During his incredible coverage, Sean Doherty was repeatedly mourning the loss of Pipe as the season finale. His premature nostalgia was flowing for a future tour that moves Pipe to February, and I know that he has the inside information as to what's coming, so I took his word as truth.
I see where he's coming from, too; I am definitely sceptical of the whole Mentawais season-summed-up-in-a-single-contest proposal, especially when it comes at the cost of Pipe. A title showdown at Pipeline in December has become synonymous with the tour's success.
The small truth that Sean avoided though is that we haven't seen much 'Pipe' at the Pipe Masters these past few years. The late-season Volcom QS event consistently gets better conditions for 'true' Pipe waves and surely that's one of the factors motivating the WSL to move it.
Another truth is that, yet again, the 2017 surfing world title was decided while the champion was on dry land. It was awkward and somewhat deflating, with the WSL live feed almost missing it completely. A single event with a dedicated final, a la Menawais, would solve this issue in one fell swoop. I just wonder if it's coming at a cost that is too much for the sport to bear.
The deserving champion.
John's key was consistency, with no 25ths all year and only two
throwaway 13ths, he didn't lose a single R1 heat. He got 3rd or higher for 6/11 events and his worst counted results were 5ths (3 of them). John also topped both the winning percentage (76%) and AHS (15.85) for the season. In 2018, John won't lose the title because he has failed to surf well, if he loses it, it will be because someone else has surfed even better.
Coming into Pipe, Medina hadn't lost since Trestles. Then he got dead last in (a high scoring) R1 heat. He bounced back by burying Dusty, but had to rely on the good will of the judges to put the final piece of punctuation on Kerr's career in R3. Gabriel lost again in R4, but bounced back again against Slater, comboing the champ early on before priority-slapping him with a barrel-ruining drop-in. In the end though, his inconsistent year was not enough to back up his 5th at Pipe.
Medina still has titles left in him, but he'll need to stay focused for more than just a European season if he wants to convert his potential.
Two times Pipe Master. How good does that sound?
Interestingly, Flores AHS was 3rd-best for the season, behind John and Gabriel. He just needs to convert it into more heat wins if he wants to be a genuine contender.
Does Kanoa’s 3rd place position him as the best surfer at Pipe? Hear me out:
He has, in his two years at the event, finished as 2nd and 3rd, with winning percentage of 69.23. In that time he has beaten Slater (x3), Jordy (x2), Julian, Owen, Italo, Leo, Connor O & Frederico. Kelly Slater is 0-3 against Kanoa at Pipe AND, after the 2017 event, now has a winning percentage of 69.04, placing him below Kanoa.
Sure, Kelly has 7 Pipe titles and 87 heat wins over 26 contests. And sure, Kanoa has 9 heat wins and no titles over two events, but don’t let the stats fool you, Igarashi is the new Pipe specialist.
He claimed his foot was at 65% and it definitely seemed that he was nursing it. But answer me this: wasn't the event so much richer as a result of his presence? Who else could have turned a R5 flogging into a social media firestorm? Who else could have shut Jordy down without leaving 2nd gear?
Slater is still fundamental to the success of pro surfing, regardless of his chance of a title.
The waves were 4-6' rights. What happened?
3rd at Pipe? He was owned by 3% of WSL players, and 9% on FS. His 11th-hour heroics earned him a place on tour in 2018 just above Pupo.
Jules definitely got some of the best waves of the contest. After his R1 stumble (Stu's only relevant part in the whole contest), he looked solid.
I'd love to see him surf a consistent year and be closer to the lead coming into Pipe next year, as I think he could do what was needed to get a result at Pipe when it mattered.
Is there a more exciting guy on tour? Italo was throwing Hail Mary airs all over the reef, keeping the punters guessing and his opponents shitting their pants.
Italo potentially requalified in what I believe to be a record 3 different ways this year: He finished top 22 on the CT, top 10 on the QS and he was definitely eligible for an injury wildcard if it was needed after missing 3 of the first four events. Has anyone ever done such a thing?
I think that the two wildcard spots for 2018 should have gone to Slater and "whoever the hell Italo chooses as it's his spot we're filling anyway". Maybe they did, and he chose Ian?
Ethan copped a lot of flack for not winning a single heat at the beginning of the year, but he didn't finish 25th once after the J-Bay event, with 5-straight 13ths to round-out the year. To put it in perspective, Leo also had 6x 25ths this season, where as Kerr had 7 and both Stu and Freestone had 8.
Ewing showed so much potential at times, has tons of respect from the other surfers on tour and he nearly beat John at Pipe (many say he did) to steal his title prospects. I can't wait to see him refocused and back on tour soon.
Kerr / Bede
Two quality Australian surfers who will most definitely be missed on tour.
Bede's comeback was eclipsed somewhat by Owen's amazing story, but his efforts have been no less incredible. He is a Pipe Master, Trestles winner and Rio champ. His classic style was a hallmark of the tour for years.
Kerr would have to be one of the most talented surfers to never win a CT event. He had it all, from small-wave progression to big wave prowess (he won a BWWT event at Todos), Kerr was a threat at any venue. He probably suffered from surfing too conservatively later in his career, but ripped regardless.
Griffin Colapinto won the Vans Triple Crown (the first Californian to do so), despite being eliminated in the trials and not surfing in the Pipe event. The points he earned by surfing the Pipe trials gave him just enough to hold out a rampaging Conner Coffin. Griffin is coming into 2018 hot; he's the top QS qualifier, the VTC champion and he's only 19. I wonder if he'll talk to Ethan Ewing...
Please, please, let Potz drop of the team for 2018.
There's been so much time and effort dedicated to this already, so I'll keep it short:
- Close heats are always going to seem unfair for one of the surfers. When it's that tight, subjective scoring is always going to seem unfair. Two of the 3 judges gave Ewing the winning score.
- Waves surfed in the final minute always seem more critical and intense than in any other situation. Should they be marked up though?
- Gabe was just as lucky to scrape through against Kerr as JJF was against Ewing. If the WSL were pushing any agenda at all, it was to keep the race interesting, not to gift John a title.
- Parko's 3.33 against Ian in the QF would have been a 7 at another venue on another day.
By the Numbers
154.09 - the WSL rule book article reference that Gabriel Medina was lucky to escape. Shall we read?
An interference can be called on a Surfer with Priority if, in the opinion of the Priority or Head Judge, the Surfer utilises their priority in an unsportsmanlike manner to intentionally block another surfer with lower or no Priority outside of the Primary Take-off Zone.
2 - John's titles. Tyler's titles. Flores' Pipe wins. Times John John has finished 2nd at Pipe. John's first names.
76 - percent of heats won by John John this season.
7 - the historical average placing for both Medina and Florence in the Pipe event (an exact tie). John's is after 8 events, Gabe's is after 6. Neither has won yet.
50 - points by which Connor O'Leary won the ROTY title over Frederico (29950 / 29900)
5/7 - 2017 rookies who will be on tour in 2018: Connor (13th), Frederico (14th), Joan (21st), Ian (23rd - wildcard) & Zeke (29th - qualified via QS). We lose Leo, and Ewing (for now).
6 - the number of new rookies on tour in 2018 (Griffin, Mendes, Carmichael, Yago, Hermas, Rodrigues).
11 - number of Brazilian surfers on the men's tour full-time next year (Aus = 8, USA = 6, Haw = 4, Fra = 2, & 1 each from PRT, ZAF, PYF)
1.5 - the AHS for Stu Kennedy at Pipe this year after scoring 1.5 in R1 and then withdrawing due to injury.
1 - number of heats won at Pipe by Wiggolly Dantas in 3 events.
0 - number of heats won by Filipe in his past 3 events. In fact, since Fiji, Toledo has only had 1st or 25th results.
1 – (that I can find) perfect 10s thrown out by the judges since the famous J-Bay 10-fest.
100 – percent happier Filipe will be to know that Fiji has been replaced by Keramas in 2018.
0 - number of heats won by trialists at Pipe in the past two years.
Here are the QS, Wildcard and replacement listings for the men's CT:
What can I say? The numbers were only passable, with middle-of-the-road rankings across the men's contests. That's what happens when you only look at numbers and ignore common sense or fail to take risks.
The stats were more successful in the women's contests though...
Congratulations to OliverYasbek in the FS private club, Mahos in the FS public club, and Gustavo in the WSL.
Best and Worst Teams
I promised that I'd bring this back, so I have:
We suggested John, Medina and Joel. Our numbers liked Flores and, though we missed it, didn't mind Gouveia either. Other suggested surfers Conner and Kelly were just outside the top 8.
Caio was the biggest surprise, which is why so few picked him. Kanoa is one to watch (see above).
I warned against many of these, including Jadson and Wiggolly for conditions, and Stu and Owen for form. Frederico and Filipe were the only surfers who had any popularity amongst players.
Best wave: If we're talking social media traction, it was Kelly 6.83 against Medina. Granted, it could have possibly been a 10 if Kelly had continued uninterrupted. If you're going for quality of surfing though, John's 8.73 to take out Gouveia had it all, including some deft foam negotiation and a buttery air reverse over the shallows.
Best heat: Slater vs. Gabe was entertaining, and others were tense, but the final was the winner. Sure, the tite had been decided, but it had an average wave score in the excellent range, plenty of significance for both surfers and it had a magnificent buzzer-beater moment for the winner. Watch it here.
Best Manoeuvre: Leo Fioravanti's 7.1 full-rotation in R3, H10 surprised even him (check the Heat Analyser). Italo and Gabe went for some monster airs, but neither stuck one big enough to challenge Leo. The biggest manoeuvre of the event goes to Gabe's priority play against Kelly. The WSL don't have the heat up on their replay videos, but you can watch the Heat Analyser as many times as you wish.
Most impressive: Ian G surprised, Italo was full of energy, Kanoa keeps winning heats, John John was almost flawless. however, the prize has to go to Flores this time; he was phenomenal in some of his behind-the-foamball efforts this event and he has now managed to do something twice that John is yet to achieve.
Thank you to all of our readers who have donated and read along this year. The generous donations have meant that the site has broken even so far as running an maintenance costs, which is all that I could ask. The rest I've done not for profit, but because I love it.
I sincerely hope that you'll follow me across to my new venture, as it's the sum of a lot of planning and hard work. It promises to be bigger, better and more rewarding for fantasy fans than any of the current games in existence.