If you could personify the three Australian events of the WSL tour, and put them on notice regarding their place in the 2018 season, who would you expect to step up to the plate and prove their worth? Which event would you have laid money on to metaphorically catch a 9+ wave in the dying moments of their heat to make the next round? With all the threats of a reduced tour schedule and rumours of ins-and-outs, that’s basically what we were looking at: events competing for their spot. How did each of the first three events respond? Let’s review:
Gold Coast – This event boiled down to one thing: Owen’s glorious return; a story that transcended surfing and engaged us on a deeper level. It also had decent waves, close/somewhat controversial heats, a few solid 10s, and no lay-days. Solid event. 8.5
Margaret River – Introduced North Point to professional surfing (admittedly, not in the most ideal of conditions, but novel none-the-less) and also provided Seabass’ 10. Showcased a mesmerising performance by the reigning world champ in waves of consequence, and proved yet again that the West rarely lets us down with waves. A scintillating 9.0
Bells Beach – Provided excellent waves - all contest - with quality performances across the board. John ripped, Toledo amazed, Mick shredded, rookies shone, Caio snuck up and slapped us on the ass. Jordy held the Bell aloft (both in reality and in mime form) and proved once-and-for-all that his claim game is just as strong as that of his rails. Another 9.0
So, who misses out on making the 2018 cut?
Is this possibly a non-elimination R1 or R4 heat, whereby they all get another chance? Only time will tell. Regardless, they all proved their worth as far as professional surfing is concerned.
Over to you, WSL…
You don’t have to have the highest scores every round to win a contest, you just have to have the two best waves in your heat. I’m not trying to take anything away from Jordy, in fact, just the opposite; it was great to see Jordy put a whole contest together and finally earn the Bell that he has deserved for so long (the greatest Bells surfer never to have won Bells, etc.). Jordy wasn’t always the most hyped surfer of each round, but he was surfing very well throughout and he didn’t take his foot off the gas when it counted.
He also may have just put his hand up to challenge as a legitimate title contender, but we’ve heard all that before...
It’s funny that, after double-John’s forehand clinic in Margs, Sean Doherty said, “that one turn was so incredibly nuanced that it looked like 50 different turns, and it was so visceral, and so true to pure surfing that it would have almost been a travesty if he’d finished any of those waves with an air reverse”, and yet, it was that very travesty that set him apart at this event. Mick seemed to have his measure twice, only to be brought undone by JJF’s above-the-lip wizardry. John was able to grab massive scores on non-set waves that wouldn’t have been in the excellent range for other surfers. In fact, I’d say that the judges weren’t really punishing people as much for catching smaller, non-set waves like they ordinarily do at places like Bells. Maybe it’s because he was just surfing them so well.
John could have used an air or two against Caio though; he’s now 1-3 against him and, despite seemingly holding the season by the balls, he’s shown that he’s apparently defeatable after all. Only just.
Caio was ROTY in 2016. He’s currently ranked 7th. That’s 4 places above Medina, six above Slater, and 12 higher than Mick. He got 25ths at both Fiji and Tahiti last year, but other than those spots, where would you completely write him off? He surfs smart, he’s talented, and he’s as sure-footed as a mountain goat. If you don’t bring you’re A game against him, he may just have you. Ask John John.
If Margs was all about Filipe proving that he could handle the heavy stuff, then what was Bells? He had it all; arcs, airs, rails, rotes, speed, aggression, confidence. Toledo rocked the highest AHS for the event and scored his third 5th place result at Bells in 4 visits (9th-best average on tour). Not bad.
A lot has been said about Zeke’s break-out performance at Bells, and there’s a lot to like. I mention him here mostly though because I think this event will be a massive point in Zeke’s year. Self-belief can do wonders, and this performance/result could set up a great year for Zeke. We’re calling the ROTY early.
There were a fair few buzzer-beaters at this event, no?
Caio vs. JJF and Jordy vs. Zeke in the semis were decided after the siren had blown. Mick got his score against Owen as it sounded too. In R4, Caio’s win, the Joel vs. Wiggolly exchange and JJF’s alley-oop all dropped after the heat ended. It certainly created some extra drama for those couch coaches at home.
The other great set of endings were those found in the shore-break. The sight of committed pros throwing down 5’ floaters into ankle-deep water was even more fun to watch than the end-section carnage at Margs. Thankfully nobody was hurt.
Courtney / Steph
The women’s tour is looking so good this year; the surfing, the rivalries, the tight competition. It’s all making for compelling viewing.
For my money, I think Steph won the final, but I was happy to see Courtney get her brace at Bells and shake up the title race even further. Courtney’s fitness is incredible, and it went a long way to propelling her to another excellent result. Congratulations Courtney, and well done to Steph on her continued rise in 2018.
The Title Race
John John managed to extend his lead. The only true contenders are Jordy and Owen at this point, but there’s still 8 events to go. The thing is: neither of them will face John before the semis due to seeding, meaning that they will need other surfers to step up and eliminate him early if they want to start making ground. Oh, and John’s pretty handy in Brazil, too.
John’s total of 2300 points from 3 events (averaging 7667) is pretty amazing, but he’ll need to step it up if he wants to rival Kelly’s dominance in 2010, when he finished on 69000 points over only 8 events, averaging 8625 points per event (that’s an average better than 2nd place).
Speaking of which, Slater doesn’t look like a true contender at this point, so it will be interesting to see how he responds in Brazil, a place he has often deliberately missed in the past.
Filipe is surfing like a future world champion, despite his uncharacteristic 25th at the Gold Coast. His proving ground, as always, will be the South Pacific leg.
Which of the top 10 would we consider least likely to still be there by year’s end? Probably Wilko; he just hasn’t been putting it together since his 2nd at Cooly.
Zeke and Freddy put their hands up for requalification, sitting at 11th and 19th respectively (Connor’s at 13th). Joan won his first heat of the year, whereas Gouveia copped his first 25th. Leo and Ethan are the only rookies at 0-6 for the year. Ethan will be regretting so many close losses, while Leo will be wondering where his 2016 form went.
What happened to Joe? Has he been caught doing something compromising? Has the WSL gone off him? Kaipo has been leaving me yearning for the golden tones and reworked phrases of Turps.
Also, how many times do we, the non-paying plebs who act like we run the show, have to cry out to the WSL before they put Barton on the commentary team full-time? His energy, insightful analysis and left-field comments all make for a more entertaining broadcast. I’m not sure if BL’s actually keen to start travelling to all the events, but I for one would love to see him go further than just the Australian leg.
Congratulations to the following clubhouse champions:
Surf-Stats WSL group – The Fantasy Bells Trophy (is that the one Jordy rang mid-heat?) goes to notAbreathInnit this year, with 756.47 points and 647th place in the world. Shout-out also goes to Mordida Storm who is leading the club with 1913.46 points at 31st place in the world overall.
Surf-Stats FS groups
Public Clubhouse: Kuno finished in the top 200 overall with a classy 1038 for Bells. DavidTElliott11 is winning for the season.
Private Clubhouse (password SS): This one went to Cheyne Cottrell’s team, which threw down 987 for Bells. The Pressures still lead overall.
Best Possible Team
In fantasy surfer, the perfect team cost well over $50M, even if you had players at reduced salaries. It was still possible to get a 1200+ team though, which is pretty admirable. The closest was JimmyFlush with a quality 1180 total.
The below ‘perfect’ WSL team was actually selected by a player simply called Wilko. Well done to him. It’s not often that a player selects the perfect team, and this contest was a great one in which to do it as the AHS numbers were above-average.
It’s worth noting that Mick and Frederico were in the worst possible team for Margies.
Worst Possible Team
Wilko and Conner have fallen after great results last year, while Freestone’s Margies success seems like a distant memory. Not too many people selected these guys, looking at the %s so well done to you.
These winners are in the running to claim the overall SS awards at the end of the year:
Best wave: Filipe’s 9.7 was hype-worthy, but Bells is all about tradition, and the best wave at Bells has to have some buried rails. John’s brilliant mix of new and old gets the nod, watch it again here. However, Mick’s 9.93 also gets the gong for its class and power. We have a tie.
Best heat: Both semis were fantastic, as was the final, but the back-and-forth between two surfers at the top of their game in R4 was a sight to behold. Seabass was there too, but this heat was all about Mick vs. John.
Biggest disappointment: I thought I was being clever by dropping Zeke (I thought he’d be too popular) and selecting Josh Kerr in the hope that he’d shrug off his poor form and start his turn-around here at Bells. Instead I was treated to another insipid performance while watching Zeke rack up the points. Josh Kerr is now black-listed from my team for the remainder of the season.
Best Manoeuvre: It has to be John’s massive oop to beat Mick in R4. As a single manoeuvre, it was the stand-out. How did he do that without grabbing?
Most impressive: Zeke Lau deserves a mention for sure; he looked so comfortable at Bells. I’m giving this award to Caio though, as I was thoroughly impressed by his surfing and I hadn’t taken him as seriously as he deserved before this event. Anyone who has a 3-1 record against John John in the past 14 months deserves some kind of kudos.
For now, we’re done. We have a couple of weeks until the Brazil contest, so we’ll crunch the numbers and get them out soon.
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