Yet another insipid display in France could have ended the Brazilian’s World Title tilt.
“If Filipe had made it through one more heat in France, and made it through to days when it was surfed in four foot runners that he has wet dreams about, the 19 year-old would be sitting well and truly in top spot,” I wrote for the Tracks Quik Pro France report back in 2015.
That is an opening sentence I could have written every year at the Quik Pro France every year since. Appropriately it is in France where Toledo provides surfing with an acute case of déjà vu.
The Brazilian traditionally came into the Europe leg either with the Jeep Leader Jersey (as he was last year) or otherwise sitting very close to the top, as he is now. The World Title is always well within his grasp and with two events in beachbreaks it is always imperative that he makes hay before heading to Pipeline.
Yet time and time again Toledo fails when it matters most. Now sure there are always a few mitigating factors. Today he was surfing through significant pain, and we could, and probably should, be celebrating his determination to be risking further injury in his quest for a World Title.
Yet in the dual heat format, with 40 minutes of opportunities against the ten-year QS veteran Wildcard Marc Lacomare, he failed to apply any real pressure. His fightback came all too late and without a whole lot of intent. Last year it was a similar story, all be it against an on fire Ryan Callinan, as his World Title aspirations yet again sunk into the shifting Hossegor sands.
“Its just not my day and I’m happy with all that happened,” he said after his loss today. Now that is admirable for its positivity, but surely isn’t the reaction that this string of results now deserves. His best ever result in France has been a Quarterfinal, and in some of his biggest World Title heats he has been knocked out the very early Rounds.
All the world’s best on the other hand have always made France a happy hunting ground. Medina’s record here is phenomenal, but Fanning, Parko, Slater and Irons all claimed this event multiple times. All were supremely talented, but also clutch surfers. When the pressure was on, and no matter what the French beachbreaks threw at them, they invariably delivered.
Medina today was perhaps the prime example. He had ridden 14 waves and was still trailing the wildcard Marco Mignot with three minutes to go. Yet on his 15th wave he turned the heat, and maybe his year, around. Toledo however showed none of that desire to bend a heat his own way.
Back in 2015 I finished that Tracks report by saying, “In the early heats in France Toledo’s weakness in waves of consequence (all be it unruly and borderline uncontestable) was highlighted again. It leaves a massive question mark over his world title legitimacy.”
Now 24, after yet another insipid display, that question mark is still hanging over this supremely gifted, and thoroughly likeable, surfer. Yet until he rises to the occasion at the pointy end of the season that question mark isn’t going anywhere. With Medina seemingly unstoppable and only Portugal and Pipe to go, today’s performance could have been the end of Toledo’s World Title run. I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen it all before.