My 5 year-old, who is only just starting to develop a passing interest in surfing, asked me the other day who my favourite surfer is. I realised that I couldn't answer. I offered that Slater was the best of all time (he knew that) and that John John - "that's a funny name" - was probably the best surfer in the world at the moment. I then mumbled something along the lines of Filipe being the most exciting to watch.
"What about Mick Fanning?"
Mick's a legend, I told him, and is definitely one of my favourites.
That satisfied him enough to move on to whatever he was doing next, but I realised that I hadn't answered his question.
A few days ago I wondered to myself, what with all of the Mick hype, how many more seasons Steph had in her. Surely she has nothing to prove; she's universally loved/respected and could easily make her living off-tour. She still seems fairly hungry though. I figured that, if she could just win one more title, she might mic-drop the whole tour and go out on top.
Maybe this is shaping up as the year?
For all the hype thrown at Griffin, how good is the other rookie sensation? A 5th and a 3rd in her first two contests is unheard of, especially at her age. I'm excited to see her at Margies.
John as had his worst start to the year since 2014, when he finished 25th and 13th at Snapper and Margies to start the season. He backed that up with a QF-or-better finish at 7 of the 9 remaining stops, including 3rds at Bells, Tahiti and Portugal, a runner up Trestles and a win in France. He finished 3rd in the world that year.
John's not being ruled out by anyone just yet, and rightly so; he's a better competitor now than he was then, and he's about the return to Margaret River in less than a week.
There has been so much written about Mick already that I feel I'm wasting your time rehashing too many details. He was solid without being great for most of the contest, and I was so happy that he was there for the final. We saw flashes of what made him such a consistently successful Bells surfer, but we also saw moments that proved just how perfect his timing is in choosing to retire. #cheersmick
I will add one more thing: What was with all of the obsession aound Mick's stickers? Who's using his black stickers for the event, and who gets to use them now that he's retired? Why did he switch to the search stickers? What do they mean to Mick? What does Mason think? My only question about the stickers was: who honestly gives a shit?
Oh, and if stickers are your thing and you want a Fantasy Surf Sessions sticker, just sign up on our landing page, and give me a polite request with your address details via the SS email.
He just can't leave himself out of things. He made a brief visit to the commentary booth during the event, taking the time to curse Mick with a 2nd place finish. Bastard.
Positive vibes and unwavering energy were his M.O., and they served him well when others were imploding around him. A 3rd will do wonders for his seeding, so maybe we'll get to see even more of Pat in the later rounds this season. I'm definitely OK with that.
Why do Filipe and Italo always have to meet so early in contests this year? They are two of the most exciting surfers on tour and it's crazy that one of them has to be eliminated by R3. Italo's ratings jump to =1st after Bells should allow both of them to demolish a few other surfers before locking horns in the quarters or later, which is definitely a good thing for surfing.
How good was he early on? I honestly thought he could be the one to defeat Mick, but it wasn't to be. He seemed to run our of juice in the quarters. I hope he can come back reinvigorated for WA.
Unlike Mick, he didn't lose with style. It was a narrow loss, which always smarts, but the onus was on Jordy to eliminate any doubt from the judges' minds by bringing his A game. Which he didn't. Instead, surfed a little safe and he whined: "The scale's really just all over the place. They tell you one thing and they judge another". Sure, it's the scale. Who knew that poor wave selection and falling on your final wave weren't what the judges were looking for?
Did you know that he rides for Piping Hot? I didn't even know that they were still around as a surf brand. I decided to look them up to see if they had any other team riders, only to find that Sally Fitz rides for them as well. How did I miss that? Obviously that sponsor marketing is doing wonders for my brand awareness.
Anyway, Wade showed us why so many surf commentators are quietly singing his praises. He buried rail like he meant it and eliminated the reigning champ at Bells.
Rodrigues, Hermes and February fell from their initial highs, while Mendes and Gudauskas found some form and got their first wins of the year. Yago is now the only rookie without a win in 2018, joining Asing, Gouveia, Ibelli and Duru in the winless club. Will any of them finish the season above Mick Fanning?
It was another lean year at Bells for the wildcards. Where was our 2018 Robbo?
There were so many heats where a quality surfer just fell apart when it mattered. Kolohe set the pace in R2, with an absolute mess of a heat against Bourez. Joel Mick and ADS followed suit the next day, handing their opponents the heat on a platter through poor wave selection and uncharacteristic falls. Then, both Wilko and Owen seemingly gave up against Fanning in R4 and the QF respectively.
There were a few questions being thrown around (mostly inspired by Jordy), that the 'new scale' was impacting performance. Like, asking surfers to be more progressive, critical or creative was suddenly a bad thing for the sport. Sean Doherty put it well when reviewing the R3/R4 carnage:
Jordy's loss was symptomatic of the whole event. It's been flat. Bum notes all round, tepid performances, and not even the emotional high tide of Mick Fanning's last event has been able to float this thing off the reef. The new crushed judging scale has seen barely a wave over eight ridden and we've been tripping out wondering if it's the waves, the scores, or the surfing itself that have been on the nose here this week.
Me thinks the latter.
BeachGrit's Longtom seemed to agree, with his always-on-point observations thus:
Italo dropped the hammer on Zeke Lau, rendering tactics irrelevant and, in demonstrating what pro surfing could be and should be in 2018, effectively passed brutal judgement on his peers and the CT so far this year. His damning indictment left the charge of mediocrity stamped on the foreheads of a majority of the Top 34. There’s been a continuing error parroted by surfers and commentators alike that the “criteria has changed” this year. The criteria is exactly the same. Judges have decreed that the levels of performance with respect to the criteria have to be much, much higher to get a good score. Effectively they have changed the answer to the question: “What is good surfing?” It is no longer the conservative muck dished up for far too much of the last 5 years.
If the criteria is rewarding surfing like that of Italo and Medina, while failing to celebrate safe turns and soft finishes, then I say it's doing a brilliant job. Griffin seems to like it as well.
By the Numbers
1 - number of event wins for Italo. Also his current rank on tour.
0 - number of head-to-head wins Gabriel has had over Italo in their careers (despite the fact that he beat him twice in non-elimination, 3-man heats at this event alone)
22 - event wins for Mick, the 4th highest of all time on the men's tour.
7 - Bells finals for Mick, a record
27 - event wins for Steph, putting her 2nd of all time behind Layne (28)
5 - surfers with 4 Bells titles (Mick, Slater, MR, Steph, Lisa Andersen)
8 - top seeded surfers to lose in R3 (66.67%)
5 - consecutive 13th place results for Jordy Smith (since Trestles 2017)
14.79 - highest AHS for the Bells event (Italo)
0 - number of heats won by Ian Gouveia at this event in 2 attempts
10.45 - JJF's AHS for 2018
15.85 – John's AHS in 2017
6 - days between the Bells final and the opening day of the Margies waiting period
Best wave: The way Italo demolished Zeke in the quarters was ruthless. His 8.83 may not have had the high-impact end manoeuvre of some of his other waves, but the flow between each of his turns, as well as the positioning and speed, made it my favourite wave.
Best heat: There were 5 waves surfed in total during the Filipe vs. Italo R3 heat, but it was still the most exciting battle of the event. It also served as a wake-up call for my interest in the contest.
Best Manoeuvre: Zeke's hassling of John? The chop-hop claims by Filipe and Italo in the early rounds? No, it's Italo's under-the-lip-to-projected-freefall re-entries that littered the event. Chose one of the many available.
Some of Mick's top turns were definitely in the running as well.
Most impressive: Italo beats Caroline Marks 'Occhilupo' by a nose.
Thanks for reading, the Margies data will start to drop in a few days!