Stab Magazine | What Will It Take For Filipe To Win The Title?

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What Will It Take For Filipe To Win The Title?

Hint: a little fucking initiative!

news // Jul 10, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

And once again Filipe Toledo has broadened our pupils, paralyzed our jaws, and expanded our general consciousness with his J-Bay performance.

Whether on the face or in the air, Filipe’s ability to place his board where he wants, when he wants, is heyday Slaterian in nature. Considering how much surfing has progressed since that bygone era, it could be argued that in 2018 Filipe Toledo is performing the best technical surfing the world has ever seen*.  

As Shaun Tompson said of Filipe’s performance on finals day: “It’s as good as a human being can surf.” When re-watching the Heat Analyzer from Jeffreys, and understanding the current performance barriers of professional surfing, this statement becomes difficult to deny. For the conditions on hand, Filipe performed the best maneuvers currently possible on just about every section. It was a masterclass in aquatic athleticism, and he is now rightfully Number One in the world.

Screen Shot 2018 07 07 at 4.38.25 PM

Look at this competitive machine! Photo: WSL

Which is why it pains me to think that Filipe could lose the 2018 World Title, should he continue to falter at his Achilles heel(s) events, Teahupo’o and Pipe.

In his five years on tour, having surfed a total of nine events at these locations**, Filipe has had a handful of second round exits, a couple round fives, one quarterfinal, and of course the infamous scoreless heat. Meanwhile his closest competitors, Julian Wilson and Gabriel Medina, have either finaled or won at both venues and had further high-placing results to back those up.

While Filipe’s strengths may surpass those of his competitors, Medina’s and Wilson’s weaknesses are essentially nonexistent. And as the history of professional surfing has shown, it’s better to be pretty good at every aspect of competing, rather than really good at a few and terrible at another.

Don’t believe me? Just look back to 2015, when Filipe, who had three event wins on the season (the most of any surfer that year), landed in fourth place overall due to his inconsistency at other venues. Meanwhile Adriano de Souza stole the Title not through natural talent, but through years of combatting his weaknesses with dogged determination.

Specifically, in the years leading up to his victory, Adriano spent combined months at Teahupo’o and Pipeline, both before and after the events, to perfect the technique of wrangling a shallow reef tube. Then in 2015, knowing he had a legitimate chance of seizing the Title, Adriano showed up to Hawaii a month in advance of the Pipe event and camped out on Jamie O’Brien’s doorstep, refusing to leave until Jamie agreed to teach Adriano how to read Pipe’s lineup.

Jamie and Adriano surfed the reef every day, no matter how shitty, and come December the Brazilian had won the Pipe Masters (and the Title) in conditions that ranged from 10-foot pits to 2-foot junk.

To my knowledge, Filipe Toledo has never attempted anything close to this level of preparation for heavy water events.

Screen Shot 2018 07 07 at 4.39.28 PM

In his Round 3 heat of the 2015 Pipe Masters, Filipe Toledo needed a 5-point ride to get past local wildcard Mason Ho and keep his Title dreams alive. Taking off on this Pipe set, Filipe knifed the drop, let go of his rail, and no-hand hunched through the cavernous tube and into the channel. The only problem was that the judges could see Filipe the entire time, so instead of the required score of a 5, Filipe received a 4.6 and lost the heat. If only he took off from Kai Otton’s position. (And no Filipe didn’t “interfere” with Kai because Filipe’s heat had priority at the time of the drop-in.) Photo: WSL

Now, it’s okay to lack natural talent at a certain aspect of the sport. It’s even okay to be scared. But what’s not okay, especially if you want to raise that golden goblet come season’s end, is to sit on your hands (or your board) and hope for the best.

Filipe is a busy guy. He’s got a wife, two kids, and a reality TV show that demand his attention on a near-daily basis – all of which could be used as excuses to not spend next week and beyond in Tahiti.

Screen Shot 2018 07 07 at 1.14.19 PM

Mhmmmmmm.

But there’s loads of swell on the way to French Polynesia, and knowing the barrel-riding ability of Wilson and Medina, Filipe will likely need some practice if he wants to compete at Chopes.

Unfortunately, according to a source close to Filipe, our current World Number 1 will be in Brazil for the next couple weeks, in order for his wife’s family to meet newborn Koa for the first time. After that will be the U.S Open, which, assuming he makes it to finals day on August 5th, leaves Filipe only three days to fly to Tahiti and prepare, physically and mentally, for the contest that could decide his World Title fate.

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Deeper Fil, deeper! Photo: WSL

As a genuine fan of Filipe’s and supporter of his 2018 campaign, I’m both saddened and confused by this.

It’s clear that Filipe loves the U.S. Open – in fact, based on his previous reactions to losing before the final, one might assume it’s his favorite event on the calendar – but winning it again will do nothing for his career. Perhaps Filipe’s sponsors have asked him to compete in the event for #optics, but in reality, would those companies prefer Filipe wins a World Title or another HB grovel-fest?

As for the family-time in Brazil thing, of course I understand. When all this surfing business is said and done, Filipe’s wife and kids will become his primary purpose on this earth, meaning he must maintain a fervent commitment to his family beginning now.

It’s what good daddies do.

But frankly, Koa will never remember that papa missed this one family reunion, nor will his daughter Mahina. Wifey and the in-laws might hold a slight grudge against Filipe for his occupational abandonment, but 1. They had to have known that this comes with the territory and 2. World Titles heal most wounds.

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Ah-haaa! Now we know, perhaps, why Filipe is disallowed from attending Tahiti any earlier than is completely necessary. Photo: WSL

I just wonder what happened to the guy who missed the birth of his first child for an event that, even if he had won, wouldn’t have put him in contention for a World Title.

That decision was perceived by many surf fans as selfish or even heartless, but in order to win at this game, unless you are John John Florence, you kind of have to be a dick.

So please, Filipe, be a selfish bastard and go get tubed in Tahiti for the next month.

Your Title may just depend on it.

*John Florence’s 2017 form was comparable, but in my opinion, not quite as fast, acrobatic, or in-control as young Fil’s.

**Filipe pulled out of Chopes in 2014 citing a “bad ankle”, which was apparently in good enough condition to earn him a high twitch-rate win at the U.S. Open but couldn’t handle the best swell ever seen for a contest in Tahiti (where, in all reality, he’d only have to drop in and go straight to succeed.)

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