Only Four Heats Mattered Today - Stab Mag

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Kelly Slater won his heat today, and will face Caio Ibelli in the Round of 32 — a heat which is frankly loaded with weird interface energy. Photo: Damien Poullenot/WSL

Only Four Heats Mattered Today

And here’s everything that happened in and around all of them.

news // Mar 4, 2022
Words by Billy Wilson
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Waking to the sight of half-decent Supertubos was a pleasant surprise, a solid 6ft and strong wind that could just about legitimately be described as offshore. Likewise, waking to the sound of Kaipo Guerrero discussing Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and the psychological advantage an astute warrior can gain before combat commences. Odds on him actually having read it?

No, I’ve not read it either, I’m just sniping.

Was it super? Maybe getting there. Certainly there were barrels, dilated and musty hollows waiting to be explored by the skilled and intrepid. Sinister vision, to borrow a recent phrase of President Biden’s, was on offer – if you could only keep the spritz out your eyes. Slater, who surfed under protest in one of yesterday’s four heats (a shitshow of a day), was presumably both cursing his luck and rubbing his hands.

Half-decent soon became fully shite on account of the tide, and only two heats ran in the morning. In the second of them Afonso Atunes became the latest competitor to achieve a perfect zero-point heat total. This must have been doubly humiliating on home turf, though in truth it was not a vintage 00.00, lacked the steady crescendo of a Toledo at Chopes, no abundance of serviceable waves going begging.

Great conditions to not get a wave. Photo: Damien Poullenot/WSL

As if in sympathy, a halt was called, which cast a more favourable light on Afonso’s empty scorecard. Already awaiting him in Round 2 was Slater, for whom an early exit would now mean not just another rankings slide but additional ignominy – salt in that perennial open wound, a 12th world title.

In that same R1 heat Callum Robson, probably destined to be rechristened C-Rob by some terrible person, rode the first real barrel of the day, and thus of the event – only a mid-ranger but at least it was something. Cay-lum is how Pete Mel insists on pronouncing it, which is maybe an American thing, or just a Pete Mel thing, or maybe even how you’re supposed to say it. Either way, I like him. The fact his tube-riding technique’s not especially pretty is central to its charm. Robson wrangles his way into (if not always out of) alarming situations apparently as a matter of course, guts-and-glory style.

I read earlier that a shipping container was washed into the second floor of his family home in Northern NSW a few days ago. As in, a full-on shipping container on his family’s second-floor landing.

His glory this season will be mostly of the moral or symbolic sort; he’s unlikely to threaten at the business end of events. But he’s the youngest man on tour, came late to surfing, grew up a good hour from the coast, played rugby league til his middle teens, and is sure to get better. He’s worked construction, did a building apprenticeship for a while, and last I checked had no major sponsor. A battler, as your boy Smivvy would say. In fact if Smivvy did his own version of Ultimate Surfer (a show that really needs to be pitched, by the way), Robson would be a shoo-in.

As a reminder, Callum turned down a deal to prove himself as a rookie and hope for a juicer offer to come in. He’s clearly got panache. Photo: Damien Poullenot/WSL

In other words, while Russian gymnasts his age were already contemplating retirement, and his pro-junior contemporaries were busy landing 20 air reverses a day, a 15-year-old Robson was out there laying bricks, or else being laid out by overdeveloped, adolescent brick-shithouses. (That appetite for, or at any rate acceptance of, hard work and bodily punishment seems to be serving him well.)

Compare him to that heat’s eventual winner, Igarashi, who surfed smartly if unspectacularly to a narrow lead. He was “pretty much bred to be on this tour,” said Pete Mel in the booth, a slightly creepy (though possibly accurate) way of putting it. Eugenicist undertones and a different sort of sinister vision.

“Tennis athlete” is how Kanoa characterised Naomi Osaka – her name is on his jersey – in his post-heat interview. I’m sorry but not on my watch. People who play tennis are tennis players, please. Kanoa should take a long, hard look at himself.

It was sweet, though, to see several of the surfers repping their moms. “I wouldn’t be where I am without her,” said John John Florence after his emphatic win. To which the only adequate response is: no shit, Sherlock. Perhaps he still believes he was found under a cabbage, back of Ehukai Beach Park.

John is A Florence indeed. Photo: Thiago Diz/WSL

Luiza Florence, who’s been conducting many of these interviews, was unfamiliar to me before this event. I keep thinking she’s asking about some new love interest – “So tell me about this woman you’ve got on your back?” – and then I remember the whole jersey thing. Of course that bit’s not her fault. Luiza describes herself, in her Instagram bio, as a broadcast journalist, a herbalist, and a “moon ceremonialist”. So far we’ve seen signs of the second and third of those callings, at least.

It happens to be practically a full moon at the moment, and we’ve been treated to plenty of chat about tide times and heights and coefficients. Low-tide today rendered conditions all but unsurfable, 10ft close-outs breaking in 10cm of water. A pause of several hours ensued.

On the subject of tides and the broadcast team, I will try to keep Paul’s ego in check and limit my praise to the following: The rising tide of Evans floated all boats. Like Kieran Trippier arriving mid-season at a Newcastle United short on quality, he has caused the general level to improve, lifted the mood in the dressing room.

If Italo was a class above on Day 1, today it was John John who occupied that rarefied air. Zeke Lau appeared to be sharing it for a few brief moments, when he took the lead towards the end of what many, possibly including the surfers themselves, will have anticipated as a grudge match (see Bells 2018). But John John used those chiselled, Ultimate Surfer-winning features as footholds, and climbed to greater heights. He shrugged off his rival with what looked like relish, adding an 8 to his earlier 9.07. 

Time to study.

It was the heat of the round, and if you watch just one wave from today, make it that 9.07. He took off so late there was basically no drop – as he got to his feet, he seemed to rise into the tube.

The heat after – between Barron, Ethan Ewing, and a third-wheeling Deivid Silva – was another highlight. Baron looks very good in yellow. It will be intriguing to see his weakness, such as they are, exposed over the remainder of the season. Or not, as the case may be. Haven’t seen any yet.

In the end, Ewing was awarded the win. When he gets his shit together he looks fantastic, but of course you already knew that.

But really only four heats mattered today, as far as actual results go, and in a deeper sense, only one. A flailing Kelly Slater is a weirdly distressing spectacle, almost viscerally so. In Round 2, it took him roughly 10 seconds from the opening buzzer to restore order to the universe, or if you prefer, to defy it. It was almost like the final moments of his Pipe heat against Barron in reverse.

Griffin Colapinto won his heat, and made a pretty photo. Good! Damien Poullenot/WSL

The side-on angle looking into the tube revealed him to be less deep than first thought, hence the mid-7 score. Even so, it was one of the day’s larger, longer, cleaner barrels, a completed final turn away from excellence.

Yesterday, you could have extended his heat an extra hour, an extra five, called Pupo and Imaikalani into the beach – the result would have been the same, there was nothing he could have done to avoid defeat. For the other two surfers, it was practically a bye. Today’s heat had precisely the opposite feel: there was no way he couldn’t have won. I exaggerate for effect, but you see what I mean.

It was around then that I heard the news. Shane Warne, the genius leg-spinner and tormentor of English dreams, dead from a heart attack at 52. Fuck. Strange how the sudden departure of someone you’ve never met, indeed who’s caused you a great deal of sporting anguish, can still get you right in the guts.

I’m off to watch YouTube clips, get drunk, and probably cry. I recommend all do likewise. 

We should be back on tomorrow. 

MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Men’s Opening Round Results:
Heat 1: Jackson Baker (AUS) 11.70 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.10, Jake Marshall (USA) 6.00 
Heat 2: Samuel Pupo (BRA) 14.60 DEF. Imaikalani Devault (HAW) 13.73, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.90
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) 12.36 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 9.66, Lucca Mesinas (PER) 9.43
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16.17 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.47, Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) 9.17
HEAT 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 8.20 DEF. Justin Becret (FRA) 6.23, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 5.93
HEAT 6: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 9.33 DEF. Callum Robson (AUS) 8.84, Afonso Antunes (PRT)
HEAT 7: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 8.20 DEF. Frederico Morais (PRT) 7.73, Conner Coffin (USA) 7.67
HEAT 8: John John Florence (HAW) 17.57 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.50, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 6.14
HEAT 9: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 12.27 DEF. Barron Mamiya (HAW) 12.17, Deivid Silva (BRA) 0.67
HEAT 10: Joao Chianca (BRA) 14.17 DEF. Jack Robinson (AUS) 11.60, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 9.06
HEAT 11: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 7.67 DEF. Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 7.17, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 5.40
HEAT 12: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 11.67 DEF. Nat Young (USA) 11.20, Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.67

MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Men’s Elimination Round Results:
HEAT 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.10 DEF. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 9.17, Afonso Antunes (PRT) 2.00
HEAT 2: Lucca Mesinas (PER) 6.77 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 6.70, Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) 4.20
HEAT 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.60 DEF. Jake Marshall (USA) 7.57, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 5.90
HEAT 4: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 12.87 DEF. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 12.73, Deivid Silva (BRA) 7.43

Upcoming MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Men’s Round of 32 Matchups:
HEAT 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Imaikalani deVault (HAW)
HEAT 2: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Samuel Pupo (BRA)
HEAT 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Barron Mamiya (HAW)
HEAT 4: Morgan Cibilic (AUS) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)
HEAT 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
HEAT 6: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) vs. Jake Marshall (USA)
HEAT 7: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Joao Chianca (BRA)
HEAT 8: Jack Robinson (AUS) vs. Callum Robson (AUS)
HEAT 9: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Justin Becret (FRA)
HEAT 10: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
HEAT 11: Ethan Ewing (AUS) vs. Nat Young (USA)
HEAT 12: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS)
HEAT 13: Seth Moniz (HAW) vs. Jackson Baker (AUS)
HEAT 14: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Lucca Mesinas (PER)
HEAT 15: Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
HEAT 16: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)

Upcoming MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Women’s Round of 16 Matchups:
Heat 1: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Molly Picklum (AUS) 
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Heat 3: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Isabella Nichols (AUS) 
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 6: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 
Heat 7: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Luana Silva (HAW) 
Heat 8: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. India Robinson (AUS)


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