Slater Rules The Day, But Why Won’t He Sleep Tonight?
Caroline Marks also goes double-excellent; Florida is reeling!
Day two of the Margaret River Pro officially started with a Kelly Slater interview, flowing straight into a Yago Dora air.
It was the fifth heat of the day, but Johanne, Nikki, Robbo, or Leo—the winners of the morning heats—nor Mia, Macy, Wade, or Jacob—the losers—provided any performances or storylines worth noting.
Rosy caught up with the King while he was in the midst of pulling a blue jersey over his velvety dome.
“The forecast is calling for good waves at the Box tomorrow,” Rosie stated. “Is that giving you extra motivation to win your heat today?”
“Well… not really,” Slater replied. “I’ve gotta focus on Right Now. But yeah, I’ll be surfing the Box tomorrow, regardless of how I do today. I might even surf it through heats [laughs].”
I chuckled along with Kelly, thinking how supremely Slaterian it would be for him to lose out of the event and then dominate The Box in the middle of someone else’s heat. (Probably John’s).
The camera then switched to a bottom-turning Yago Dora, who busted through the lip into a tail-high, slow-motion rotation and landed in the pillows for a clean make.
Jack Freestone, who had graced Barton and Ronnie in the booth, couldn’t get over it. “That’s the most difficult and perfect execution of an air reverse, and he just landed it like nothing,” Jack posited.
The punt threw Yago straight into the lead, leaving Willian Cardoso in need of a high-six to defeat Frederico Morais. Panda found a wave with a couple minutes left, banged a few snaps out the back and obliterated the end section with a layback slam—score earned, heat effectively flipped by the clutch Brazilians.
Slater wore a short-arm full suit today, learning from his mistake on Day 1. Nobody, not even the most successful surfer of all time, wins heats in a long-arm springy.
Slater’s first scoring wave included a searing layback hack, a middling carve, and a vicious blow-tail on the end section. Assuming he’d watched the day’s earlier heats, Slater would know that completing waves was vital to collecting solid scores. This made his decision to attack the final section, after linking two solid turns out the back, a ballsy and, arguably, an unnecessary one. Slater could have done a basic rebound to earn a guaranteed seven, but instead he threw everything at the oncoming lip and rode out with speed and control. The judges had no choice but to award it an excellent score—8.43, to be exact.
Slater backed it up with an even tighter-arced layback on his next wave, making one wonder how 47-year-old ligaments can withstand that kind of twisted pressure. The King followed that turn with a sticky carve-snap and collected another eight nonetheless.
Neither Caio nor Ace would threaten Slater’s lead in the remaining ten minutes, but that didn’t stop him from rubbing it in their faces, as he linked another ridiculous larry with a carving 360 and a failed shuv-it attempt.
When Slater’s feeling it, he’s still so damn fun to watch.
In his post-heat interview, Kelly revealed that he’d ridden a Wade Tokoro craft in his second round heat. This begs the question: could Kelly’s abundance of board options be making it difficult for him to maintain a consistent level of performance in heats? Because when he’s on, it’s magic—but how often is that?
In the first four events, Slater has used boards from Dan Mann, Daniel Thomson, Simon Anderson, Akila Aipa, Wade Tokoro, and perhaps even other shapers that don’t currently come to mind. To me, that’s indicative of a man who is either supremely insecure or remarkably dialed-in. The jury’s still out on which.
“I won’t sleep tonight,” Slater said, when asked about his excitement levels to surf The Box tomorrow. “I went out there by myself the other afternoon, and it was super spooky. I got one that kinda blew me up, then I made one and came in. It’s such an exciting wave.”
The women paddled out next, and after scoring a high-five in the first couple minutes, Silvana Lima just… sat. For over twenty minutes, the Tour’s eldest stateswoman watched as Conlogue surfed eight waves under her priority. It was so incredibly strange, especially because Silvana only needed a four to advance for the majority of the heat.
After wracking my brain, I can’t think of one logical reason for why Silvana opted for this strategy. There were at least fifteen scorable waves that came through during her time with priority, and she let them all go, never to catch a back-up (except for a knee-high straight-hander) for the remainder of the heat.
Coco and Tati each caught plenty of waves in their Round 3 match, but the (current) Hawaiian’s falls hindered her scoring potential and granted Tati easy passage. That Targaryen gal is scary when she gets her confidence up…
…But nothing like Caroline Marks. The 17-year-old was excellent on her first two rides, both in perception and score. She could have paddled in right then, as her competitor never broke the combo.
Ronnie Blakey called it like it is: “To me, this is the best female backhand we’ve ever seen.”
He’s far from wrong.
Which brings us to poor Paige Hareb. The Kiwi should have just gone switch in this heat to erase the stance comparison. She would have had the same chance of winning, really.
While mic’d up in the booth, Tati threw some damp, dark shade at Johanne Defay, who defeated the blanca Brazilian in the final at Uluwatu last year.
“I was listening to Willian, because he had paddled out the back already. He was like, ‘Go on this one, you only need to replace a five!’ So I went, and it ended up being a terrible wave… then a perfect set came. Johanne got a wave and surfed it okay. I don’t think she surfed it that great, but she definitely got the score from the judges.”
“It sounds like you’ve really let go of that result,” joked Ronnie Blakey, whose ice-breaking capacities are greater than a frozen lake sumo league.
Sally Fitz slammed an end section then flicked her board in Johanne Defay’s direction, in an attempt to beat her competitor back to the lineup. Realizing how close her board had gotten to Johanne, Sal offered an apologetic wave before hooking it back to the takeoff to regain priority. Would compassionately competitive be a good way to describe ol Sal?
Sally won handsomely by way of superior wave selection.
By this point a severe devil-wind (air-wind) started to plague lineup, sending one-foot chops directly into the overhead, right-hand walls. You know the bump is serious when Carissa Moore can’t keep her rail in the water. The gal has lead legs.
So, what did Riss do? She went left! What a brilliant move, as side-chops are much less burdensome when they’re going in the same direction as the rider. Carissa scored a 6.07 for her backhand effort, which, for the majority of the heat, sat in her top two scores.
Frankly, it was just nice to see someone utilize Main Break’s “other” direction.
Malia Manuel and Brisa Hennessy stubbornly earned a restart, which then turned into a full-blown postponement of women’s heats 6-8. Will we see them finish tomorrow at the Box?
According to the WSL, we’re on for a potential 7:40 start at Main Break’s evil twin, with an option to run both the men and women.
I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight either!
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