There's this pervasive philosophy within pro surfing right now that, to win a world title, it's necessary to 'surf at 70%', but I call bullshit.
John John buried that approach at Margaret River. Filipe delivered the eulogy in South Africa.
Guys like Josh Kerr, Julian Wilson and Jack Freestone have each been mesmerised by the siren song of conservative heat surfing, only to be drowned by the waves of progress, passion or plain, dumb luck.
It was Jordy's turn to succumb. Jordy, who came on tour with so much promise, who undoubtedly possesses some of the most impressive wave-dancing abilities in modern surfing, fell to the poisonous lure of the conservative mindset.
Enter John and Medina. They danced, they weaved, they adjusted and - most importantly of all - they pushed themselves. Were we not entertained? I certainly was, which is saying a lot considering the ungodly hours at which I was forced to watch in Australia. Fellow surfers should take note.
Wasn't France the ultimate antidote to The Ranch event? With heat after varying heat of unpredictable conditions that challenged surfers to either adlib or die, it was nicely juxtaposed with the wave pool event a few weeks back. Italo nailed what was - hands-down - the best wave of R1, only to total 5.6 in R2. Parko proved my scepticism wrong by making the quarters, only to play passive voyeur to Medina's success while bobbing around out the back.
Hand-wringers who wore the digital sandwich board of surfing's impending doom post-surf-ranch were either eating their words at the sight of the still-beating heart of surfing's unpredictability or patting themselves on the back for having celebrated the virtues of the uncertain.
Where do you sit? Is unpredictability the spice of professional surfing life? Vive l'imprévisible?
The truth is, fantasy doesn't mix quite so well with the unreliable. In fact, the whole projected-values-based-on-previous-results is as conservative as it gets. France is certainly tough on a statistician, but not as tough as Nick Carroll is when pointing out our flaws:
The truth hurts. I fucking picked Medina though.
Let's look at the minutiae:
How good does he look right now? With Portugal and Pipe to go, he's surely the man to beat.
That said, he'd be the man to beat at any event given his form and composure. In fact, I was so surprised that he fell on two consecutive waves against Medina that I was forced to remind myself that he was human.
John's balance of refining the fundamentals while pushing progression seems to be the perfect blend for competitive success in 2017.
Medina is the King of France.
Like John, he knows how to balance fundamentals with the things that are just mental.
He beheaded John, overthrew Mick and stomped all over the plebs. He is right back into the title conversation now too. Could it be a John vs. Gabe Pipe shootout a la Kelly/Rob in 1995? Would Gabe be willing to high-5?
Rib injuries hurt like hell; he did well to surf two heats.
I did find it very strange that the WSL made no mention of his injury before the contest began. It would have helped a whole bunch of fantasy players.
While Filipe is the only surfer to have two event victories in 2017, his suspensions, injuries and inconsistencies have made him far from a contender at this point. Maybe he could go back-to-back at Portugal/Backdoor? Probably not.
Will he ever put a whole season together?
A lot was made of Mick's push to up the progression ante in his heats lately. I for one loved seeing it.
There are two main assumptions that I glean from this development:
- Mick is still hungry to win. He isn't satisfied to just slip quietly into retirement on the back of a few 17th place seasons.
- Mick isn't afraid to identify weaknesses in his surfing and make the necessary adjustments.
2017 could just be a transition year for Mick...
Is there a more well-tuned barrel-hound on tour?
The returning champ was just a footnote, with regular programming now resumed.
Threw some big names under the bus before succumbing himself. Completely neglected fantasy-wise.
How bizarre was the 3 x Steph vs. Carissa match-ups in one event? Carissa was ripping the whole time and she won the heat that mattered. Like Medina, 'Riss has snuck her way into title contention (see our tables below) and could definitely take her good form to Hawaii.
Nothing too crazy for this event. John managed one, which is rare. Most of them were driven by passion or emotion, rather than a thinly veiled attempt to push the judges.
Turpel was gone again. Pete was pretty good in his absence. I have been turning it down lately, to be honest. They can probably stop crediting Jack Freestone for Mick's airs though, sheesh.
Mick didn't actually beat Flores in R3, despite what the judges say.
Nat was very unlucky against Joel in R5 as well.
The judges' love for tens has seemingly waned, with several amazing rides missing the ultimate score.
By the Numbers
75 - John John's winning percentage for the season. Crazy.
0 - the number of R2 heats John has had to surf this year
17.81 - John's AHS for the QuikPro France (the next highest was Medina with 15.63)
2.07 - the score given to John's last wave against Medina in the SF, which was the biggest low-ball I've seen. Go back, watch it and tell me I'm wrong
1.2 - Parko's heat total in his QF against Medina (that was with 2 scoring waves as well)
+5 – places Gabriel Medina moved in the world title rankings after his win
94.44 - Medina's winning percentage in France over the past 3 years (17 wins in 18 heats, finishing 1st, 2nd, 1st)
0 - number of heats won by Wiggolly Dantas in his 3 x QuikPro France contests
0 – perfect 10s thrown out by the judges (despite some worthy contenders)
8 – surfers who have won an event in the past 9 contests (it's the same on the women's tour).
0 – percentage of WSL fantasy players who owned Marc Lacomare (rounded to nearest %)
11 - percentage of WSL fantasy players who owned Jesse Mendes (he was never confirmed to be in the contest)
20 - number of heats run on day 2 (R2, H9 through to R4, H4)
3 - number of days required to run the full event (equalling the record set at Tahiti)
We promised some tables here, so see below for the men's and women's adjusted rankings. I have, for argument's sake, taken the two lowest scores from each title race (the women have already dropped their worst result after France) to see how things look heading towards the pointy end of the season. I have also added some projected high scores for the women so that you can play around with world title scenarios.
|Surfer||Points||Ranking||Lowest score||2nd Lowest score||Adjusted points||Adjusted ranking||Ranking Change|
|John John Florence||49900||1||1750||1750||46400||1||0|
|Adriano de Souza||36600||7||1750||1750||33100||8||-1|
|Surfer||Points||Ranking||2nd Low Score||Adj. points||Adj. ranking||Change||If 13th||If 9th||If 5th||If 3rd||If 2nd||If 1st|
|Nikki Van Dijk||42000||8||1750||40250||8||0||42000||43550||45450||46750||48250||50250|
The deadlines are too tight to chase these results for this event, but a well-deserved shout-out goes to our mate (or should I say 'rival'?) Francisco over at FST for winning the whole shebang in the WSL game. He runs a few different projection models simultaneously to test for success criteria, and his v.5 team was the best in the world. Well done!
Best wave: John's backside air. Italo's was buttery, but John's was more critical (and just as smooth).
Best heat: Gabe vs. John (semifinal) was significant for the title/rivalry, but John wasn't fully on his game; there were too many falls to make it a highlight. John vs. Mick in the Quarters was my pick just because it rammed home the widening gap between the two key generations on tour. And because John was en fuego.
Biggest disappointment: Filipe's injury-riddled performance was pretty disappointing. Jordy and Julian were pretty ordinary too.
Best Manoeuvre: See best wave.
Most impressive: Pupo and Lacomare deserve praise, as do Gouveia and Nat for either making heats, causing upsets or surfing well beyond their anticipated AHS averages. John was the most impressive though, and it took a few uncharacteristic falls and a France specialist in Medina to narrowly beat him.
The Portugal stats are basically ready, I'm just waiting for confirmation of the wildcards.
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