Surf Gods Troll WSL Again, ‘Weeks Of Pumping Surf Only To Run In Treacle?’ - Stab Mag

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Studies have shown people are able to identify the facial expressions of strangers quite well, with an 81 percent accuracy rate. What is Kelly's saying? Photo Tiago Diz/WSL

Surf Gods Troll WSL Again, ‘Weeks Of Pumping Surf Only To Run In Treacle?’

Slatz & Gabs gaffe, Leandro Dora has the secret Acai, Simmers robbed – day one of Portugal recapped.

news // Mar 11, 2023
Words by Billy Wilson
Reading Time: 8 minutes

The surf gods are a cruel and capricious bunch: motivated less by justice or righteousness than by bitterness, spite, and a keen sense of mischief. They are the sky-dwelling equivalent of trolls. Weeks of pumping surf, then shite as soon as the world-tour machinery turns up. It’s like clockwork.

Who are the surf gods trolling, though? All of us, probably: surfers, fans, the WSL. Picture them up there, squabbling among themselves and laughing at our expense while sipping on Corona-branded nectar, checking their Apple watches. Maybe it’s our sense of entitlement that riles them, our lack of gratitude. Maybe they need to be thanked more in post-heat interviews.

Supertubos this past couple of weeks has been looking… what’s the expression?… fucking mental. Yet the thrill of each plus-size vortex beamed onto smartphone screens around the world was tempered by the near-certainty that this would not last – that for every would-be excellent score ridden just prior to the waiting period, a thousand wind-ravaged, tide-riven 3-point rides would have to be endured within the waiting period. These things are inevitable.


  • Gabs gaffes (again), sent to elimination round by a Rio Waida shifty air
  • Leandro Dora’s camp: Yago Dora, Ian Gentil, Jack Robinson all win in first round
  • Jackson Baker responsible for turn-of-the-day – one-footed Larry in R1H8
  • Caity Simmers gets robbed – 0.01 short in the opening round
  • Tour schedulers reportedly devising plan to announce decoy comp window dates for 2024 to combat surf god trolling
Dream tour? Or false and misleading advertising. Simmers and Whits in the athletes zone. Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League


Cooler, more rational heads prefer to believe in the randomness of the universe, the luck of the draw. But the draw had Slater surfing in the first heat of the first round (against Ethan Ewing and Carlos Muñoz), and this fact only heightened the sense of inevitability. Sure enough, and even after three days of waiting, conditions this morning could scarcely have been worse suited to Slater’s present-day skillset.

Once the call was made and the buzzer sounded, we had to wait a further nine minutes for the first wave to be ridden, Muñoz getting things underway with a wind-ravaged, tide-riven 3-point ride. Slater rode just two waves all heat by my count – a low-range score for a couple of turns followed by a raggedy barrel he couldn’t quite squeeze out of.

He looked okay on that first one – ‘spry’ was the word that sprung to mind, but then I remembered that this was a compliment typically paid to older folk. I googled it just now to check. The first two examples listed by Merriam Webster are as follows: ‘A spry 75-year-old…,’ ‘his spry libidinous grandfather…’

So yes, Slater was spry as fuck, all things considered, but compared to Ewing, whose layback provided the heat’s only moment of excitement, his surfing was decidedly lacking in libido. Ewing, by contrast, is currently dripping in it.

Slater’s turns seem a little bloodless these days, kind of skatey, not a lot of rail involved. Maybe it’s a board thing, or maybe the randy old goat is just saving his energy. He lost his Round 1 heat in similar circumstances last year, but promptly redeemed himself in Round 2 the following day, by which time Supertubos was big and barrelling. That’s what we’ve been promised tomorrow.

The Huscenot Highway was jammed today. Note: Decathlon – the big box ‘outdoor and sporting goods brand’ making moves in surf. Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League

After a solid decade devoted to the QS grind, Maxime Huscenot, now 30, has finally made it onto the Dream Tour – only to be taunted with largely QS conditions, and tormented with the prospect of an almost-immediate return via the mid-year cut. The surf gods shared a chuckle at his 4.40 heat total today, then guffawed at the Round 2 heat draw they proceeded to contrive for him.

Huscenot will face Callum Robson (generally a threat in hollow, unruly surf) and a Gabriel Medina who was weirdly out of rhythm today, but is unlikely to remain so. Both Medina and runner-up Jordy Smith were handily out-surfed by Rio Waida, who recorded the day’s highest heat score (15.16). The highlight was a wild no-grab shifty, a manoeuvre you don’t often see in competition and that’s typically underscored when you do see it. The 7.83 was much higher than the commentary team anticipated, and some will think it an overscore, but this observer thought it a rare sighting of the mythical ‘point of difference’, and was pleased to see it rewarded as such.

Rio added Rupiahs to the account today. Got the w over Jordy Smith and Gabriel Medina. Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League

Let Downs

Also unexpectedly dropping into Round 2:

  • Igarashi, who had an absolute shocker. He looked like he was surfing through treacle against Jackson Baker and Yago Dora, both impressive. Baker’s emphatic, no-nonsense style is relatively dynamic given its heavy-footedness, and he (kind of) rode out of what was (arguably) the turn of the day: the sort of layback that reminds you that Larry is short for Lazarus.* Dora won the heat, however, and deservedly so.
  • Chianca, who’s currently third in the rankings and has surfed brilliantly so far this year (i.e. as well as he did last year but without the bad luck). Today he looked like he was trying too hard, which to be fair is how he usually looks, and part of the Chianca charm. But when he’s on he tries too hard and succeeds, whereas today nothing would stick.
  • Ibelli, currently fifth in the rankings, who was last seen on your social-media feed being swallowed up and spat out by plus-size Supertubos vortices, and before that performing more than adequately on the Hawaiian leg of the tour.
  • Andino. Okay, not exactly shock-of-the-year territory, but another big or once-big name forced to endure the indignity of Round 2. Bearing in mind his current ranking (equal 24th), it means a potentially season-defining, even career-defining heat.
Clear scleras – thanks Oakley. Anyone want to keep them that way? Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League

The day’s other standout surfer was Leo Fioravanti, who looked sharper and more confident than I’ve ever seen him. What else? John John and Griffin are through unscathed. Both Pupos got piped, successfully negotiating the day’s only tuberides of note – first Sammy, then Miggy, the latter seemingly rejuvenated these days by the presence of the former. And then there was Ian Gentil, who surfed well and was almost catatonically cool in his winner’s interview. He was also the only competitor today wearing – or, as Kaipo put it, ‘utilizing’ – booties.

I expect this has been pointed out many times before in this space, but Gentil looks eerily like a taller version of Michael Ciaramella. A much taller version who’s just been hit with a tranquilizer gun.

As a young Buck, Ian could hardly find enough surfboard to fit all his stickers. Now he’s winning CT heats with a board near nude! Photo by Damien Poullenot/World Surf League

And that was Round 1 of the men’s. It was a struggle at times, but nobody said this was supposed to be fun. Actually, they did, but the expression ‘fun to watch’ was to be heard somewhat less frequently than in recent broadcasts. Today, a better drinking game would have revolved around euphemisms for ‘shite’: challenging, tricky, difficult, tough, not easy – these were the adjectives of choice among commentators and competitors alike. I utilized a bottle of red wine from the Tejo region of Portugal, which is just a short drive from Peniche and known for the acidity and freshness of its terroir, apparently. A lovely drop.

It’s on account of the aforesaid game that this recap must end here. The women’s heats deserve to be discussed in more depth, but I’ll have to limit myself to the observation that Caitlin Simmers was absolutely robbed in Round 1, given a 5.60 when she needed just a 5.61 (and with a whole point’s discrepancy between the two judges who gave her the score and the three who didn’t). Simmers fought valiantly to put right this brazen injustice in her Round 2 elimination heat, at the expense of Tyler Wright. Lakey Peterson also departs.

A thousand wind-ravaged, tide-riven 3-point rides later, and we have eliminated two surfers. But tomorrow will be fun to watch, I’m sure of it.

*According, that is, to Samuel Beckett: “Larry, short for Lazarus, whose raising seemed to Murphy perhaps the one occasion on which the Messiah had over stepped the mark.”

Little lady, big section. Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League

Gamble Ramble

Mikey C has lost money in the three-person rounds of every event this season. Would hate to disrupt the pattern.

Men’s R1

  • $10 on Carlos Muñoz at +500 (to win $50) LOST
  • $30 on Samuel Pupo at +200 (to win $60) LOST
  • $50 on Italo Ferreira at -145 (to win $34) LOST
  • $20 on LOB at +225 (to win $45) WON
  • $10 on Barron Mamiya at +300 (to win $30) LOST
  • $20 on Ryan Callinan at +250 (to win $50) WON
  • $20 on Michael Rodrigues at +275 (to win $55) LOST
  • $20 on Yago Dora at +140 (to win $28) WON
  • $20 on Joao Chianca at -135 (to win $15) LOST
  • $50 on Leo Fioravanti at +125 (to win $63) WON

Women’s R1

  • $20 on Bettylou SJ at +215 (to win $43) LOST
  • $20 on Caity Simmers at +185 (to win $37) LOST
  • $100 on Carissa Moore at -200 (to win $50) WON
  • $20 on Molly Picklum at +165 (to win $33) LOST
  • $20 on Lakey Peterson at +155 (to win $31) LOST
  • $20 on Gabriela Bryan at +165 (to win $33) LOST

Event Winner

  • $20 on Joao chianca at +1400 to win $280
  • $10 on Caio Ibelli at +6600 to win $660
  • $10 on LOB at +10000 to win $1000
  • $10 on Leo Fioravanti at +6600 to win $660
  • $75 on Gabriel Medina at +400 to win $300
  • $10 on Yago Dora at +5000 to win $500
  • $50 on Italo Ferreira at +650 to win $325
  • $50 on Tyler Wright at +600 to win $300 LOST
  • $15 on Sally fitz at +2500 to win $375
  • $50 on Tati WW at +600 to win $300

Day 1 total: -$54

Event total: -$54

Make your own picks on And see who Mikey’s picking for tomorrow on his personal IG (@unholypotato).

Super Saiyan energy – wasn’t enough against Rio. Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League


MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Women’s Elimination Round Results:
HEAT 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.00 DEF. Caitlin Simmers (USA) 10.93, Tyler Wright (AUS) 7.73
HEAT 2: Isabella Nichols (AUS) 11.50 DEF. Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 10.90, Lakey Peterson (USA) 7.17 

MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Women’s Opening Round Results:
HEAT 1: Teresa Bonvalot (POR) 9.93 DEF. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 6.13, Tyler Wright (AUS) 5.37
HEAT 2: Sophie McCulloch (AUS) 11.07 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 9.93, Caitlin Simmers (USA) 9.93
HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 11.50 DEF. Yolanda Hopkins (POR) 9.30, Isabella Nichols (AUS) 8.57
HEAT 4: Caroline Marks (USA) 10.44 DEF. Molly Picklum (AUS) 9.87, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 9.03
HEAT 5: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 10.76 DEF. Brisa Hennessy (CRC) 10.50, Lakey Peterson (USA) 7.30
HEAT 6: Macy Callaghan (AUS) 10.37 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 7.97, Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 7.76 

MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Men’s Opening Round Results:
HEAT 1: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 11.10 DEF. Carlos Munoz (CRC) 8.67, Kelly Slater (USA) 5.10
HEAT 2: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 14.33 DEF. Samuel Pupo (BRA) 11.50, Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 4.40
HEAT 3: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 10.80 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 9.56, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 9.30
HEAT 4: Liam O’Brien (AUS) 9.74 DEF. Joan Duru (FRA) 9.44, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 7.60
HEAT 5: Jack Robinson (AUS) 9.17 DEF. Barron Mamiya (HAW) 9.10, Frederico Morais (POR) 8.03
HEAT 6: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 8.96 DEF. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 7.34, Tiago Carrique (FRA) 7.10
HEAT 7: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 10.84 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 8.10, Seth Moniz (HAW) 5.53
HEAT 8: Yago Dora (BRA) 12.44 DEF. Jackson Baker (AUS) 11.67, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 7.70
HEAT 9: John John Florence (HAW) 11.90 DEF. Matthew McGillivray (RSA) 10.10, Kolohe Andino (USA) 8.83
HEAT 10: Ian Gentil (HAW) 11.50 DEF. Nat Young (USA) 8.07, Joao Chianca (BRA) 7.64
HEAT 11: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 13.60 DEF. Jake Marshall (USA) 7.60, Callum Robson (AUS) 6.60
HEAT 12: Rio Waida (INA) 15.16 DEF. Jordy Smith (RSA) 10.50, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 7.10


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