Lady luck comes to town in the shifting shorepound of La Graviere.
Big, short, fast and hollow. If you were lucky. Otherwise it was big, short, fast and closing out. The difference was victory.
It would be hard to criticise any of the surfers eliminated today, because there was such a big luck factor involved. There were plenty of waves for everyone, and it became a simple case of being lucky enough to find the one wave that was going to stay open and allow for the required scores, or if you were unlucky, roll you through the gravel shorebreak.
Jordy snuck into one bomb that had an excellent score written all over it, but it wasn't a make, so more was needed. He went out and picked up a froth-monster, and pulled into a tight, compact little barrel that he transformed into a three-section dream ride for 7.33 points. Frederico Morais answered back with a massive, wide-open barrel, and not nearly deep or nearly as long as Jordy’s, it was awarded a 9.17 mainly for wave height alone.
However, 9.17 wasn't good enough without a backup score and Jordy stayed in the game.
Owen Wright couldn't buy a wave and was eliminated by Ezekiel Lau. While Filipe Toledo was demonstrably hindered by a sore back, and although he fought back valiantly, he bowed out to the dynamic wildcard, Frenchman Marc Lacomare.
The first real excitement came from the Wade Carmichael and Willian Cardosa heat. Despite Cardosa commanding the lead through most of the heat, Carmichael picked up a big open face and crushed it for the required score and advanced over the agitated Brazilian Panda. According to some Internet source, “ … the panda is often assumed to be docile, it has been known to attack humans, presumably out of irritation rather than aggression.” Cardosa didn't attack another person, but instead took out his surfboard, throwing it around a bit before mercilessly punching it in the face a few times, until the WSL cameraperson realised what he was actually filming, and quickly shut it down.
Gabriel Medina was ramping crazily all over the place and he looked totally unbeatable, but Wildcard Marco Mignot was not going to go down quietly. It was a real battle, and Marco was totally in the game until the siren sounded.
Needing a four range score with a couple of minutes left a wave entered the lineup and headed for Mignot, But Medina had priority and blocked Mignot. The priority judge switched priority over to Mignot, and he was in with a shout as the clock counted down, but no more waves came though. It was a decisive moment in the world title hunt. Medina dodged a bullet, and it might have been the moment that could have slowed down his world title surge.
Slater was the reason why half the people were down at the beach, and probably the reason why half the spectators tune in and watch the webcast, and his heat against Leo Fioravanti was one of the most exciting. There were a few good waves, one or two great rides, and then Leo sneaked into an absolute nugget of a barrel and slipped out for a great score of 8.33 and the lead. Kelly picked up a clutch barrel, rode it out cleanly and banged one reo, but he needed a 5.9 and it wasn’t enough. Leo was jubilant, having now beaten KS three out of three.
“I can’t believe it, I’m just realising what just happened“ said Leo. “Kelly is one of my idols and it's always a privilege to surf against him.”
As we were reeling from that moment, Yago Dora boomed into a massive alley-oop for a score of 7.67, and followed it by a huge backhand straight-air onto dry sand, and it was back to business without the GOAT.
Talking about a move onto sand, there were some silly calls from the judges I have to say. I am ok with the WSL judges, having sat at enough contests to know how hard they work, how thankless it is, and how the webcast angles often do not put many of the elements into context. One thing I thought today though, was the fact that they were calling moves and waves not complete, because the riders were landing on dry sand and bailing. There were a few times when surfers had successfully made their moves, the job was done, but they were forced to make unglamorous dismounts due to the sudden arrival of dry sand. These decisions didn't seem fair at times.
Very popular in this neck of the woods, the contest might be a little quieter now without Slater, but one thing we can be sure of is that there are loads of waves coming, the forecast has improved once again, and this event is going to finish with a bang.
Talking of a bang, the ladies climbed in and we finally managed to diffuse the weirdness that was the loss of Steph Gilmore in the elimination round. The waves were thumping and the girls were charging. Tatiana Weston Webb, Sally Fitzgibbons and Lakey Perterson went through to the quarterfinals, while Silvana Lima, Coco Ho and Paige Hareb joined Steph and dipped out of the contest.
Johanne Defay was one of the surfers on form, and she pulled into a solid right-hand nugget and cruised through a tight, fast barrel and some foam-ball riding to score 9 points and ice Brisa Hennessy.
But wait! There’s more!
She paddled out and in the first minute or so took off on a big thick wedging left, made the drop, grabbed her rail and rode her way into a ten-point ride! Best wave of the day, wave of the event so far, one of the best women’s rides of the year. It was all time. As the defending champion, Conlogue made her intentions clear. Just to make it explicitly clear, she pulled into a thick right hand wedge and got spat out, making for a heat total of 18.93.
Final word, rhetorical question, and it’s not a cheap shot, but jeez how much more exciting is a day like this, with wild unpredictable waves, as opposed to the Surf Ranch?