Destiny: has there been a more over-used word in professional surfing these past 72 hours? Maybe it's just my jaded world-view, but destiny is a bullshit concept that serves to undermine the true elements that lead to success (like focus, hard work, talent and maybe a bit of good fortune). Destiny Attained was a stupid way for the WSL to frame John's victory, and it just goes to show how Florence's victory differs (in their mind) to those of ADS and Medina before him. John deserved the title - don't get me wrong - but it's because of what he's done in the contest jersey, not because of some perceived entitlement. Was it his 'destiny' to get 14th last year?
Above rant aside, John John's victory is definitely the feel good story of the season. Absolutely everyone except nationalistic non-Americans, anti-WSL conspiracy theorists and Medina fan-boys were stoked to see Florence win his maiden title. And why not? There's no Adriano-esque doubts about talent or worthiness and really - when you look at the season in hindsight - there's no questioning his competitive dominance (JJF's is the first title decided before Pipe since 2011).
Here are my main impressions of the now-decided title race:
- To perform so well over a season is commendable in itself, but it should be noted John’s title was achieved in the very year that he declared that he was going to give it a proper crack. He heaped the pressure on himself, and still came out on top. It makes you wonder what else he can achieve when he sets his mind to it…
- The WSL had a lot of pre-packaged media ready to go just in case John John clinched the championship in Portugal. You have to wonder if they had the same level of content prepared for Gabs. Or even Kolohe/Jordy/Slater for that matter. I doubt it.
- It was great to hear Slater’s response to Florence’s win. Not because of the way in which he used Instagram to imply that Jordy has dominance over JJF in both the video part as well as technical/power surfing – though that was amusing – but because he indicated that in 2017 he was; a) committed to another year on tour, b) going to get his shit together (board choice?), and c) inspired to give his all in attempting another title. People are already talking up JJF vs. Medina as being the next KS vs. AI, but can you imagine if Kelly won next year? It would fuck the JFF/Medina legacy forever.
- JJF still managed to turn up for the final despite the fact that it mattered less for him than it did for Conner. In fact, the final was a pretty good heat for what was a virtual dead rubber. Conner was only one decent set off his maiden tour victory.
- Dave and Scott from the Surf Splendour podcast opined that this is probably the first time since A.I. that the world champion is also the best 'clip' or 'video part' surfer in the world, and I'd personally find it hard to argue against them. Although Slater seems to disagree (see above).
- Wilko’s season has been all about context; if somebody had said to Wilko this time last year that 2016 held two event wins for him, he would have been as happy as a good-times-party-boy can be. The thing is that he won the first two, started to actually believe that he was a contender, started to take the whole roller-coaster seriously, only to have it slip from his grasp as the events rolled by. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. Personally, I’d rather be struggling to requalify and sitting at 24th in the world with two events to go, win them both, and then finish top 10. How different would that feel? Regardless, Wilko’s had a good year. He’ll also start 2017 with a better seeding than he’s had in a long while.
And, now that we're all soaked in the bubbly Carona-froth of double-John’s success, let's briefly look at the Portugal event itself:
- What is it with Europe and holding/waiting periods? The time differences were bad enough for most people, but to be put on a drip feed of hourly contest holds is a drain on even the most hard-core of contest fans. I hope Pipe runs on consecutive days.
- The title race was almost the only interesting thing about this event. And maybe fantasy team results. It wasn't so much a live spectacle as more of a get-up-the-next-day-and-watch-the-highlights event.
- My ears started bleeding every time I heard a commentator say the worn phrase ‘diamonds in the rough’. We get it; there were definitely bombs to be had amongst the long waits, but find a new way to say it or shut the hell up.
- Medina has nobody to blame for his early title-race exit but himself.
- Conner threw his hat in the ring for the ROTY gong, which is basically between him and Stu.
- Flores finally got a result and, like a true Frenchman, broke hearts along the way.
- Jordy proved that – recently at least - Portugal is a good contest for him (5th, 2nd, 3rd in his last 3 attempts).
- Julian got gifted a heat against Jadson in R3 (I’m not going to bitch or go on about it, but you can watch it in analyser if you like).
- Pupo schooled some guys before bombing his quarters heat.
- Jordy took claiming to an all-new level (kudos the camera operator for the perfect close-up zoom).
- #tournotes again provided the goods in regards to the WSL tour surfers’ daily drama. It’s one of the best things about the WSL’s coverage and I strongly suggest that you chase down as many as you can.
Congratulations to the following clubhouse champions:
Best Possible Team
This 649.91 point team was apparently too much of an anomaly for WSL players to pick; the top WSL score for Portugal was Bezzanator with 613.68, which only had 5 of these top possible surfers (no ADS, Pupo or Morais).
Worst Possible Team
Gabe at 71% in the WSL game was a massive blow for most teams. Keanu failed to back up, and Ace maintained his poor Portugal form.
Surf Stats WSL Numbers WSL
We had half of the best surfers from each Tier. Italo, Ryan and Gabs burnt us most. This team got 3rd in the clubhouse and now sits at 655th in the world overall. It’s doing OK.
Surf-Stats FS Numbers
This only had 3 of the best 8 possible surfers, but it would have been impossible to afford the best possible team. Ryan for Flores and Medina for the Seabass (our sub) would have made a big difference.
These winners are in the running to claim the overall SS awards at the end of the year:
Best wave: Jordy’s 10 was pretty damn good.
Best heat: The final had great surfing, but it was mostly a one-sided victory lap. JJF vs. JW was great for the first ten minutes, but then it had nothing. The Conner vs. Jordy semi was the best for me; it was significant for the title race, there were heaps of waves ridden, the lead changed a few times throughout and the surfing was quality.
Biggest disappointments: Slater, Gabs, Italo and Filipe were all pretty painful to have on fantasy teams. The whining of ‘not fair’ from Medina fans regarding JJF’s title win was also a low-point. The biggest disappointment for me though was losing out on a Medina vs. JJF Pipe shoot-out for the title. We could still get one for the Pipe-Master title(a crown that John is yet to wear), as well as the Triple Crown race, but it won’t quite be the same.
Best Manoeuvre: Can we talk about Jordy’s claiming lately? It’s becoming a part of his repertoire so much so that now even Jordy’s making fun of it. His gymnastics effort for his 10 was the thing of legend and was definitely a manoeuvre unto itself. Not that it could win this category. The win goes to John’s super smooth full-rote alley-oop in the final. It was the icing in the cake for the new champ, but it was also a piece of technical wizardry. That landing…
Most impressive: You mean other than JJF? Sure. Miggy Pupo smoked some quality opposition in Portugal, including Slater, Flores, Wilko, Seabass and Callinan. He seems like a top guy as well. I’ll be cheering for his requalification after this event. Conner definitely deserves a mention here as well; I think he could see a few more successes on tour next year as he irons out the bugs in his contest game.
The North Shore’s Pipeline is our next destination, starting on December 8th. There’s heaps to keep you amused between now and then though, with massive QS events, a triple crown race, an election and maybe a sneaky ‘stats in review’ article to come.
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