WSL Trolls Kolohe Andino By Giving Everybody In Tahiti The Yellow Jersey
Plus, Slater arrives in Tahiti on the morning-of the event, still wins his heat!
How long has it been since we parked our asses on the couch and watched seven straight hours of surfing?
The WSL event calendar tells me it’s been just over a month, but for those in the US, who missed most of the J-Bay event due to its midnight run-time, it feels way longer. Brazil finished two months ago, so that makes sense.
Despite the hiatus, today was a grueling watch as Teahupo’o arrived with a whimper. The conditions were small and jumbled, due to a combination of swells in the water. Tubes, modest as they were, had more chandeliers than a French aristocrat.
The highest score of the day? 12.66… by Zeke Lau.
Number seven in the world and somehow-still-the-Title-favorite Gabriel Medina struggled in his Round 1 heat against Soli Bailey and Peterson Crisanto. Nine of Medina’s ten total waves came in at under two points, but he kept swinging away, using every trick in the book in an attempt to overtake former Volcom Pipe Pro winner Soli Bailey. Said tricks included airs, turns, tubes, and a double-kick duck dive that looked explicitly designed to push the lip down on Soli’s tube (see the 15-minute mark R1H1, and let me know if I’m dramatic).
Medina lost the heat but won in my heart.
Speaking of brutal tactics, as part of their new Growing, Growing, Gone campaign—which was designed to save coral reefs around the world—the WSL has changed the competitors’ jersey colors in a slightly confusing fashion. The white jersey (third seed) is white with pink and yellow panels, the purple jersey (second seed) looks like a squished concord grape, and the yellow jersey (first seed), resembles pink and purple cotton candy atop a puddle of mustard.
And how devo’d is Kolohe Andino? For eight years he’s scratched and clawed his way up the CT ranks, battling not just his competitors but also undue media expectations and social scrutiny, only to have the thunder of his yellow-jersey debut embezzled by 11 of his closest rivals.
The WSL’s disregard for the eminence the yellow jersey is a far-too-literal representation of the asterisk that will live next to Brother’s, Filipe’s, or Jordy’s maiden Title, should they win it in the year where John Florence fell from such great heights.
Back in the ocean, Ace Buchan took a wild foamball ride for the win, Kanoa Igarashi kept his dream-run alive, and Italo Ferreira found one of the last decent tubes in today’s quickly deteriorating conditions.
Commissioner KP—who we thought had quit his job at the end of 2018, yet here he is, seven events in—said he wants to finish the event in quality conditions, which means probably Wednesday. In order to do that, they need to run the bullshit non-elim round in mediocre surf. That’s not verbatim, but it’s exactly what he meant.
Joan Duru nipped Filly T, and Kolohe got a dub against Yago Dora and local tube slut Matahi Drollet.
“I feel like the Yellow Jersey is kinda overhyped,” Andino said in his post-heater. “It’s just a moment in time, and like I’ve said before, there are a bunch of guys having a good year—I just happen to be one of them.”
Brother also admitted to feeling like the underdog amongst that group, as he was the only one who’s yet to win an event. Gotta respect that level of self-awareness.
Kelly Slater arrived in Tahiti on the morning of the event. It’s starting to feel like the goat just does these things to maintain a certain level of intrigue amongst his competitors and fans. “I think he likes the chaos,” says Ross Williams.
Slater’s surfing looked squirrelly and frenetic, same as it has ever since he transitioned to a primarily epoxy quiver. His bottom turns were long but quick, his top turns snappy and explosive. “The board almost looks a little loose for Kelly,” Ross said, “but he’s keeping it under control.”
Isn’t it interesting that the oldest guy on Tour (by over a decade) has some of the most lively surfing of the top-34? Italo and Filipe are the only ones who contend. Maybe M-Rod on his day.
Slater won the heat despite eating Freddie’s wake in a paddle battle.
The rest of the day rambled on like a drunken sailor, with each ride less memorable than the last.
Moving forward, Ricardo Christie won, and Zeke Lau too.
Not that it scored very high, but Griffin Colapinto had a unique four-stage stall into a highline tube. He beat local favs Michel Bourez and Jezza Flores handily.
Owen Wright won with high praise from Slater (“his board looks really good”) and Conner Coffin got positively cooked by the judges in the final heat of the seeding round (a four for that techy double-tube to snap?!).
If there’s a silver lining to today’s unyielding mediocrity, it’s that the forecast truly does look sublime. Slater said the current numbers point to “perfect Teahupo’o,” and that we “shouldn’t be surprised if he goes right,” due to the uncommon amount of west in the swell.
If you remember, Slater once got an eight on the Chopes right in a final against Ace Buchan. Kelly lost that heat but he’ll never forget that wave.
Expect to see another round or two tomorrow, then starting Monday arvo, it’s gonna be on.
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