The fallout from Portugal still needs to be settled.
The majority of talking points at Pipe have already been teased out. Gabby needs to finish a spot ahead of Italo to claim the title. Kelly needs to finish two rounds ahead of John to qualify for the Olympics. Kolohe needs hope, a prayer and the miracle of actually winning an event for once before he can even consider the prospect of becoming a world champion.
But there’s one particular scenario that hasn’t been touched on at any great length. Round of 16, heat five. Gabby vs Caio. A potentially unremarkable and one-sided match-up under normal circumstances, but given the events of that long-ago clash between the two in Portugal a couple of months back, it’s one that takes on special significance.
Just to recap: it’s the round of 16, heat 5 at the Meo Rip Curl Pro in Portugal and Gabby is treating Caio to a repeat performance of his humiliation of him at the King of the Groms in France a decade earlier. Seriously, Gabby is on a burn and poor old Caio can’t land a trick. But then, in one of those rare but not altogether unfamiliar moments from Gabby, he lets his hot-headed competitiveness get the better of him and blatantly fades Caio after failing to look at the priority disc. An interference is awarded and Caio emerges from the heat a winner despite being outsurfed on every conceivable scale.
Much hoo-ha follows. Gabby storms the judging tower. Gabby takes to Instagram and doesn’t let the well-documented truth get in the way of venting his frustrations. Some of Gabby’s many Instagram followers misinterpret Caio as somehow being at fault in the whole thing and proceed to turn up the keyboard heat on the poor fella.
In the wash-up, it seemed that what pissed Caio off the most was that Gabby didn’t step in and clarify that his opponent had done nothing malicious or wrong. He just let the dumb and misinformed hurl abuse at him while Jadson Andre and the like clambered to his defence.
Now, in the six or seven weeks since the debacle went down, Gabby and Caio may have sat down and had a man-to-man and sorted the whole thing out. Possibly they’re now best friends and are planning a ski trip to Whistler. But surf journalism not being the all-expenses-paid, all-access gig it once was, we’re no longer privy to those kind of behind the scenes scoops, and given that neither guy has posted any such olive branch moment on Instagram, I’m disinclined to believe it happened.
So I’m left to speculate. And what I’m speculating is this: Caio Ibelli, the comparatively less gifted and undervalued but nonetheless hardworking professional surfer, has had a long time to think about the injustice handed out to him by his more gifted and highly valued compatriot.
And the result?
Motherfucker wants revenge. Big time. At any cost. Pipe record be damned. World title be damned. Me and you, out the front. I’m going to teach you a lesson in respect.
Or so I’m hoping.
I guess we’ll find out soon.