Of course Slater found a tube. All photos: ISA
Slater, Medina, Ferreira, And Andino Have Subjugated The Masses In Japan
Today is finals day at ISA—here's what you've missed.
Did you forget that the world's best surfers have been slugging it out all week, representing their nations in an event that is newly relevant for surfers the caliber of Slater, Medina, Ferreira, and Andino?
The 2019 ISA World Games in Miyazaki, Japan have been a true test of mettle, with average surf, a 200-plus competitor field, and too many heats to count.
But that doesn't mean the world's best are simply going through the motions. In fact they're totally dominating, and as the week has progressed, even seem excited to be there.
Here's a brief overview of what you (and we) have missed over the past week in Miyazaki.
Sofia Mulanovich won the women's event
The 36-year-old, 2004 World Champion from Perú took home her second ISA World Games Gold this year, beating out current world number one Carissa Moore (copper), past CT surfer Bianca Beitendag (bronze), and current CTer Silvana Lima (silver) in the process.
Despite her efforts, by the ISA guidelines, Sofia Mulanovich will not earn a tentative Olympic slot into Tokyo 2020 thanks to this win, however the bronze medalist, Bianca Buitendag, will (we'll explain this in greater detail below).
Top CT surfers are dominating the men's event
For those who don't understand the ISA's convoluted contest format, it works like this:
- the whole event is double-elimination (except for the final)
- if you lose at any point in the Main Round, you are rerouted to the Repechage
- if you lose in the Repechage, you are out
- two surfers from the Main Round make the final (must win 7 heats with no losses)
- two surfers from the Repechage also make the final (can surf as many as 12 Repechage heats)
- whoever wins the final, takes home gold
So, with that (hopefully) understood, I'll break down what has happened thus far.
Heading into finals day, competitors have completed six of the seven Main Round heats. The four remaining surfers who have not yet lost a heat include Kelly Slater, Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira, and Kolohe Andino. While this shouldn't exactly come as a surprise, as each of the aforementioned names are top-10 CT talents, it's still impressive that all of them have come this far without stumbling.
Think about it: they've each surfed six, four-man heats in mediocre waves against totally capable surfers. That's almost as hard as winning as a CT event. If you're Slater, maybe even harder. So for four top-rated surfers to end up in this position both validates their talent and proves their mettle.
Also alive and in the Repechage is Filipe Toledo, who must win three more heats to make the final. The other five surfers in the Repechage are currently at the QS level.
We have several (potential) Olympic qualifiers
Ok, here's where I will attempt to explain how Olympic qualifications work in regards to the 2019 ISA World Games.
It’s worth noting that only two surfers per gender/per country will be eligible to surf in the Olympics.
There are three channels through which a surfer can qualify for the Olympics. These channels have a system of hierarchy, Channel one being the highest. So, if two male surfers from Brazil qualify through Channel one, no other male Brazilian surfers can earn a spot in the Games through any of the other channels. Capiche?
Channel one: There will be ten male and eight female Olympic qualifiers from the 2019 Championship Tour. Essentially, it’s the ten highest-ranked men and eight highest-ranked women, so long as there are no more than two surfers per gender/per nation in those groups.
Channel two: Another Olympic slot is available for surfers who finish in the top four (male) or six (female) of the 2020 ISA World Games, so long as no two CT surfers of their same nation/gender already hold Olympic spots.
Channel three: In the 2019 ISA World Games, the top-rated male and female from each continent (other than the Americas and Antarctica) will earn a tentative Olympic bid. Surfers from the Americas can earn this same tentative level of qualification through the 2019 Pan-Am Games (which happened last month, and we wrote about extensively here), where Peru's Lucca Mesinas and Daniella Rosas took the win. This is why Sofia's ISA gold didn't get her an Olympic bid but Bianca's bronze did.
So, at the 2019 ISA World Games, both male and female slots for surfers from Asia, Europe, Australia-Pacific, and Africa were up for grabs. Here's who has, or has almost earned tentative Olympic slots (disclaimer: I cannot guarantee that this info is 100 percent correct, but I did my best to understand the convoluted ISA/IOC qualification system):
- Asia: Shino Matsuda (Japan)—as the highest-rated Asian in this event, and with no current Japanese CT surfers to block her, the only way Shino doesn't get into Tokyo 2020 is if two female Japanese surfers make the top-6 of the 2020 ISA World Games.
- Europe: Anat Leilor (Israel)—as the highest-rated Euro in this event, and with no current Israeli CT surfers to block her, the only way Anat doesn't get into Tokyo 2020 is if two female Israeli surfers make the top-6 of the 2020 ISA World Games (which is highly unlikely).
- Australia-Pacific: Ella Williams (New Zealand): You might be wondering why a high-ranking Australian surfer, like Sally Fitzgibbons, didn't get this slot. That's because Australian women will inevitably qualify for Tokyo 2020 via their CT rankings, leaving this window open for a Kiwi like Ella. As the highest-rated Kiwi in this event, and with only one current New Zealand CTer to block her (Paige Hareb), the only way Ella doesn't get into Tokyo 2020 is if a female Kiwi surfer makes the top-6 of the 2020 ISA World Games.
- Africa: Bianca Buitendag—as the highest-rated African in this event, and with no current South African CT surfers to block her, the only way Bianca doesn't get into Tokyo 2020 is if two female South African surfers make the top-6 of the 2020 ISA World Games.
- Asia: Shun Murakami (Japan) or Rio Waida (Indonesia)—both are in the Repechage; whoever places highest today, gets the slot. If Rio places higher, he has an extremely high likelihood of surfing in Tokyo 2020, as there are no current Indonesian CT surfers to block him. Shun is slightly less likely to retain his Olympic bid, as Kanoa Igarashi already has one Olympic slot locked up, so if another male Japanese surfer placed in the top-4 of the 2020 ISA World Games, he'd be out for Tokyo.
- Europe: Frederico Morais (Portugal)—as the only Euro left in the Repechage, and with no current Portuguese CT surfers to block him, the only way Frederico doesn't get into Tokyo 2020 is if two male Portuguese surfers make the top-4 of the 2020 ISA World Games (which is highly unlikely).
- Australia-Pacific: Billy Stairmand (New Zealand)—as the only Aus-Pac surfer left in the Repechage, and with only one current CT surfer to block him (Ricardo Christie), the only way Billy doesn't get into Tokyo 2020 is if a male Kiwi surfer makes the top-4 of the 2020 ISA World Games.
- Africa: Ramzi Boukhiam (Morocco)—as the only African surfer left in the Repechage, and with only one current CT surfer to block him (Jordy Smith), the only way Ramzi doesn't get into Tokyo 2020 is if a male Moroccan surfer makes the top-4 of the 2020 ISA World Games.
Well, that was exhausting. Finals day starts in a few hours, will you watch?