It was supposed to be northerly and onshore for finals day. Instead groomed lines filtered into the Snapper lineup ensuring this would be no crapshoot road to the final. 

Parko v Wilko 

The defending champ v the Prince of Snapper. Wilko’s rapid fire backhand whips had Joel on the ropes from the opening exchange. His first wave came in at a 7.73 and it looked like 2016 all over again. When Parko dropped in to the best barrel of the morning from behind the rock it was a certain 10 point ride. But in a cruel twist of fate, Wilko had priority. The goofyfoot forced Joel to abandon ship and proceeded to blast it to smithereens. It came in at a 7.67, left Parko combo’d and the 2016 giant killer was well on his way. Needing an 8.83 Parko struggled to find any rhythm. Blowing priority on poor waves his rail-to-rail transitions were easy on the eye and textbook smooth but Wilko won surfing dirty and Joel was going home. 

Wilko's backhand was too much for Joel to overcome. Photo: WSL

Italo v John John

Italo opened up with his trademark helicopter reverse but failed to find a clean landing. Dusting himself off in the whitewater he had front row seats for John’s barrel, wearing a huge layback hack right on his famous biker mo. Florence finished with a tail high air reverse giving the judges something seriously good to digest. It came in at an 8.83 and looked to rattle the Brazilian. Italo uncharacteristically got suckered into some average waves, fell on floaters he’d do in his sleep and looked like a fighter one bunch away from from a knockout blow. Italo swung into a sidewinder and found his groove with a couple of punctuated lip hits to post a 6.50. With Florence’s lead under threat John found a back up 6.03 allowing coach Ross Williams to breathe a sigh of relief. Despite slashing and stabbing the lip like a knife wielding freak, Italo failed to ride out and that was all she wrote. The world champ now faces the defending event champ. “I think it’s going to be super fun. Matt has been surfing super well, I’m just going to go out and surf my best,” said a typically casual sounding John John after the win.

John John prevailed over the always exciting Italo. Photo: WSL

Owen v Connor

The vertical attack of Connor pitted against the loopy, round snaps of Owen Wright was always going to be big. Connor’s opening wave of a 3.17 displayed his fast twitch transitions and carving snaps. The heavy hitting Owen Wright patiently picked off a mid sized wedge and threw his whole frame into every hit. Dropping a 5.67 he put himself back into the lead. However, all the action went down in the final exchange. Needing just a 2.19 Owen looked nervous, his legs wobbling through his first couple of turns. As the wave grew so too did his confidence and he starting swinging the axe. O’Leary had found a sucky sidewinder and began belting it to a pulp. You could feel the emotion running high in both camps and when the score dropped and Owen got the nod there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. “Geez a heat like that is really hard on the nerves,” said a relieved Owen afterwards. Fate, the comeback trail, the script could be any more unimaginable 12 months ago for the Big O as he moves into the semifinals. “Right now I couldn’t be any happier. I’m wrapped.”

Owen's dream return continues. Photo: WSL

 Kelly v Medina

Fireworks! What a heat. It kicked off with Medina almost drawing interference as Slater backed a deep tube from behind the rock. Could Kelly have made it if there wasn’t that chandelier? No matter the heat was an absolute dogfight. Medina’s swooping windscreen wiper carves were once again rewarded by the judges. Posting 5s and 6s for some pretty good surfing but nothing extraordinary, with his busted knee he still looked 70 per cent. Slater starred. He showed his complete repertoire punching through the lip, flowing through transitions and delivering his trademark heavy carve. 

The almost interference. Photo: WSL

All the action was in the final exchange. Medina picked off a bomb, showered Slater with spray and wound up his rapid fire switchblade snap before floating through the inside and finishing off with a couple of vertical cracks and a chest beating claim. Medina required a 6.07 and easily had it mid way through the wave. 

While Medina did most of his work on the outside Slater saved his bag of tricks for the inside track. When Kelly took off you could feel this was a leap to your feet, hold your breath moment. Kelly accelerated through carves, put it on rail in and demonstrated why he’s the greatest of all time. But did he do enough? When both competitors found themselves shoulder to shoulder waiting for scores to drop, Kaipo crawling on them and a camera propped in their face it felt like it could go either way. It came in and Medina’s face said it all—he was surprised he got the score.

Kelly narrowly missed out after a last minute exchange. Photo: WSL

It feels that no matter what Kelly does he can’t get the momentum to swing his way. It’s disappointing to see him go out of this event. He looked to be building momentum and was destined to start his retirement year with a bang. Medina now takes his head to head tally against Kelly 6-2 in his favour. And each time he has gone on to win every event. 

Bring on the semis…