lucky. The wave never came.

Lakey squeaked through in what I would call the worst judging discrepancy of the year. Which is really saying something. 

The John and Caio heat started with an epic paddle battle.

John, who was on the outside, used his extra 12 inches of wingspan to veer directly across Caio’s line, effectively hindering the Brazilian’s progress. Caio threw his hands up as if to say, “But maaahm, it’s not fair! John John always takes my toys and puts them where I can’t reach.”

The takeaway is that, much like with the Filipe and Slater heat back in Bali, the WSL had succeeded in creating an organic storyline through the use of gonzo marketing tactics.

You saw the video, didn’t you? The one where Joe Turpel, Pottz, Caio, and John talk about a rivalry that never should have existed, but very clearly does. 

All credit for that goes to Erik Logan. The WSL’s new President of Content, Media, and SUP-selfies knows a thing or two about storytelling, thanks to his years spent running the Oprah Winfrey Network. You can hate on the cheesy video mashups and comical soundtracks all you want, but you can’t deny that WSL content has become more engaging in 2019. 

Anyways, the heat. 

A slew of falls and poor wave choices befell the newfound rivals, with John maintaining a slight lead over Caio.

I was shocked to discover that even in the semifinals, after surfing and watching Main Break for the past week, these two were still caught up catching the first wave of the set. It has not been an effective strategy for anyone, barring a few random circumstances, throughout the entire event. And with a building swell pushing set after set through the takeoff zone, why not wait for a clean one?

The boys finally smartened up with six minutes remaining, securing the heat’s four scoring waves within that small window. John did two laybacks for a seven. Caio hit the lip hard for a six. John hooked slippery carves for a seven. Caio needed an eight.

With two minutes left and John holding priority, a small but juicy wedge approached the lineup. John had a decision to make, and it was one riddled with scar tissue. Back in 2016, John let Caio have a little wave, under priority, in the dying minutes of their Margaret River heat, which Caio turned into a lofty air reverse and the score. 

Despite this, John let him have the wave today, as if to say, “Let’s see if you can do it again, little man.” 

Caio surfed the wave with a full heart. In fact, he probably surfed it well enough to get the score, it’s just that the wave was so witttttle. Despite what kind-hearted women sometimes tell us, size does matter. Which is why the judges couldn’t give Caio an eight on a three-footer.  

John to the final.

 

Ibelli 527A2673 MRP19 Cestari

Caio should hold his head high after this week’s performance.

Julian vs. Kolohe was a truly forgettable heat. Brother looked disinterested for the first time all year, and not even a shark sighting could invigorate Julian, who I figured would go into some PTSD-induced fit of shredding. Instead, he claimed a four and Kolohe won with a pair of fives.

In his post-heat interview, Kolohe said he was gonna “send it” against John. I, too, thought this was the only course of action, if Kolohe wanted to avoid a fifth consecutive final loss and his second against John at this very event.

Like the Julian/Kolohe heat, the women’s final was a fizzer. Lakey won with beef and broccoli surfing that was slightly less offensive than Tati’s beef and broccoli surfing.

Sorry, I just really think Riss should have been there.

 

Peterson KELL9888 MRP19 Cestari

Lakey is back on her tough girl shit.

Alternatively, the Men’s final was a bona fide slugfest, the only problem being that John hits like a heavyweight while Kolohe is a precision puncher. Maybe at chest-high Dbah would Kolohe’s zapping approach to turns have an advantage over John, but in large, open-faced waves the Hawaiian was always gonna win.

To Kolohe’s credit, he looked like a different man from the last time he and John met at Margie’s—stronger, more confident, and with a better read on the wave (that 7.93 couldn’t have been paced more perfectly). Sadly for him, John looked almost exactly the same to his 2017 self, albeit without the magic board.

Brother needed an eight to win in the dying minutes, but John took his last-chance wave, surfing it at 100% for the first time all event and earning a 9.5 in the process. Pair that with his first nine for a fuck-off two-stager carve in the bowl, and John pieced together a tidy 18.5 points in an effortless victory.

Which begs the question: could John Florence grow bored of trouncing everyone so easily? I sure hope not, but it seems that without being pushed by someone of equal ability, like Medina, John might actually tire of winning. He hardly seemed excited today, and I also noticed a distinct lack of a support crew on the beach. Where’d the Johntourage go?

Florence A05I4729 MRP19 Dunbar

All up, I would describe today’s events as anticlimactic. 

Not entirely sure why, as the waves were good and some of the surfing was great, but it just didn’t feel… complete. Something was missing, but I can’t quite put my finger on what. Maybe one of you in the comments will fill in the gaps. 

Or maybe it’s just writer’s fatigue. As long as this Tour leg has been for the surfers, imagine having to do a comp wrap every damn day they run. It’s exhausting, and frankly, I’m looking very much forward to our upcoming break. We all need to head home and reset.

Speaking of which, the next event is in Brazil, a country that has a shocking lack of surfers in the top 10 right now. Take a look at this picture and tell me it doesn’t slap the acai bowl right out of your hand.

Screen Shot 2019 06 03 at 11.10.13 PM 

Crazy, no?

See ya in Saqua!

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