Michel Bourez Wins His First Event Since 2014, The Pipe Masters
Over Kanoa Igarashi?
Michel hasn’t seen the podium since Rio in 2014, and the Pipe Masters is as apt as any place for a resurgence for the Tahitian. The win over Hawaii’s new favourite Californian, Kanoa Igarashi – who with his semifinal win over Jordy Smith granted Zeke Lau a spot in the big dance – comes as a lovely ending to a decent year for Michel, who’s best finish was a fifth place at Bells early in the season. The final started slow, and by the time the first ten minutes past, Michel sat with a .5. But he stayed active while Kanoa didn’t have much materialise. “I still don’t believe it because we had the worst final I’ve ever had,” said Michel post win. After all the boring finals we’ve watched this year, Pipe takes the accolade of the biggest yawn.
And here’s a rundown of the rest of today’s business.
There has been no answer for Michel Bourez’s bull-in-a-China-shop approach today. His board, his body type, his hammer-dropping style, all suited Backdoor. Kolohe Andino surged into the semifinals, and with an equal third it’s his best-ever result at Pipe. Their duel in the first semifinal was relatively slow, but Bourez stayed busy and in the final minutes he found a high 8-point ride to edge out his friend.
“I didn’t expect that. It was a dream back in the day,” said Michel of making the final. “This year has been a super challenging one. I set my goals early and told myself I have to succeed. But, I never really did well when Pipe was on.”
As he’s done so often in his career, Kelly was dancing with history in the semifinals. On the card was the potential to win his eighth Pipe Masters title and third Triple Crown title. All the 45-year-old had to do was out surf 19-year-old Kanoa to keep his date with destiny. And for most of the heat Kelly was squarely in the driver’s seat. He had the scores. He had the lead. He had the momentum. But Kanoa’s got samurai-focus and patiently waited. In the final exchange of the heat, Kelly tried to bait him into a close-out. Kanoa held his ground. Then, on the last wave of the set, needing an 8.33, an absolute bomb hit the reef. Kanoa dug deep, stuffed himself behind the foamball and smoked the champ.
“I was hoping he was going to go on the one I went on because it looked like a close-out,” said Kelly. “First time in the Pipe Masters and he makes the final, that’s pretty sick…it’s his day, I hope he wins.”
“I’m feeling pretty good. I’m making a little bit of headway into getting myself physically in the right place. I feel like I’ve been surfing pretty good and taking enough time off in between surf days to feel good,” said Kelly of his momentum going into 2017. “As we advance, and people get better, more and more this is turning into a chess game. Where do sit when that guy has priority. When you’re ahead or behind what decisions do you make? That’s really how heats play out. You can go out and completely shred someone to pieces, and that’s going to happen sometimes, but most often—75 to 90 percent of the time—the guy that paces himself right wins heats…if you got a guy that can surf great and paces heats right, it’s really hard to beat him. I think we’re all realising it’s more and more turning into that.”
In the first heat of the quarters, Kolohe and Jeremy Flores got into a bit of a dogfight, paddling each other up to Gums before finally getting back to Banzai proper. It was a back-and-forth affair.
“These tube events have always been good for me because you just have to get more tubed than the other guy. I just didn’t want to let him stroke into a seven or eight-point ride and it worked out for me.”
“Whew! Two months off!” sighed Jeremy. “In the water I was pretty angry with myself, but the minute I put my feet on the sand, what a relief. I may not surf for two months…unless it’s good.
It takes is one mistake to lose a heat, just ask John Florence. While holding priority halfway through his quarterfinal against Michel Bourez, the 2016 world champ opted to let his Hurley teammate go. Michel locked into a smoker for an 8.43 and that was the heat. John John wouldn’t come back and his miracle season concluded.
John John was reflective after one of the best years in the history of professional surfing. “I’ve had an amazing year,” he said. “It was unfortunate, I made a couple mistakes in that heat, but the waves are really fun right now and I’m just stoked to be home and finish the year. Now I can just go surfing and take a break for awhile.”
“The last month since Portugal has been crazy with coming home and straight into the Triple Crown; it’s super relaxing to take off the jersey, go surf and relax,” he continued.
After 23 seasons, 11 world titles and 55 event wins Kelly’s still the best. Besides round four, where he started at Ain’ts while Kanoa Igarashi did laps at Backdoor, Kelly’s Pipe Masters run was prophetic. When it comes to equipment, it’s looking like Kelly’s cracked the code. With three options on the board rack: A 5’10” round pin, a swallowtail quad, and a squash tail with tripped out foiled fins. If Kolohe’s NASCAR then Slater’s Formula 1.
Kelly got payback on Josh Kerr in the quarters, who beat him in the semis in 2012.
“I can’t let him win everything. I just told Jordy, let’s try and catch this guy, but I told him I want Kanoa and Jordy both to win this heat just so we can have a fun little finish this afternoon. It was a weird heat. It was more tactical than anything. There was one really good wave in the heat. Neither of us had priority in the beginning. Josh was smart and paddled me deep.”
Finals day’s early rounds:
The thing about imperfect Backdoor is it forces the competitors to create. It’s not strike a pose and wait for the spit to blow you into the channel. There are intricacies. It takes work. As Pottz loves to say, the devil’s in the details. Such was the start of the final day of the 2016 WSL Championship season.
Kolohe Andino kicked things off in round four with a well-earned 9.93 that forced him to sprint across the reef at Backdoor through tube multiple sections. John John Florence breezed to a sleepy win over Michel Bourez and Joel Parkinson. Josh Kerr took out Ryan Callinan and Nat Young. And in maybe the most intriguing result of the round, Kanoa Igarashi beat Kelly Slater and Jordy Smith. Out of rhythm, Slater lost the heat with a miserable 2.24 combined heat score. Three out of the four surfers that advanced would see their first Pipe Masters’ quarterfinals.
In round five, Kelly scratched back. After watching Filipe Toledo post the contest’s only perfect ten, Kelly went out and crushed Ryan Callinan.
“It’s time to relax… but I wish I’d caught a couple more waves,” giggled Ryan after his heat.
In the next heat, featuring Jordy Smith vs. Nat Young, a new swell clicked in, the winds clocked around, and Pipeline was back, baby. Nat had Jordy by the mullet in the dying minutes when the big South African locked into a double tube at Backdoor that he accented with the year’s best claim.
“Nat’s a good friend and I hope he makes the tour next year, he deserves to be on tour, but we are all here with our goals,” said Jordy. “One foot in front of the other.”
1: Michel Bourez 7.53 , Kanoa Igarashi 6.17
SF 1: Michel Bourez 15.37 def. Kolohe Andino 13.93
SF 2: Kanoa Igarashi 15.50 def. Kelly Slater 15.00
QF 1: Kolohe Andino 14.87 def. Jeremy Flores 12.67
QF 2: Michel Bourez 17.20 def. John John Florence 14.00
QF 3: Kelly Slater 11.50 def. Josh Kerr 10.24
QF 4: Kanoa Igarashi 18.03 def. Jordy Smith 15.74
Round Five Results:
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores 15.17 def. Joel Parkinson 4.53
Heat 2: Michel Bourez 16.80 def. Filipe Toledo 15.50
Heat 3: Kelly Slater 14.34 def. Ryan Callinan 10.17
Heat 4: Jordy Smith 18.10 def. Nat Young 16.17
Round Four Results:
Heat 1: Kolohe Andino 13.66, Jeremy Flores 10.16, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 5.00
Heat 2: John John Florence 11.00, Michel Bourez 9.17, Joel Parkinson 8.83
Heat 3: Josh Kerr 9.24, Ryan Callinan 2.77, Nat Young 1.57
Heat 4: Kanoa Igarashi 12.00, Jordy Smith 11.34, Kelly Slater 2.24
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