No, Italo Is Still Not Stopping
Notes from Day 1 at the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic.
Well there ya go, day one of the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic is in the bag.
Far from the best day of pro surfing you’ll ever see but light years ahead of the atrocity that was the opener in Newcastle. After the high notes of Newy’s big finish last week today was always going to seem anticlimactic but at least there was a bit of swell, a weekend crowd in good spirits, and a surf crazy little village more than happy to have the world’s best in town for a fortnight or so.
The ladies went first and despite there being plenty of swell in the water it was from the south, which is far from ideal for North Narra. For the first three hours of the day heats were held in closeouts, with anyone who snuck a corner getting through. Sally Fitz was the only surfer in the Seeding Round (a snazzy name for Round One that has a very long-winded explanation that doesn’t really clarify much) to break double points, top scoring the morning with a meagre 10.67 total. Notable names sent to the Elimination Round (a snazzy name for Round Two that has a simple explanation which is then made redundant by the fact every round, bar the first, eliminates surfers) include Tyler Wright, Newcastle finalist Isabella Nichols, and local wildcard Laura Enever, who is hosting this episode of No Contest.
Other moments worth mentioning include Lakey Peterson pulling out due to a back injury, and her then being replaced by reigning world junior champion Amuro Tsuzuki, the first Japanese female to compete on the CT in 20 years. Amuro was meant to surf in 2020 when Carissa Moore took the year off, but sadly then the world took the year off too and Carissa rightfully claimed her spot back in 2021. Amuro was offered the chance to come to Australia as first alternate in case of an injury, and after two weeks in quarantine in Sydney and two weeks of waiting patiently on the sidelines in Newcastle, she finally got her first go in the big leagues, and did enough to advance straight to the round of 16 (a snazzy name for… never mind).
The men paddled out just as the swell dropped enough to meet the incoming tide and create a few more opportunities. It wasn’t much but it was enough, and things got a little more interesting straight away as Yago Dora, Connor O’Leary, and Kanoa Igarashi traded blows. Yago took to the sky, Connor chucked buckets, and Kanoa did a little of both to come second to Yago at the end of the first matchup. John Florence had a 29-minute shocker in the second heat before landing a BS rev on the buzzer to sneak through in second to Frederico Morais, Freddy looking decidedly sparky as he found and danced all over a coupla longer running walls.
Filipe caned Adriano and Mikey, the latter nearly landing a monstrous aerial attempt that he honourably stuck with to the very end, self-preservation be damned. Adriano’s most notable moment came on his last wave. Needing a 2.74 to place second he destroyed his board on a floater and had to nurse it to the beach, hanging on for grim death, his robust squat maxed out like never before. Score achieved, on to the next.
Event wildcard Reef Heazlewood boned out a lofted straighty to win his heat from Jordy and Ace and set the tone for the upcoming daily air show double, Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira back-to-back. Gab made light work of Jadson Andre and local wildcard Dylan Moffatt, landing a handful of incredible aerials with such ease that they barely earn him scores these days. Either the judges are getting uber critical of the technicality of Gab’s punts or they’re just bored, but it seems strange that he can do a crazy fast, flat-spin rotation for a five, then kick out and see an opponent place a couple of sharp rail turns on semi-serious sections score around the same. It doesn’t stop Gab winning, and maybe it does encourage him to keep pushing things further, but it does seem he (and Italo, and possibly even Filipe) get judged on a slightly different scorecard to the rest of the field once they take to the sky.
Speaking of, Italo did plenty of that, alongside some lightning carve work, in his much-hyped heat of the round against Morgan Cibilic and Australian Prime Minister and three-time world champion, wildcard Mick Fanning. Sadly for Mick the ocean completely deserted him and he could muster little more than a two and a three over a very listless half hour. The rematch of his last ever heat, the 2018 final at Bells with Italo, with Rip Curl teammate and co-star of Postcards From Morgs joining them, this was meant to be a barn burner, but Italo’s performance aside it was sadly a fizzer. Mick could only laugh when he snapped his DHD en route to the beach after the final hooter went, and he was mobbed on the beach more than anyone else today soon after. Oh well.
Jeremy Flores couldn’t have looked more unimpressed with conditions if he tried, losing to Ethan Ewing and Peterson Crisanto in a heat that was seen by the back of a thousand heads as the beach emptied post-Mick. Ryan Callinan beat Michel Bourez, Leo Fioravanti and the now-vicious backwash in an entertaining bout, before Owen Wright was the first surfer to head to the outer bank and set to work on small but well-shaped running lefts. These days when we think of Owen we think of madman performances at Cloudbreak, Teahupo’o et al, but we should never forget that he was invincible as a young gun–literally, in 2009 he didn’t lose a heat on the Aussie pro junior series–and was a grovel ninja of the highest order. Today O looked as sharp in the small stuff as he has in a long time, and it was a sight to see as he beat Seth Moniz and Mathew McGillivray. Props to the Saffa rookie who went as hard as he could at every section that presented itself, despite being a long way back. Matty seems to understand that at this level you can’t afford to pay it safe, and had the backwash not derailed a solid air-rev he would have been a chance to sneak through this heat all the same.
Julian Wilson matched Jeremy’s enthusiasm for the conditions but managed to shunt Conner Coffin to third while Miguel Pupo snuck a win in a heat that should have been the blueprint for today’s ideal tactics. In flukey beachbreak conditions, Miggy caught anything and everything that came his way and little-by-little built a score. Sitting with priority waiting for non-existent set waves appeared a waste of time and effort, yet many of our competitors did that today, for no return at all. Deivid Silva followed in Miguel’s busy footsteps to account for Wade Carmichael and Jack Freestone, before Jack Robinson read the play and also upped his work rate to beat Griffin Colapinto and Caio Ibelli in a fine display to end a long day.
After a whatever performance in Newcastle Jack came to play today, and looked absolutely on song. A handful of tricky airs and the day’s best tube ride later, coach Matt Bemrose was thrilled with his young charge’s performance. “Why wait for sets?” cackled Bemmy, “we’re not at Chopes!” He then made that funny claw hand thing that the Northern Beaches guys love throwing out and scampered off down the beach, roaring and crab dancing like a loon.
It’s Saturday night, we’re a quarter of the way through the event, and Narrabeen is buzzing. Tonight will be fun, tomorrow will not, but there’s a strong chance we’ll run anyway in front of a few thousand hungover humans. Suburban surfing is back, and in a strange world it’s actually kinda fun. Let’s see how long our patience lasts.
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