Stab Magazine | John Florence Vanquishes A Title Threat And Sharks Return To WA!
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John Florence Vanquishes A Title Threat And Sharks Return To WA!

Also, Lakey Peterson stomps on Steph Gilmore’s neck. Can you say “combo”?

news // Jun 2, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Italo Ferreira had another crazy first wave of the day, this one due to a wind-affected free fall, where the board fluttered in two different directions under Italo’s feet before man and craft somehow landed in perfected unison, setting Italo on his rail to nail another pocket carve.

How funny would it have been if the judges threw a 10 at it, just to fuck with all the critics?

Very funny, I think, but they went with the more prudent option of a 7.17. 

Italo’s competitor was Michel ‘Gargoyle’ Bourez. This nickname has a double meaning, the first being that Michel sat like a statue out the back while Italo caught 4,000 waves, but also because Michel gets his body in such awkward and terrifying positions during his maneuvers that he reminds me of a cartoonish demon. 

And please don’t mistake my words for insults, I love Michel’s surfing. He’s on my Margie’s fantasy team. But he tries to turn so hard sometimes it looks like he’s gonna get a hernia. This morning, though, he spent so much time sitting that he’s more likely to get a hemorrhoid . Italo waltzed to victory.

 Ferreira KELL8373 MRP19 Cestari

Some general takeaways from this morning: 1. It was very cold. Surfers were wearing mittens before their heats to stay toasty. Others complained of sore feet. Isn’t weather crazy? 2. Backside surfing is easier in strong offshores, because you can get your weight over the front foot more easily. See Italo v. Michel. 3. Hard offshore, small Main Break is as boring to watch as it is difficult to surf. For this wave to provide the goods, it needs size or doldrums. 

There was a battle for haole supremacy between John and Seabass, which went about how you’d expect. John did one good turn and got an eight, but you could see that he’ll need an extra three feet of wall to really open up. Seabass connected two zesty lemons and stole the lead for a brief moment, but a lazy five from John shut that down real quick. 

Florence snuck through again, but he’s yet to display anything near the dominance of 2017.

John’s post-heat interview was interrupted when he caught a glimpse of Slater dropping in, conjuring an organic, “Oooh my god, Kelly.” The Syrian sock lord commands the eyeballs of every surf fan, even the (current) best surfer in the world.

In the water, Slater baited Caio into a muffin of a wave on their opening exchange, granting the King due reign of the lineup. He used it poorly. Abandoning his own rule of waiting for the second wave of the set, Slater proceeded to catch burger after burger (he caught four consecutive waves that were under one point), frantically trying to secure the small score required. Meanwhile, Caio had taken out his hammer and nails and started building a small, sturdy domicile of sixes, before digging a fuck-you crocodile moat around his lead with a 7.83.

Ibelli KELL8693 MRP19 Cestari

One could attribute Caio’s victory strictly to superior wave selection, but that would be to ignore his newfound bottom turn. Have you seen that thing lately? 

Since switching to DHD, Caio has been laying some serious fucking pipe in the transition, which has provided so much speed that he hardly has to turn off the top to collect a score. It’s really just a weight transfer from toe to heel and the Brazilan is throwing peacocks out the back.

This heat brought Caio to 31 career heat wins vs. Slater’s 55 event wins. Catching up!

“After that sticky situation we got in last year, I wanted to match up with [Kelly] and show people that I deserve a chance to perform,” Caio said in his post-heat presser. Fair play, champ.

Rosy Hodge also caught up with Slater, who also had some thoughts to share.

“We had another heat the other day and I just got him, and this one… I just kinda played myself into a hole kinda early. I wasn’t really good with my wave selection. I got caught inside and out of position on a few waves. There were a couple under priority where I kicked out and he got one and I couldn’t get one for the rest of the set. I made a lot of mistakes. I felt like the surfing was there, but I never really settled into my frame of mind. I told Belly before the heat, I said, ‘Second wave, they look way cleaner,’ but I just never listened to myself, so.”

Slater proceeded to accept an arm-wrestling challenge from a few local groms, who were made martyrs for the rapid regeneration of Slater’s ego as he dragged both of their arms down with one mighty bicep pull. Kelly proceeded to give one of the kids his hat and signed autographs until all fans were satisfied. 

Jordy Smith and Conner Coffin both went left on their opening rides, dropping a 7.83 and 7.1 respectively. They also got back onto the ski super quick and were back in the lineup way faster than if they had gone right. So, why the hell aren’t more people going left, especially regular-foots, who can fit tight, vertical snaps under the elusive lip? 

Jordy won that heat with little fanfare. 

Jack Robinson lost to Seth Moniz, who, despite how much he loves the tube, has gotta be happy that this heat wasn’t at the Box. By paddling across the channel, Robbo goes from the best surfer in the world to just another guy. Seth benefitted immensely from that switch. 

Kolohe Andino versus Owen Wright was a great heat on paper. The judges made it not so, mainly because of an 8.33 they threw Kolohe for a weak carve and an air attempt where his board never left the water. It was an aggressive effort—I’ll give him that—but excellent surfing it was not. Meanwhile, Owen’s peerless backside hooks got middling numbers. It’s right that Kolohe won, but they shouldn’t have been two-and-a-half points apart. This year’s judging continues to confound.

On the other hand, you can’t knock Brother’s hustle in 2019. To Barton’s point, this is the first time we’ve ever seen Kolohe’s experience prove so useful in CT events. A win here marked his third final series in four events, and with Filipe and Kanoa already eliminated, Kolohe had a clear shot to the top three. 

 Andino A05I2575 MRP19 Dunbar

In the next heat, Julian did a real air and got a five. However it was his competitor, Peterson Crisanto, who looked like the real danger man.

On a hot pink surfboard, Peterson used his second priority to chip away at Julian’s lead, finally earning it for a clean backside rotation. 

After sitting for nearly 20 minutes and needing a five to regain the lead, Julian took off on a tapered right wall and absolutely pillaged it for points, earning an 8.67 for three searing hip swivels. 

That’s the Julian we know and love. Where he’d been the rest of this event, I have no idea.  

Speaking of, where the hell did this Kanoa Igarashi character come from? Japan’s great Olympic purchase looks remarkably confident in his every decision, and you couldn’t knock him off his board with a fucking tire iron. Kanoa’s in incredible form right now, which culminated in the double-seven bomb he dropped on Ryan Callinan’s head.

Meanwhile, the Novocastrian kept picking the first wave of the set, which left him incapable of scoring above a six. Needing an eight toward the end of the heat, Ryan finally sold Kanoa on the opening wave, which left him a clean, steep wall to play with out the back. Ryan corrected sea level rise on the opening section and continued to tag the wave across the reef, netting him an 8.6 and the heat lead. 

Callinan KELL9148 MRP19 Cestari

Kanoa had a chance to regain first with a closing wave, but after a clean opening slice he mistimed the boil and suffered a third-degree bog, which kept his score well below the requirement. 

Here are Kanoa’s post-heat thoughts:

“That one hurt, you know? That one’s gonna eat me up. But, you know, I’m not, honestly, it’s gonna eat me up for an hour then I’m gonna wash it right off. I felt like I surfed really good. I had a lot more left in the tank, and I was just kinda slowly building myself. Then when that last wave came, I was like, “Yeah, I’m gonna get the score for sure.’ I had no doubt I was gonna get the score. Then I did a pretty good first turn, then the second turn was like, I was gonna go for a big carve, but then there was that boil section, and I kinda like misti—not really mistimed it but the boil just kinda lifted my board up, and it all went pear-shaped from there. But I liked the confidence I had going into the last wave and the confidence I had going into the heat. I felt like I made those two sevens that I got, so I’m not too bummed about it. Normally this is my weak half of the year, so going into the back half, I’m really liking my chances at what I feel are my pet events.”

Now, let’s compare and contrast this interview with Kelly’s from earlier in the morning (see above).

To me, the biggest comparison is that neither Kelly nor Kanoa mentioned a single thing about their competitor.

In other words, it wasn’t what Caio and Ryan did right that determined the outcomes of their heats, but instead what went wrong for Kelly and Kanoa. 

This isn’t the humblest way to interpret the result of a two-man heat, but it is the mindset of a champion. In order to win consistently in surfing, one must believe that he—not his competitor nor the ocean—is the sole master of his destiny

Slater KELL8728 MRP19 Cestari2

The biggest contrast is that Kelly accepts blame for his loss while Kanoa does not. 

“I just kinda played myself into a hole kinda early. I wasn’t really good with my wave selection. I made a lot of mistakes.” Those are all Kelly. 

“I felt like I surfed really good. I had a lot more left in the tank. There was that boil section, and I kinda misti—not really mistimed it, but the boil just kinda lifted my board up, and it all went pear-shaped from there.” That was Kanoa.

Notice there was no mention of Kanoa giving Ryan the best wave of the heat via a priority blunder, nor any acceptance of blame for falling on the “comeback” ride.

Arrogance in sport is good, to a degree. But when a supreme sense of ego prohibits one from seeing their faults, thus making it impossible to perform the necessary adjustments to improve, well, that’s some Donald Trump shit.

Luckily Kanoa has a critical advisor in Snake, who won’t be afraid to set him straight. 

Igarashi KELL9193 MRP19 Cestari

The women’s quarters hit the water and it was fairly good viewing. I’d love to write more about them, but this comp wrap is bordering on a novella and it’s currently 3:45 AM (can’t wait til this Aussie leg is over), so here are the sparknotes:

Tatiana rode a (much) shorter board than Courtney, thus allowing for tighter turns in the pocket which resulted in higher scores. The whole backside vs. frontside thing helped that too.

Sally dropped consecutive sevens to take a large and early lead. Caroline put up the highest number of the heat (8.57) for three Occish hacks, but a couple rogue sets prohibited her from getting the backup she needed. Sally to semis.

Brisa Hennessy is practically a Costa Rican knock-off of Carissa Moore. She’s nice to watch and has a lovely personality (pura vida!), but the original version (Riss) is much stronger, more flexible, and more progressive—the whole kit and kaboodle. 

Following Keramas, Carissa had no intention of losing to the apprentice again, so she reverse-sat-on Brisa without priority for the entire second half of the heat. Worked like a charm.

Moore A05I3001 MRP19 Dunbar

Lakey and Steph was the big heat in this round.

Despite going head-to-head for last year’s World Title, there had been little “competition” between these two over the years. Meaning, Lakey was 0-7 lifetime against the 7x Champ. 

“I’m done losing to her,” was Lakey’s pre-heat meditation. 

She then dropped a 9.8 on her first wave for two turns, the first of which was vicious and clean, the second of which was vicious and bog. 

Steph tried to fight back with those patented swooping carves, but her tendency to select the first wave of the set made that maneuver functionally impossible. Meanwhile, Lakey found another clean wall and bashed it for a backup nine, effectively comboing the goattress.

This resulted in Lakey’s husband clapping like he was trying to shatter the Louvre—seriously, go watch that Herculean hand-slam in the Heat Analyzer (right after Lakey’s second nine). 

Peterson A05I3135 MRP19 Dunbar 

“This is a World Title heat,” said surprise webcast guest, Joel Parkinson, before the John John vs. Italo quarterfinal. “To me, these two guys have looked like the best surfers in the world this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them battling at the end of the year. And heats like this make a huge difference in the long run.”

Italo scored a 7.33 on his first wave, which is something made a habit of recently. John came back with an 8.5 for two carves and backed it up with a 6.77 for an air plus turns.

At one point, the pair caught steaming back to back waves, both in milky, light blue water, which indicated they were toward the back end of a set. AKA: no bumps.

Both John and Italo dug deep into the porcelain faces, delivering the right turns at the right times to maximize their scoring potential. By his advantages in physical strength and length of ride, John scored a 9.23 to Italo’s 8.03, and the heat never swayed from there, despite Ferrari’s terrifying rodeo attempt. 

Barring catastrophic circumstances, Florence will retain the yellow jersey into Brazil—an event he’s won twice before. 

Florence A05I3186 MRP19 Dunbar 

So tired, back to sparknotes:

Jordy lost to Caio by .02 points, which is yet another questionable decision against the big Saffa. I actually think the judges got it right this time (Caio was tearing!), but I expect our old pal Dooma will feel differently. Jordy didn’t deserve to lose, but Caio did deserve to win.

Shark!! 

Seth and Kolohe were extracted from the water because a shark had been sighted, first by a freesurfer at a nearby break and then by the WSL drone. 

“Caio Ibelli also spotted some sea lice out there, so we might try to get some eyes on those as well,” Ronnie quipped during the intermission. Gotta love Aussie humor.

The shark break was ultimately for the best, one because no one died and two because the conditions doubled in quality by the time they restarted.

Seth and Kolohe proceeded to trade Lowers-esque backlit dreamers, but to my eye, both had trouble digging into the water. Maybe that’s an unfair appraisal, but after watching John, and even Jordy and Caio, but especially John, these two left much to be desired on the rail. 

Kolohe won by a crunchy blonde hair, bettering an already stellar start to the year—something he attributes to his “psychopathic” training regime. 

 Wilson A05I2592 MRP19 Dunbar

Julian Wilson and Ryan Callinan had another close but altogether unimpressive heat. Lots of falls between the two and not much electricity. Still, someone had to win, and today it was Julian Wilson, who after nearly stealing the Title in 2018, sits at number 19 on the current CT rankings.

Think he wants to win this event?

If my forecasting is correct (it rarely is), semis and finals should go on Tuesday morning in WA.

Or not.

Either way, you can catch the significant bits here.

See you then.  

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