Stab Magazine | WSL Misses A Brazilian Backdoor Shootout And John Florence Re-Tweaks His Knee

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WSL Misses A Brazilian Backdoor Shootout And John Florence Re-Tweaks His Knee

A range of emotions on this Saturday in Saqua. 

news // Jun 23, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 7 minutes

According to the WSL, it was a fat morning tide that kept them from running the women at Barrinha, which consequently made the men miss the best window of the event.

The photos and videos that came out of Barrinha this morning were painful to look at—both for us as viewers and even more so, I’d imagine, for the competitors who wouldn’t get to surf it in the stiff offshore. Kelly Slater would have been broiling inside as the best barrels of the 2019 season ground across the manmade bank. 

While Brazil’s sand-bottomed Backdoor was doing this (^^^), the gals were left surfing wonky Ituana lefts. The same backside turn won most heats: Lakey Peterson, Sally Fitz, Kelly Andrew, Silvana Lima, Carissa Moore, Steph Gilmore, and Courtney Conlogue did it better than their competitors. Tati WW was the sole goofy holdout.  

How good would it have been to see the gals pack a few down the way? Maybe tomorrow… 

There was a lengthy break while the WSL made the 1.5-kilometer trek to the real Saquarema bank, a right-breaking tube called Barrinha (pronounced “bah-heen-ya”). The spectators, whose numbers this Saturday would have easily eclipsed 50,000, made the walk as a massive, football-juggling unit. It’s been reported that not a single orb touched the sand.

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By the time the WSL had all their gear in place, the wind had swung more east, blowing into Barrinha’s mouth rather than holding it wide open. “Air wind” is the culturally accepted term.  

For that reason alone, I figured Kelly was cooked Superheat 2.0. Toledo’s make-rate on frontside full rotations was well north of  50 percent, which he proved on his very first wave by cracking a hard snap right on Slater’s feet then going straight into a mid-face spinner, landing with his nose to the shore and closing with an end section slam. 

The judges gave this a 9.17, which wasn’t unearned, but it also wasn’t the wisest decision given the conditions and talent on hand. There was more than another .83 in that lineup. 

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That’s when Slater found a dark wedge and faded into the tube, driving through the first section with feet still visible then backdooring the second from three meters back. Kelly escaped through a small gap in the bottom of the lip to the tune of 9.5 points, which Pottz found “kinda baffling.” 

“It was technical,” Pottz said. “There’s no doubt about that. But it just wasn’t that deep.” 

Pottz was right. He’s also the biggest Slater fan on earth, making his criticism even more powerful. If Pottz didn’t believe that Slater’s wave was a 9.5, at least in relation to Filipe’s 9.17, surely it couldn’t have been. 

Filipe tried and tried again to back up his major score, falling on airs, turns, and tube attempts. Slater, too, was having trouble finding a second wave, taking off on six-foot bombs and trying to force himself into the pit. On two occasions, Slater’s board was simply too small for the conditions, forcing him to airdrop to the bottom rather than knifing under the lip of would-be tubes. This would matter.  

While Kelly was busy getting tossed off a jetski, then stuck between the ski and sled and apparently breaking his board, Filipe found a looming wedge in the small minutes of the heat. After air-dropping to the flats, Toledo waited patiently for the lip to part then stuffed himself inside, driving through a chandelier and out of the end before a violent collision between left and right. The judges seated this ride an eight something, which also felt high, but in the end it wouldn’t matter. Slater never found a backup and Filipe got his Superheat redemption. 

Both surfers were cheered back into the competitive area by their peers, along with 50,000 rauocous fans. 

“I had a blast,” Kelly said in the post-heat hat promotion. “If every heat was that fun, I wouldn’t mind losing every time. The heat was exciting, and that was some of the most energy I’ve ever felt from a crowd.”

You gotta think that Slater is pleased with his farewell tour thus far. Barring a 33rd at Snapper, he’s had notable performances and/or results at each and every venue—now even Brazil, which Kelly has made a point of avoiding throughout his career. This fact shows in his results, as he hasn’t won the event since 1997.

Now, thanks to a 9.5 and a metaphorical guard-passing to young Filipe, Kelly finally has his closure. Onto J-Bay.

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Surfers apparently couldn’t hear any scores in the lineup, as the wave/wind/crowd decibels were far beyond those of the loudspeakers. This led to a lot of frantic gesturing from our athletes, as they pleaded with invisible gods to tell them their scores.

Despite the chaos, Kanoa Igarashi trudged past Joan Duru with stable yet aggressive surfing. He’ll need more if he wants to beat Filipe tomorrow. Maybe another interference will do the trick?

Frederico Morais has put his wildcard to great use, eclipsing Michael Rodrigues to reach tomorrow’s quarters. This should come as no surprise, as today’s conditions mirrored the jetty wedge just north of Supertubos. 

Julian Wilson went out with one thing on his mind: fly. He threw one of the bigger straight airs I’ve ever seen (below), which according to the heat analyzer scored a 3.5 despite him coming nowhere near to landing it. I have a feeling this is just a technical glitch, as a score that high seems completely out of left field, but if somehow I’m wrong it is interesting. 

Julian never landed the air he wanted, but he did stuff two huge turns for a mid-eight and the lead. Jesse Mendes wasn’t gonna lay over, though, as he took off on a small but open wall and tagged it three times with metronomic rhythm, giving the judges a thousand-yard stare as he fell back into the wash. Needing a flat seven, Jesse was awarded a mid-six, likely due to wave size and a distinct lack of risk. Gotta push harder on this tour, kid. 

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Like Filipe Toledo, John Florence needed a military escort just to get to the beach. It was really like that.

The 2x World Champ and current Tour-leader would have been positively buzzing to get in the water, with tube-and-air sections aplenty this Brazilian arvo. This fact was proven by John’s incessant wave catching and maneuver choice against Wade Carmichael.

Here’s a run-down of John’s rides: failed alleyoop, failed tube, successful tube, successful tube, barely failed flip, alleyoop attempt, mega-flip kickout. 

Then, drama. 

After his mega-flip kickout, John was shown limping down the beach with a grimace on his face. 

“Oh no,” Barton said. “I think John’s hurt himself.”

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Looking back at the mega-flip kickout, we can see John’s board fly out of frame, the leash then pulling his back leg—the same one he injured last year at Keramas—up and out, tweaking his knee inward.

Anyone who’s hurt their MCL before knows exactly what that feels like.  

Strider reported minutes later than John had experienced a sharp knee pain when the incident occurred, but that it mostly subsided when he was walking across the beach. With a slender lead over Carmichael and plenty of time remaining, John opted not to paddle back out and instead risk losing to get his knee properly evaluated. Carmichael would not end up eclipsing Florence’s lead, meaning that John has a quarterfinal to surf tomorrow, if he’s well enough to do so. 

We can’t imagine the turmoil in John’s head right now. Having just come back from a serious injury to such incredible success, and now potentially having to throw it all away—well that’s the kind of anguish that could make a man want to give it all up for a life of exploratory sailing. But before we get too dark, let’s wait for the official prognosis. 

Jordy Smith went down hard on several sketchy aerial attempts, ultimately milking his scores from a two-turn right and a carve/mini-tube/air combo that was more buttery than a Georgian biscuit. He took down Griffin Colapinto with relative ease and could see his second injury-related walkthrough in as many events, depending on John’s status tomorrow. 

Worth noting: should John be legitimately injured, and with Medina straggling this season, Jordy is in a damn good position to scoop a virgin World Title.

Speaking of which, Kolohe Andindo made another quarterfinal today—his fourth out of five events—forcing us to reckon with the possibility that San Clemente’s perma-bridesmaid is well and truly in the running for a Title. And just for a moment, think about how wild it would be if Brother became a World Champ before he was a CT winner.

But as Kolohe’s coach, Mike Parsons, told us: “Kolohe, I think he is going to get [a World Title] someday as well. And I think that could still take a couple more years. I think he’s still improving really fast. Hopefully it happens this year for him. But he’s going to have to win a couple of events. The way the points are structured, it’s all about getting wins if you’re going to be a World Champ.”

In his post-heat debrief, Kolohe upset Peter Mel.

“I think there are the biggest air sections in the world out there,” Brother said, referencing Barrinha’s wedge-to-air-wind combo. 

“We expect that from you tomorrow,” replied an excited Pete Mel. 

“Ehh, go small don’t fall,” Kolohe said with a chuckle.

“Nooo!” Pete responded. 

In the final heat of the day, Michel Bourez was rocking some electric blue tape across the entire expanse of his front foot—the result of catching Firewire craft right in the metatarsals. According to Spartan-adjacent sources, they’re unsure if the foot is broken, but Michel decided to surf in spite of the pain, which proved difficult. 

The Tour’s strongest man appeared timid and relied heavily on his back foot throughout turns, which might have worked for Jordy or John but Michel is primarily a front-footed surfer, making it near-impossible to complete his maneuvers with any semblance of quality.

Meanwhile his competitor, Medina, did exactly what he had to do and nothing more, filling his scoreline with the sixes and sevens he knew would equate to a victory. Then the 2x Champ got molested by half of Brazil on the shoreline—the price of fame. 

A premonition: if Medina doesn’t win tomorrow, his Title chances are cooked.  

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