Medina And Ferreira Dominate Day One At Pipe; Toledo Falters
(And Julian made his heat, too.)
After seeing Yago Dora and Owen Wright trade wind-spins in the second heat of the 2018 Pipeline Masters, Italo Ferreira was brimming with glee.
In a pre-heat interview with Kaipo Guerrero, Italo looked into the camera and proclaimed: “Let’s get some barrels and do some airs!”
He did just that.
Making Pipeline look like a playful beachie rather than a lethal reef, Italo wasted no time hucking himself off the first available section, which sent him soaring down to the flats and crumbling in the whitewash.
That fall only served to increase Italo’s stoke. He kept going for airs while Joan Duru – who needs to make multiple heats at Pipe to requalify for 2019 – built a sturdy abode of fives and sixes.
With less than 10 minutes on the clock, Italo finally nailed his first full-rotation air reverse, then another shortly after, relegating Duru and a sleepy Keanu Asing to Round 2.
It’s become abundantly clear that Italo Ferreira is the future of surfing: fast, powerful, unpredictable, and terribly fun to watch. Nobody can touch what he and Gabby are doing in conditions like this. But we’ll get back to that.
Filipe Toledo was up next, and with a World Title within reach, one assumed he would do everything possible to win his Round 1 match.
Instead, he didn’t do much of anything.
“Filipe hasn’t been out here [Pipeline] as much as the other Title contenders,” said WSL commentator, Strider Wasilewski, from the channel. “He looks a little confused in the lineup.”
Ross Williams agreed.
“Filipe’s dad has him sitting over at the right at Backdoor, and that’s a mistake,” the Hawaiian local and coach to a 2x World Champion stated on the webcast. “I guarantee Filipe could have gotten a couple threes if he was sitting in the channel on the left.”
As it turns out, a couple of threes would have put Filipe in serious contention for a heat win. Despite Fil’s last-ditch effort on an aggressive closeout bash, Matty Wilko walked away victorious with a 6.03 total.
“Make no mistake, Filipe messed this heat up,” Ross said in the daily recap.
Strategy aside, I can’t help but feel that Filipe is still a bit anxious in “heavy” surf. We put “heavy” in scare quotes because by most standards, Pipe was not heavy today. In fact, we’ve seen Filipe have huge performances in objectively more powerful surf (see Brazil this year).
What seems to plague Fil, at least from an outsider’s perspective, is his theoretical fear of waves based on their history or constitution. In other words, if the same exact waves that we saw today at Pipeline were breaking on top of a sanbar in Portugal, France, or Brazil we can’t imagine Filipe limping to shore with five points on the board.
There’s just no way.
In order to become a World Champion surfer, Fil will have to adopt the mindset of Gabby and Italo who, no matter what lies beneath the surface, see every wave as a platform to attack.
Or he could just adopt the competitive intuition of Julian Wilson, who despite looking confused in the wobbly lineup, advanced with smart wave selection and clean, prudent surfing, which utilized only 34% of Julian’s inherent skill but garnered 5.5 points nonetheless.
And Gabriel Medina, the current CT leader and dark-eyed beast from Brazil? He was on a different level.
Gabby’s 13-point heat total does no justice to the surfing he performed in today’s lackluster conditions. Soul-arching into tubes, doggy-dooring out, airing far beyond the confines of the human body, Medina looked truly possessed in the lineup, proven by his last-minute blocking maneuver against Benji Brand.
With 20 seconds on the clock, and his closest competitor, Benji Brand, needing only a six to surpass him in the heat, Medina literally stared into Benji’s eyes as he stroked into a feathering wall, refusing even to look down the line and see what the wave had to offer. After a solid three second stare-down, Medina used his priority to “block” Benji, accidentally shooting a deep tube and clocking his second best score of the heat.
Whoever beats Gabby in this event will need a tremendous amount of talent, knowledge, and most importantly luck. Medina is in full Terminator mode. So much so that the third competitor in his heat, Connor O’Leary, called it and went to the beach with 2:30 left on the clock.
Imagine feeling so mentally defeated that you quit after getting your best wave of the heat.
Griffin Colapinto took a squeaky victory over Wade Carmichael and Ryan Callinan, which is fairly meaningless to anyone other than Jack Freestone, who is relying on Griff to maintain his top-22 position so that Jack can have a spot on next year’s Tour.
Michael Feb and Michel Bourez both won on buzzer-beaters, which were exciting despite the continually average conditions.
Things all changed in Round 1 Heat 10, when Conner Coffin, Jeremy Flores, and Jesse Mendes took the water. There was a slight easterly shift in the wind and, just like that, tubes started to open.
Conner started the party with a Backdoor pit that he mostly misread, causing him to miss the second section and fall on his cutback. Despite this, the judges dropped a 6.6 for his sub-second tuberide, mostly because of the wave’s height and quality. In retrospect this is a little confusing, but at the time it made perfect sense.
Jeremy then dropped his own 6.6 for pinchy left, which set the scene for the best exchange of the event.
On the first wave of the set, Conner used his priority and went left on a blue Pipe gem, disappearing behind the curtain for a second before re-appearing and then disappearing once more, ultimately escaping after the spit.
Jezza was on the next wave, which unfortunately for the Frenchman, had some residual foam on it from Conner’s potent ride. Jeremy threaded it perfectly nonetheless, but because his tube was slightly shorter and less bulbous than Conner’s, he received a whole point less.
Conner went on to defeat the 2x Pipe Master and advanced to directly to Round 3.
Parko’s awake! Is exactly what we thought when Joel Parkinson, the soon-to-be-retired World Champion from Coolangatta, appeared onscreen today.
It was past 12 PM HST at this point, which is a very normal hour for someone to be awake, especially if they’re scheduled to surf in a professional surfing event, but given what we saw at Joel’s retirement bash last night we had our doubts.
The maddog went on to blitz his heat with one of the best barrels of the day – a deep, hollow left in which he loosed the rail for almost a full second.
Joel is now one step closer to that last Triple Crown victory.
In the final heat of the day we saw Michael Rodrigues, a Brazilian surfer known best for his frontside full rotations and buttery fingers when holding Amazonian delights.
He surfed very well despite what happened in days prior.
“M-Rod’s motivation might be in the incident that happened before the event kicking off,” said Ronnie Blakey. “It’s got everybody focused on how he’s gonna perform.”
Thankfully for Michael he performed with skill and tenacity, scoring left and right tubes with a few turns in between.
And what’s the best way to cap off a stellar Round 1 performance? While personal preferences may differ, we can’t imagine anything better than spooning down a delicious acai bowl, which as reported this morning, and thanks to the fine folks at Sambazon, will be free for M-Rod (and Mr. Hendrickson) at Haleiwa Bowls.
P.S. With the current forecast looking anything but great, we were surprised to see the WSL call the comp after Round 1. From what we could see, the waves were only getting better, and with a less than desirable forecast on tap, it seems quite risky to not get as many heats out of the way as possible. But we digress.
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