Stab Magazine | Jordy Smith Carries Team World To Victory At Inaugural Wavepool Event

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Jordy Smith Carries Team World To Victory At Inaugural Wavepool Event

Slater nearly steals the show!

news // May 9, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 7 minutes

The 46-year-old surfing champion and wavepool tycoon was exactly where he wanted to be.

As five thousand fans cheered him from the sidelines, Kelly Slater stroked into the final wave of the Founders’ Cup, — a right that he and everyone in attendance knew like the howls of their dogs.

A few turn sections out the back.

A grinding, deceptively two-section tube, which the rider could traverse either by sticking his arm in and out of the wall for the full 16 seconds, attempting to stay deep but not too deep for the duration of the tube; or by exiting halfway through, only to snap or carve back into the pocket for another five second tunnel.

Another few turn sections in the middle.

Lastly a long, fast barrel with an impressive bowl at the end, designed for either launching an air or laying a rail deep into the wall.

And by the end of that particular wave, Kelly had to amass upwards of 9.28 points to save his team in the all-important final round.

The weight of a nation rested on his shoulders, but Kelly seemed to enjoy that pressure. He called for the crowd to cheer, and not long after, that infamous blue train started chugging its way down the track…

But there were several other noteworthy moments at today’s Founders’ Cup, so perhaps it’s best if we don’t spoil our dessert!

The left on CT3 was a tight squeeze but negotiable nonetheless. Photo. WSL/Cestari

Despite my prior beliefs, the barrel can (and should) be scored.

After experiencing two days of competition at Kelly Slater’s wavepool, where to the best of my ability I scored every wave ridden and compared them to the judges’ official scores, I feel I’ve learned a lot about the scoring of these events.

First and foremost, the judges have an impossible job. I gave Pritamo and crew a hard time about Filipe’s 10, but at the end of the day, their scores were consistent enough to reveal the event’s true champions. And that’s all that really matters.

Next is that the barrel, despite its Bede-like consistency, is not easy to ride well. On average, about one in four surfers make it out of a deep (body fully covered) tube, meaning the other three either fall — or worse, barrel-dodge — on their attempts, which should (and did) reflect in their scores.

Legitimate tubes, like the two Gabriel Medina rode on his right in the final (the best barrel riding of the event, hands down), can seriously boost a wave’s scoring potential, while a pocket-ride doesn’t garner many points whatsoever.

Also worth noting, and as told to me by Mr Ahrendt, was that the entry into a tube can add significantly to its value. A late turn in the hook resulting in a tube-bound airdrop will garner more points than a simple stall from the channel. And surely if someone had nailed one of those reverse-to-tubes made famous by Griffin Colapinto, we would have seen some huge scores based on that move alone.

Almost as confusing as the WSL’s rulebook surrounding the finer details of the event’s structure. Photo. WSL/Cestari

So “surf-offs” are a thing now

I’m the only person I know who remotely understood the Founders’ Cup competition format – WSL officials included. I say that partially to brag, sure, but mostly to give you an idea of how novel this event truly was. 

On top of the convoluted format were a few secret event rules, such as the ability of one team member to give a wave to another – which is exactly what Filipe (who already held a 10 on the books and therefore couldn’t improve on his situation) did for Adriano this morning – or the advent of a surf-off, in the instance that two teams are tied after the qualification round, which despite the ungodly odds against it, is exactly what happened to Teams Australia and World.

Today’s surf-off was the beginning of what we might call the true competition in Lemoore. Before that, teams were essentially just enjoying their own personal pool parties – sharing waves, slapping neoprene-clad asses, etc. – but the surf-off pinned two squads in a straight-up, do-or-die situation, which really got the blood pumping.  

After Team World surfed their waves to a respectable 14.93 total, Team Australia knew exactly what they had to do to win the match, and Matt Wilkinson folded under the pressure.

In a post-loss interview, Wilko was clearly disheartened by his surf-off performance, but not so much for his own sake – rather for his team.

“Was it difficult knowing almost the exact number you needed to achieve (roughly a 7.5) before even taking off on that wave?” I asked Mr Wilkinson.

“Well not really,” he replied. “I mean, if you surf a wave all the way through without making any big mistakes, you’re probably gonna get like a 7, so it was more about making sure you just put the wave together.”

“But considering the stakes of the surf-off, were you more nervous to surf that wave than any other in the event?” I asked.

“I mean yeah, probably a bit.” Matt chuckled

“Do you think that’s why you fell?”

“Umm, I don’t really think that’s why I fell,” Matt said. “Once I did my first couple turns I actually felt really good, and then I don’t know, I think I just got a little too excited on that turn, if anything.”

Well, he did still win air of the event. Photo. WSL/Cestari

The prince’s collapse.

John surfed surprisingly poorly throughout this event, as proven by his average wave score (a whopping 4.9 to Jordy’s 8.0). This makes me wonder, is John’s brilliance tied to the inherent chaos of the ocean, as he’s more of a free-form artist than paint-by-numbers kinda cat, or was this just a terribly flukey event? He did still put together one of the highest scores of the event, and won the award for best air in the pool. 

The final was well-designed and surfed even better.

Five heats, three surfers each, two waves apiece, one counts, most team points at the end, wins – that was the finals format, and it created the most captivating moments of the entire event.

Gabriel Medina took a surprisingly selfless approach to the final, opting to take the first heat and relinquish the more-point-heavy Heat 5 to his absurdly talented friend Filipe. Of course, we’ll never know what would have been if that decision were flipped, but as it stands Medina dropped two nines and Filipe, well, that’s coming.

You’d be forgiven for presuming Gabriel is adding a double-grab ‘nooner’ to his repertoire. Photo. WSL/Cestari

Then in Heat 2, Lakey took an uncontested victory.

Inspired by Captain Jordy, Kanoa stomped an authoritative, board-buckling punt to win Heat 3.

Brazil’s penguin-sliding princess, Silvana Lima, dropped 9-plus points in Heat 4, and while Carissa fought back with a remarkably surfed right, her botched aerial attempt left the American just shy of the win.

Heading into the final heat, the team scores were as follows:

Brazil: 7

World: 4

USA: 3

With four points up for grabs, each country was technically still in the event, but the Americans needed something of a miracle — Kelly Slater had to win and Filipe had to lose the heat in order for USA to have a chance at the Cup.

What we didn’t account for was the man “too big for the pool”, Jordy Smith.

The World captain’s left — a respectable 7.5 — would have been a high 9 had he landed his rodeo attempt on the end. Jordy then went right and thrashed it with equal abandon, again avoiding the end section tube in exchange for a lofty alley oop, which after a creative air-dropping re-entry, he ultimately landed.


I approached Jordy after the event to apologize for my misinformed notion that he was “too big for the pool”, but Jordy reiterated his belief that he truly doesn’t fit in the current iteration of the pool.

“Once they make it a few feet bigger, I’ll be able to access some of the lines that I see in my mind,” Jordy said.

“But if you are truly too big for the pool, how’s it possible that you surfed so well throughout the event?”

“Well luckily I’ve had a lot of time to practice out here,” Jordy replied. “And I’ve rewatched all my practice clips… probably 40 times, honestly, to figure out where I can maximize my own potential on the wave. I’m a firm believer that Knowledge is Power, so I did my homework, figured out what worked for me, and executed that strategy.”

Filipe was up next and after falling short on the left, the Brazilian knew he’d have to obliterate the right. Taking note of the 10 he scored yesterday, Filipe went at the first section hard, spinning a quick reverse off the lip but losing too much momentum in the process, causing him to fall behind the wave and relinquish all power to the man, the myth, the legend: Robert Kelly Slater.

Kelly taking full advantage of the home ground benefit, unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough. Photo. WSL/Cestari

Artificial waves can create organically engaging moments.

Kelly was never gonna get the required 9.3 on a left, so the fate of the event rested in his very last ride.

A commenter from yesterday’s report brought up an important point that I feel is worth discussing:

“I’m actually a bit disappointed watching [the Founders’ Cup]. I feel like everything that makes surfing so exciting to watch is missing. The anticipation of an approaching set, the unpredictability if a wave is gonna be good or not, barrels or waves which seem unmakeable and all that. Remember some heats when in the dying seconds of the heat a wave approaches and a surfer takes it and turns the heat around. These are the moments that make competitive surfing exciting and the surf ranch will never be able to deliver such moments,” so and so wrote.

And when I tell you that my heart was beating out my chest as Kelly stroked into that final wave, that I nearly bit my pen in half when he threw that under-the-lip larry out the back, that I cheered like a giddy school girl when he exited the first tube, that I cringed deeply when he stumbled on a subsequent turn, that yelled “Go. Go! GO!” as the speedy end tube approached, and that I fell out of my chair when his last-ditch ‘oop went unrequited, I am not exaggerating in the slightest.

Nor was I alone.

The whole crowd gasped and gawked along with me, and on top of that, in my eyeline to the megatron was Team Brazil, who despite having no skin in this game, were literally jumping up and down with excitement while Kelly threaded that last tube, and grabbed their heads in despair when his aerial attempt fell flat.

Unless your name was Jordy, Kanoa, Bianca, Paige, or Michel, you wanted Kelly to stick the punt, to get the score. Deep down they might have even wanted it too.

Artificial wave aside, that was a magical moment.

After it was all said and done, I approached Kelly with a simple question:

“Have you dreamt of a moment like that — where it’s the last wave of the day, you’re in your pool, everyone is watching, cheering for you, and the fate of the event rests on your shoulders?”

“You know I didn’t really think about it,” Slater said. “Being the captain, I guess I had the choice to do whatever, but I actually gave the option to John. I wanted John to have the choice whether he’d have that tough, kind of “hero” moment, or if he wanted to take the pressure off by surfing earlier.’

“But I think he really wanted to surf against Medina,” Slater continued, “which is why he chose to surf in the first heat. The last heat had more points in it, but he really wanted to go head-to-head against Medina, which is pretty cool I think.”

“So how did you feel, being in that pressure position?” I asked. “It seems like you really cherished the moment.”

“Yeah, I was stoked,” Slater replied. “I think the three standouts this week were Jordy, Filipe, and Medina, so to have two of those guys in one heat was special. I really dug it. And you know I kinda had it in the bag, but I just chose the wrong maneuver at the end there. I needed to finish that wave.” 

Now, we’re back home, after returning to the coast in a blacked out Chevrolet Colorado, a truck which Morgan claims, “Is the only way to ride… to Lemoore.” 


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