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Contest Wash-Up – Margies 2017

The West is Wild.

“I love surfing this break, and just going fast and doing big turns.”

And didn’t he just? You know: go fast, and do big turns. That’s exactly what John John did; and by gosh, he did it well. I don't remember those turns for a few years back, but we can expect to see more of them soon.

Is that too understated? Y’see, I’m trying to hold back, and be the lone voice of restraint amongst the streaming tide of hyperbole. But who am I kidding; he ripped. I’ll leave it to my favourite contest-wrap-up writer going around, Mr Sean Doherty to drop some praise:

“The drive and sublime release on his forehand hook was breathtaking. He essentially won this contest with one turn, but 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.”

I think that John may even have set a new paradigm for the tour surfer of 2017: work out what’s going to score (i.e. early big turns and safe finishers for Margs, backhand snaps (?) for Snapper), serve it up for the judges in the contest, and then get the unused/unappreciated parts of your repertoire out of your system and out to the masses via social media. Genius. John’s already mastered the contest/content mix as you’ve surely all seen via his lay-day wizardry from coach Ross Williams’ Instagram.

Now John has the yellow jersey and the highest contest AHS in working memory with 18.07.

I wonder what the judges will be looking for at Bells?


Owen Wright

Owen Wright continued to impress, and this time he was required to do so in waves of consequence. I remember feeling genuinely worried for him when he copped some heavy falls/waves at both NP and Main Break over the first few days. This concern was somewhat validated by Owen himself when he posted this on Instagram:

Owen Wright is as classy as they come, and I am seriously pulling for him to continue his success through the season. In the end, it was a fin that cost him a better result at Margies.


Sally Fitzgibbons

I know I’m referencing the same source twice, but Sean’s summary of Sal’s contest was so good, I don’t want to pretend like I can add more to the conversation. It was great to see her get back to form after her worst year on tour (8th in 2016), and she had to do it the hard way by beating all the big names on the way. This year’s tour is getting very interesting on the women’s side.

On a side note, how rubbish were the waves for the women’s final compared to the men’s? Surely they could have run both today…


The Title Race

There’s been no signs of a post-title slump from John (a la Medina / ADS), with the reigning champ achieving career-high results in the first two events. His surfing has been incendiary, both in and out of the contest jersey, and he’s really throwing down a statement this year.

Owen almost did a Wilko, with two very good results in the first two events. His best contest venues on tour are still yet to come, and he’s looking very sharp. Dare we believe so early…

Slater’s campaign hit a snag, with KP all but psyching him out by pulling an April Fools’ prank from under him in his R2 heat. The call was made to surf the Box, which suited Kelly just fine. Then, in classic WSL style, the uncalled the Box and the gents were sent out amongst the heaving Main Break leviathans. Kelly never adjusted, and got skunked as a result. He spoke insightfully about it in his post-heat interview, but he’ll need to be a lot more focussed amid the changes if he wants to make inroads to title consideration.

Kolohe’s  finished 4th last year. He’s 3rd right now and he’s looking even more hungry than ever. He’s surfing smart and, barring further JJF spectacles like we just saw, he could find himself in the mix.

Jordy has been solid, but needs a result before the Pacific leg if he wants to press. Bells?

Gabe already has a rare throw away, but could still bounce back. Same with Toledo and Joel.

Julian better pull his finger out soon if he doesn’t want to see another year of unfulfilled potential slip by…

At the other end, things are looking dire for both Josh Kerr and Wiggolly Dantas. Rookies Leo, Joan and Ethan are all winless as well. Ewing has the best 2017 AHS of theses 5 though, so maybe he can get some rhythm.

North Point

Any part of the contest involving NP was going to be hyped; fans, surfers, everyone was excited by the wave. It  also offered a shiny novelty for a tour that’s changed little in the past few years (moving the Rio contest to another Brazilian beachie doesn’t count). I know I was letting myself set some unfair expectations before the official call was made on day 1, and it was that exact commodity – raised expectations – that worked against the WSL. First they delayed, then they eventually ran. Unfortunately, the 3 surfers were waiting for their pick of maybe 3 good waves per heat. If only there was a little more west in the swell…


Those lay-days, as always, sucked the life out of the contest. I've said it several times before, but they need to trim things down a little in order to minimise the time it takes to finish as contest. The women's events are the worst; a surfer can achieve the following - lose, win, lose, win, lose - and will have still made the quarters, 9th place and more than $10,000. Surely there's some trimming available.

The whole 'wildlife' spectacle in the middle of Filipe vs. Kolohe was weird. It was the right call though.

Defending champ Seabass made a big R5 error in coming in to change boards and gifting Toledo priority. The control was handed to Filipe from that point on and Zietz was shut out until it was too late.

Barton Lynch just keeps proving me right; he's the best thing that the WSL commentary team have going for them at the moment. I'm glad to hear he'll be on the mic again at Bells. In other commentary news, Joe Turpel was notably thin on the ground at Margies. Anyone know why? Also, Surfline seem to have answered the 'Where's Rosy Hodge?' question at last.

Clubhouse Results

Congratulations to the following clubhouse champions:

Surf-Stats WSL group (overall) – The WSL fantasy site was doing strange things at time of publishing, but it looks like Coatesman got the honours. Solid team!

Surf-Stats FS group event –We have two FS clubhouses, one from last year and a new public one this year. Here are both results:

Public Clubhouse: ScottyWise @, with a solid 875.

Private Clubhouse (password SS): The Pressures, who at 981 points ranked 59th in the world. Well done indeed!

We will possibly consolidate these two clubhouses together, depending on numbers.


Best Possible Team

The numbers looked a bit funny on the WSL fantasy site straight after the contest, so I’m not sure if the leaderboard was correct. This 770.12 point team was not selected by any teams (it’s a massive WSL score, by the way), however 5 teams picked close teams to be equal first. The key was JJF, obviously, but Owen at 24%, along with Freestone and Bourez at 14% were the big ones many missed.

Worst Possible Team

Gabe missed the crop, it seems, but he was the 2nd worst Tier A option with  16.26 event total. Kerr and Wiggolly continue to do poorly.

Surf-Stats Projection Reflections

Surf Stats WSL

JJF and ADS did all the heavy lifting. Mick, Kelly, Joan, and Ewing failed. Flores and Wilson got a pass mark.

Surf-Stats FS

Mick, Kelly, Joan, and Ewing? Plus Gabe and Leo? Nat was great value, JJF brilliant. Jack was sitting on the bench!


Event awards

These winners are in the running to claim the overall SS awards at the end of the year:

Best wave: Florence went on a tear on day 4, with several worthy nominations available (see below). Let’s be fair though, nobody was going to steal this award from Seabass; his R1 thread-the-needle thaumaturgy was a thing of beauty The barrel even won Coastalwatch’s wave of the week, which - in case you weren’t familiar - is given to the best wave ridden by anyone, anywhere in the world, all week. You don’t often get that in a contest jersey. What was Pete Mel’s voice doing, btw?

Best heat: This was tough. JJF was sublime in most heats, but the best heat award needs to have both surfers ripping so that it can be a tight contest, and John didn’t have many of those. I think that QF between Kolohe and Jordy was the best non-JJF heat, and it was fairly close too, with Chloe getting what turned out to be the winning wave with less than 6 minutes left. There were several solid 6s and 7s that were throw-aways to keep it interesting as well.

Biggest disappointments: North Point let a lot of people down after the glorious build-up. It had an AHS of 7.18, which is the lowest in any round of any contest that I can remember for a long while. The April Fools’ Day prank of telling everyone we were on at the box, only to bump us back to Main Break after a half-hour hold sucked as well. As far as surfers go, Fanning was owned by 76%, so he burnt the most (and he lost by only 0.02 points).

Best Manoeuvre: John’s forehand gouge. Which one? Take your pick! If you had to pin me down, I’d have to give it to the freakish power-drift (is that a thing?) on his R4 9.74. It’s towards the end of this clip:

Most impressive: A tie. Owen for his ability to step up in the big stuff (and even take some heavy beatings), and Filipe for silencing his critics by doing the same damn thing.

For now, we’re done. We don’t have long at all before the Margaret River contest, so we’ll crunch the numbers and get them out soon.


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Balyn McDonald
Balyn grew up on the east coast of Australia, nourishing his passion for surfing through a diet of empty beach breaks, Taylor Steele VHS cassettes and poor amateur competition results. As one of the head writers/analysts for Surf-Stats, he is as comfortable tearing through spreadsheets as he is 6' left-handers.