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Nathan Hedge, directing his competition to Lowers. Photo by Damien Poullenot/WSL

The Men’s Final Five Are Now Locked In

But all of them lost in Tahiti on day 3.

news // Aug 19, 2022
Words by August Howell
Reading Time: 8 minutes

A wet and wild day at the End Of The Road. Calm, then stormy and then absolutely pumping, Teahupo’o shined today. Dreams were made for some and crushed for others. Let’s dive in. 

TLDR

  • Forty-three-year-old and professional spelunker Nathan Hedge takes down world No. 1 and 2. 
  • After barely glancing at the waves in his first-round heat, Filipe Toledo will be the top seed at the WSL Finals. 
  • Ethan Ewing, Italo Ferriera and Kanoa Igarashi all secure their spots at Lowers, but in very different ways.
  • Griffin Colapinto comes up three-tenths of a point shy of getting to fight for a world title at his home break. 
  • Matthew McGillivray freefalls into a behemoth and one of the best 10-point rides of the year.

Weathering the storm

I’m still catching my breath. Though it wasn’t 2014 size / perfection, today was an action-packed day at Teahupo’o with 21 heats run and more excellent rides than boats in the channel. 

Though there were plenty of solid waves early, the onshore early afternoon breeze limited opportunities in the Elimination Round. The sheer mountain range sent swirling gusts and rain that crumbled lips, dreams and heat totals. But it fully turned on in the late afternoon, bedroom-poster style. 

But first things first. Filipe Toledo, Jack Robinson, Ethan Ewing, Italo Ferriera and Kanoa Igarashi will be in the WSL Finals at Lower Trestles in September. The top two seeds are set, but the back three could shuffle.

The combo of flexing Teahupo’o, Kelly Slater and Nathan Hedge were too much for Filipe Toledo to handle in the first heat of the morning. While facing the most successful Teahupo’o surfer ever and Hedge’s hard-nosed experience here is a daunting matchup for anyone, this was not a good look for Fil. It felt awkward, even disappointing, watching the No. 1 surfer in the world not even get his feet in the wax until about 50 seconds left for a measly 1.87. Shocker. Meanwhile, Kelly did Kelly things and logged another excellent heat total. 

Filipe redeemed himself in the Elimination Round with respectable pocket sevens and a 14.83 heat total. That would have beat all the other ER heats except for two. Unfortunately, he ran into a bristling Hedgehog who threaded an insane cylinder and took the dub.

On the second to last heat of the day, the improbable happened. Coming into Teahupo’o, Kanoa was on the outside of the Final Five, looking in. But in the most important heat of his career at the most important moment, Kanoa went. He swung with 2 minutes left against Jadson Andre needing a 7.41 to get past and got blown out of a 9.7. He leapfrogged Griffin Colapinto for the final time this season, getting the fifth and last spot at Lowers. Of all the claims he’s thrown, this once felt perhaps the most warranted and the most genuine. 

Kanoa Igarashi, on the inside looking out. Photo by Damien Poullenot/WSL

Come-ups

Peak performance: Nathan Hedge in R3H5, 18.30, Kauli Vaast in R3H1, 17.07

Hit replay: Nathan Hedge (18.30) vs Jack Robinson (17.60) R3H5, Sammy Pupo (16.43) vs Matthew McGillivray (17) R3H2, Yago Dora (14.84) vs. Griffin Colapinto (14.63) R3H3

Monster maneuver: Matthew McGillivray’s preposterous 10-pointer in R3H2, Nathan Hedge’s cavernous 9.87 in R3H5

One-liner: “At the start of that heat, Jack really showed me what was up and went around back behind me. The only person who’s done that to me out here is Andy. He’s gnarly.” — Nathan Hedge

There were soooo many good waves ridden today, but let’s start with the storylines. Like the tabloids in the checkout aisle, today’s drama was in your face. Four out of the top five men were in the Elimination Round and Kanoa was nipping at Griffin’s heels. 

There’s a long-term fling that must be highlighted. It’s been 24 years since Nathan Hedge’s first event at Teahupo’o and 18 years since his last final, and eight years since he’s worn a jersey here. Jack Robinson looked untouchable in their R3 matchup, but within three minutes Nathan had pocketed a 9.87 and 8.43 and the lead. Ballgame. Ticket punched to the quarters, where he’ll face Caio Ibelli, who has been wrangling foamballs all event. 

It’s official: Ethan Ewing is a good backside tube rider. He beat local wildcard Michel Bourez (with a clutch last-minute 8.67 to lock his spot at Lowers) and held his own against Kauli Vaast with a 15.17 heat total. But Kauli put on a masterclass in the third round and looked completely at ease in his hometown pit.

Matthew McGillivray surprised many people and fantasy teams by taking down Pipeline heavyweight Baron Mamiya to close out the Elimination Round. Then he surprised everyone again in the next round with a fucked-up airdrop and a perfect 10 against Sammy Pupo. It’s hard to articulate how sketchy and improbable this looked. Full commitment, board askew, a solid 10-footer throwing a sledgehammer of a lip just millimeters from his head.

Caio Ibelli charged Pipe. You knew he’d charge here. Photo by Damien Poullenot/WSL

Let-downs

Caught behind: Callum Robson .97 total in ERH4, Seth Moniz 5.67 total in ERH2

Blind mice: Jadson Andre’s 7.03 in R1H5 was underscored by at least a point. He knifed a double overhead square that was wider than it was tall.

Say what? “That might be the lowest heat score I’ve ever seen on tour,” Kelly Slater on Callum and Jake Marshall’s 3.4 heat total, a real head-scratcher in R2H4.

The early afternoon heats were a toss-up with long lulls and iffy waves. Scoring opportunities were few and far between, and the margin for an 8 and a 1 here is a matter of inches. That said, Jake Marshall looked completely out of touch on two occasions, a 2.43 heat total in R2, and a 1.83 heat total in R3 when the waves were better. 

You gotta feel for Griffin. After falling on Tahiti’s version of Niagara Falls and being sent to the elimination round due to some savvy positioning by Jordy Smith, you could feel the pressure mount. Kanoa won his ER heat to move to the Round of 16, passing over the young San Clementean. So, Griffin had to win to stay in the top five. Griffin came out swinging and made mincemeat of Jackson Baker to go back ahead of Kanoa.

If Griffin had made this, it would have felt like he won the contest. Photo by Beatriz Ryder/WSL

But with a chance to lock in a spot at Lowers, Griffin came up .3 points short against Yago despite having the highest single wave score of the heat, a nine. He took off on an overhead runner at the horn needing a 5.94 and was spat out clean. But compared to the waves in their heat and the others throughout the day, it felt like it wouldn’t be enough. The judges thought so, too. A 5.63. Griffin hung his head. Gotta shoutout Yago, though, he got some insane ones.

On the flip side, Kanoa did what he had to do, although Seth Moniz somehow only managed to put up a 5.67 heat total in Round 2 against him. No doubt Kanoa has been one of the best surfers on tour this year, it’s just a shame we won’t see a guy who won two events this year compete for a title because of three-tenths of a point. I don’t envy Tom Whitaker, Griffin and Kanoa’s coach, for having to balance the after-party.

Miscellanea

I’ve always wondered how the judges’ tower is powered. Turns out it’s hand-delivered electricity. Per Joe Turpel, a diver lays a 700-meter fiber cable across the reef to connect the cameras to the production house on the island.

Jacko Baker had a stellar year on tour. He’s earned some downtime, and we’re backing his new experimental craft.

Lotta foam up front, should be easy to paddle. Jacko’s earned some R&R.

The Jaddy train was fully booked today. He eliminated Italo with a last-minute bomb, came out elated, then looked deflated. A conflicted Jadson looked sad during his post-heat interview because knew and felt the implications the loss had for his good friend. His empathy and personality are why he’s one of the most beloved guys on tour

Jadson Andre, underscored by not overlooked. Photo by Damien Poullenot/WSL

Much like he’s done in the water, Kelly simply doesn’t miss in the booth. Another insightful session before knocking out Connor O’Leary in the Round of 16. (Random: this is the first event of the year Kelly has won his Round One heat.) He’ll match up with Yago in the quarters tomorrow. 

It still feels weird Pipeline doesn’t close out the season, but Teahupo’o is a fitting replacement. Like Hawaii, Tahiti has some of the best water patrol on earth. One thing to note about these guys, they do not discriminate. They will grab anyone by the rashie, rip off any leash and forgo any board in the name of safety.

The forecast looks clean for tomorrow, albeit with smaller swell. Expect the women to have a go.

Kelly like a little light yoga to start his mornings. Photo by Damien Poullenot/WSL

Gamble Ramble

Mikey C wagered a total of $520 on Betonline.ag today and went 6-5 in heat winner picks. The result? A net earnings of $62. Over 10 hours of competition, that’s a whole lot of effort and anxiety for what comes out to less than minimum wage. But hey, at least he’s back in the black. 

Here’s how it went down. 

Day 3 picks: 

R1:

  • $50 on Kelly Slater at +100 to win $50 WON
  • $40 on Caio Ibelli at +180 to win $72 WON
  • $40 on Jadson Andre at +400 to win $160 LOST 
  • $20 on Connor O’Leary at +100 to win $20 WON

R1 earnings: $102

R2:

  • $40 on Seth Moniz at -140 to win $28 LOST
  • $40 on Jadson Andre at +175 to win $70  WON
  • $40 on Callum Robson at -140 to win $28 LOST
  • $30 on Nat Young at +105 to win $32 LOST

R2 earnings: -$42

R3:

  • $80 on Matthew McGillivray at +100 to win $80 WON
  • $30 on Yago Dora at +105 to win $32 WON
  • $50 on Jadson Andre at -105 to win $48 LOST

R3 earnings: $62

Event Winners:

  • $50 on Vahine Fierro at +1600 QF
  • $50 on Tatiana Weston-Webb at +800 QF
  • $20 on Seth Moniz at +1600 LOST
  • $20 on Barron Mamiya at +1800 LOST
  • $20 on Connor O’Leary at +2500 LOST
  • $50 on Kelly Slater at +1000 R3

Event Winner earnings: -$60

Day 3 earnings: $62

Event earnings: $37

Throw them bills down here.  

Results

Outerknown Tahiti Pro Men’s Opening Round Results:
HEAT 1: Yago Dora (BRA) 8.66 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 8.14, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 5.10
HEAT 2: Kauli Vaast (FRA) 13.60 DEF. Barron Mamiya (HAW) 10.93, Ethan Ewing (AUS) 2.33
HEAT 3: Jack Robinson (AUS) 16.26 DEF. Nat Young (USA) 7.33, Michel Bourez (FRA) 6.70
HEAT 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.00 DEF. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 8.67, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 1.87
HEAT 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.94 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 12.86, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 8.33
HEAT 6: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 12.50 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 7.76, Jackson Baker (AUS) 3.17
HEAT 7: Samuel Pupo (BRA) 13.00 DEF. Callum Robson (AUS) 10.44, Seth Moniz (HAW) 6.53
HEAT 8: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 15.63 DEF. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 15.27, Jake Marshall (USA) 6.60

Outerknown Tahiti Pro Men’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Kauli Vaast (FRA) 17.07 DEF. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 15.17
HEAT 2: Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 17.00 DEF. Samuel Pupo (BRA) 16.43
HEAT 3: Yago Dora (BRA) 14.94 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 14.63
HEAT 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.00 DEF. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 16.83
HEAT 5: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 18.30 DEF. Jack Robinson (AUS) 17.60
HEAT 6: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 15.97 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.20
HEAT 7: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 15.70 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 13.40
HEAT 8: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 11.00 DEF. Jake Marshall (USA) 2.40

Outerknown Tahiti Pro Men’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Kauli Vaast (FRA) vs. Matthew McGillivray (ZAF)
HEAT 2: Yago Dora (BRA) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
HEAT 3: Nathan Hedge (AUS) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
HEAT 4: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)

Outerknown Tahiti Pro Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Caroline Marks (USA)
HEAT 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA)
HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Vahine Fierro (FRA)
HEAT 4: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) vs. Lakey Peterson (USA)

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