How John John Lost To A Surfer From Germany
The underdogs are barking: here’s what’s happened at the 2023 ISA World Games thus far.
“I know he bleeds. I can cut him,” said Andy Irons when asked how he took three world titles from Kelly Slater.
Andy Irons’s punk-Hercules, oversized trunk-wearing, shotgun-claiming triumph over Kelly Slater’s polished, perfect, philosophical winning streak was the kind of underdog story that revitalized competitive surfing… and sold a lot of t-shirts. Pardon the cliché — but we love an underdog story.
Something nearly every young surfer hears before surfing their first amateur heat is, “You don’t have to be the best surfer in the water. Just be the best surfer in those 15 minutes.”
This is why the ISA World Surfing Games are fun. It’s surfing’s one chance a year to see David be handed a sling and given a fighting chance against Goliath.
And with waves as challenging as we’ve seen thus far at La Bocana/ El Sunzal, El Salvador, David has been stepping up.
If you missed our 2023 ISA World Games Preview that goes over El Salvador, Olympic qualification, new countries competing, and all that jazz, here’s the link.
Here’s how this complicated competition works: First off — if you lose two heats, you are eliminated from competition. That’s the simplest way to put this. There are seven main rounds of competition before the final. Each round consists of four-surfer heats, top two advancing. Those who score first and second in the seventh round go straight to the final. If you place third or fourth in any of these seven main rounds –you are forced to battle through one of twelve repechage rounds, depending on how far you get before losing your main round. The two surfers who place first in second in the twelfth repechage round join the winners of the main rounds in the final.
That was insane. I’m sorry.
Ok… this wasn’t actually an upset because Filipe ended up getting the scores he needed in the dying minutes of his heat. But, it’s too rich not to share. In the last four minutes of his Round One heat, defending CT World Champion Filipe Toledo was losing to a surfer from Greece who had priority and brutally burned Filipe, causing him to remain in last place in the heat with a little over three minutes remaining. Filipe, as expected, cruised his way into first. But good on ya, Gerasimos Veneris.
Update: This morning Filipe Toledo placed last in his Round Three Heat and was sent to the repechage round by Kehu Butler from New Zealand, Kauili Vaast from France, and Israel’s Uri Uziel (who got first!).
On the men’s side: In Round One, CT World #2 João Chianca was sent to the repechage round after losing to Colombia’s Giorgio Gomez and El Salvador’s Bryan Perez in his Round One heat. He battled his way back into competition by placing second in his repechage round and will have to compete in another repechage round today to stay alive.
In Round Two, CT World #8 Ryan Callinan lost out to the Argentine surfer, Santiago Muniz and the Salvadorean surfer, Daniel Monterrosa. He will be surfing in a repechage heat at a time that is TBD (Possibly today or tomorrow).
In John John Florence’s (CT World #7) Round Two heat, he lost to Germany’s Dylan Groen and Italy’s Jesse Mendes. He’ll be surfing again in a repechage round that is again, TBD (Possibly today or tomorrow). As per the title of this wrap-up, John lost due to the simple fact that the conditions were so poor and the sets so infrequent that whoever locked into priority had the heat sealed.
Ethan Ewing (CT World #4) lost (with a 4.50 heat total) to South Africa’s Matthew McGillivray (CT World #13), Argentina’s Leandro Usuna, and Indonesia’s Rio Waida. That heat had three CT surfers, so good on Leandro for placing second and sending two CT surfers to the repechage round. Ethan and Matthew will be competing in a repechage round that is TBD.
Griffin Colapinto (CT World #1) lost to Ecuador’s Alex Suarez and Italy’s Leo Fioravanti (CT World #10). He’ll be competing in another one of those TBD repechage rounds.
On the Women’s side: Things were much more orderly. All of the CT women (Carissa Moore, Johanne Defay, Sally Fitzgibbons, Caroline Marks, and Tatiana Weston-Webb) breezed through their Round One heats and won all their Round Two heats. They’ll be surfing in Round Three which goes today.
There were some interesting moments in the Women’s rounds thus far though: Team Iran, for the first time ever, had a woman competing this year. Her name is Setareh Mazhari. She did not advance through her heats but it’s a notable (and noble) development given Iran’s protests over the past year.
Also, Silvana Lima (Team Brazil) should still be on tour. She surfs ludicrously well. At 38 years old she’s won both her heats thus far. Her last full CT season was in 2019. She seems, however, to be mounting an effort at prequalification, winning a QS event in Brazil in March. She also just gives off girlboss, Letty-from-Fast-and-Furious energy.
Israel’s women’s team is also looking prodigious this year. Sisters Anat Lelior and Noa Lelior both took Round One heat wins. Israeli women have two years of mandated military service to do, so perhaps this experience gives them a burst of competitive grit.
Teams to watch:
To avoid favoritism, here’s who’s surfing this year in last year‘s Top Five teams (plus I’m adding Brazil, who got sixth) — in order of last year’s results:
USA: Men: Griffin Colapinto, John John Florence, and Tyler Gunter Women: Brianna Cope, Carissa Moore, and Caroline Marks. Interestingly, Tyler Gunter is the only man on the U.S. team who wasn’t knocked down into a repechage round — he’s won both of his heats. Update: Tyler won his Round 3 heat this morning.
Australia: Women: Sophie Mccullouch, Ellie Harrison, and Sally Fitzgibbons. Men: Liam O’Brien (LOB), Ryan Callinan, and Ethan Ewing. LOB, fascinatingly, is the only male Aussie surfer who didn’t get knocked into a repechage heat. Update: LOB got third this morning, sending himself into a repechage round.
France: Men: Joan Duru, Maxime Huscenot, and Kauli Vaast. Women: Pauline Ado, Vahine Fierro, and Johanne Defay.
Portugal: Women: Teresa Bonvalot, Yolanda Sequeira, and Francisca Veselko. Men: Guilherme Fonseca, Frederico Morais, Guilherme Ribeiro, and Cristiano Ronaldo (jk).
Japan: Men: Kanoa Igarashi, Reo Inaba, and Taichi Wakita. Women: Amuro Tsuzuki, Shino Matsuda, and Mahina Maeda. Kanoa is looking dominant — he’s won all three of his heats.
Brazil: Women: Tatiana Weston-Webb, Luana Silva, and Silvana Lima. Men: Filipe Toledo, Gabriel Medina, and João Chianca. We heard from an insider close to the Brazilian team (that will remain anonymous) that if Brazil doesn’t do well, they might just leave El Salvador early to prepare for the Rio Pro.
Bonus: Mexico’s Team has been surfing extremely well. Al Cleland and Sebastian Williams have advanced through all their heats.
What’s happening today?
La Bocana and El Sunzal are two separate El Salvador spots. El Sunzal is a quasi-right point and La Bocana is a shifty, cobblestone peak. They are running heats at those two locations concurrently. Today is Day Four of competition.
At La Bocana they are running: Men’s Main Rounds Three and Four and Women’s Main Round Three.
At El Sunzal they are running: Women’s Repechage Rounds One and Two and Men’s Repechage Round One.
You can watch the event live on the ISA’s Youtube channel:
You can also follow along on socials:
Facebook: International Surfing Association
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