Kanoa Igarashi Wins First CT; Steph Gilmore Seals Victory With Perfect 10
A Commissioner's ballsy decision resulted in an idyllic final day at Keramas.
Nikki Van Dijk kicked of finals day with a last-minute tube, simultaneously earning herself a semifinal berth and justifying the Commissioners’ decision to wait to run until the last day of the Keramas event window.
The waves were a bit junky in the morning—the result of an increasing swell and dropping tide—and neither Wade Carmichael no Michael Rodrigues knew what to do about it.
The Brazilian got out to an early lead, which was then captured by Wade, then taken again by Mike, and by Wade again—all from small scores, not worth wasting page space on.
In the dying minute, M-Rod won with a kiddie spin on the toilet bowl. It would be the Brazilian's first semifinal in a CT event, despite his lackluster performances throughout the week (avg. heat total ~11).
Needing a score toward the end of the heat, Kolohe Andino realized his board was buckled. At this point, the Californian had two options: forfeit priority, hook it to the beach, swap boards, and hope you’ll have a chance at a wave when you return; or, surf your next wave for the score and pray that the buckle doesn’t turn into a break.
Kolohe placed his faith in the polyurethane gods, driving hard off the bottom on an overhead set and launching straight into a forehand rotation. Luckily for Brother, the wave provided a soft landing halfway down the face, which he used to transition into a frontside wrap for the required number.
Now needing a high-four to regain the lead, Jeremy did what Jeremy does best: he found a running inside tube and banked the lip twice for good measure, keeping his buzzer-beater streak alive.
Rarely do "superheats" live up to their name, but today we were gifted a rare treat with Slater and Toledo – one we deemed too rich not to have its own area code. Please, take a few minutes to read about Slater’s heroic performance, wherein he bested the "world's best small wave surfer" at six-foot Keramas.
You will not regret it.
To be perfectly honest, I missed the majority of remaining heats as a result of writing/editing/publishing/sharing the Kelly/Filipe story. Which brings me to a self-serving aside:
People assume that Stab has this army of content producers who are stationed globally and ready to create magic at a moment’s notice. While that's partly true, it doesn't tell the whole story.
On the day-to-day, it's really just a handful of us idiots running around the globe trying to tell the best surf stories. So while Ashton, Woody, and Dyl are in West Oz filming the next No Contest ep, Rory is at a psychedelic retreat in Maui, Moody is editing from dusk to dawn on a secret African film, and Morgan is rearranging his fridge after a long week of keeping us all in check. Meanwhile, I'm up at 3 am knocking out multiple comp reports to fulfill the needs of my fellow surf addicts.
We out here husltin', is all I'm trying to say.
Anyways, here's what I saw (or heard) between feverish keystrokes:
Ace did a curious runaround and got slammed in the keyhole. Kolohe posited that he might have been trying to get deeper in the lineup.
Kanoa had the wildest whitewater ride I’ve ever seen. Legit crazy, look it up in the quarters.
Kanoa on his heat against Slater: “I'm gonna make him fight for it. I wanna talk trash to him. I want him to play mind games. I want to experience it all. But I’m gonna try to smoke him.”
Sally drives her back leg through her turns while Brisa stays square. No surprise Sally won, even before the tube.
Jeremy went full tube pig against M-Rod and earned two excellent scores. It's like he's a different human when the waves are hollow.
Kelly on Kanoa: “He's underrated out here, but I'm gonna smash him. That's my line, right?"
Kanoa is now 2-0 vs Slater, but he might have buckled his magic board prior to the final.
The ocean looked like an Augusta National putting green by the time the finals rolled around.
Those were Strider Wasilewski’s words—I just added the Masters reference for emphasis.
Keramas' morning wonk had disappeared and any trace of onshore breeze had vanished under the midday sun. Sets poured through as the perfectly sized and angled swell met Bali's east coast.
Somewhere on the beach, Kieren Perrow was smiling.
Steph Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons were the two women left in the event, which the commentators attributed to their experience competing in world-class conditions. Contrary to common logic, this is one of the most difficult parts of professional surfing. Sitting in a lineup with one other person when the waves are as good as they get—even the Buddha would have trouble containing his excitement, let alone collecting a couple of sevens.
Sally's strategy was clear: get as tubed as womanly possible.
Steph had a different approach: surf each wave to its absolute capacity, whether that was in the tube, on rail, or straight through the lip.
Steph held the lead throughout, but it was a tentative one, with Sally needing just a seven to flip the script.
Steph didn't like that, nor the fact that eights and nines had eluded her throughout the event.
"Let's just get an excellent score," Steph told herself, moments before It happened.
It, of course, referring to her 10, which to the judges' credit was a perfect ride in every sense of the word.
And with that, the heat was over.
Steph was genuinely surprised when Kaipo Guerrero informed her that she'd wear the yellow jersey in West Oz.
"Oh my god, that's so exciting!" Steph responded to the news. "I didn't know it was possible, I hadn't done the math. I painted my nails yellow though—my intentions were clear."
Kanoa and Jeremy rounded out the Men's final.
It was clear that if barrels were to present themselves, the Frenchman would be victorious. But as the wind feathered onshore, Kanoa's stock started to rise.
This all came to fruition when, after several failed tube attempts, Jeremy found himself watching Kanoa stroke into a seamless wall.
The 21-year-old floated across the first section, sticking the landing bolts and driving directly into an assertive layback gaff, followed by a crispy fin-release and a lipline glide closer.
There was no downtime the entire wave, nor a droplet of water out of place. Every maneuver choice was the right one, and each transition was without fault. It was the most flawlessly surfed wave of the event, barring Steph's. I clapped to an audience of none.
The judges deemed it a 9.17.
But the heat wasn't over. Jeremy came back with a bomb of his own, ripping into sections with more grit but slightly less polish than Kanoa—an approach that has historically pleased score lords.
Three judges said mid-nine, the other two went mid-eight. The wave averaged at an 8.93, just below Kanoa's 9.17. Pottz didn't like it, nor did a few of the folks on my text chain.
That's competitive surfing.
Kanoa swung an erratic but impressive reverse on his back-up, followed by a few inside bonks. Jeremy had two attempts to get the six he required but fell short each time—the waves' fault, not his.
Despite the Bali Bali, single-point heat totals and all the "haters" he claims to have, Igarashi earned his (and Japan's) first-ever CT victory.
"He was the best surfer of the event," Jeremy said at the awards ceremony. "He definitely deserved it."