Tracks To The Title

Filipe Toledo won the Oi Rio Pro, and he won it with possibly the best small wave performance ever seen in professional surfing. The superlatives flowed freely: the best airs in a contest, the highest airs in a contest, the best contest performance, the most progressive surfing, the wildest crowd, the biggest crowd, and biggest surf event ever. An athlete who has literally changed the way we watch surfing. Filipe deserved every one of these superlatives, turning shit close-out beachbreaks into the biggest airs of the day with the agility of an Olympic gymnast. At the age of 20, Filipe has the world ahead of him.

Filipe vs Italo

It took only a few seconds in the first semi for Filipe Toledo to put Italo Ferreira on the ropes, busting out a huge forehand full rotation, disappearing in an avalanche of whitewater, to emerge unscathed to the absolute roar from the mad crowd. First score on the board was a massive 8.93. Just a minute or so later, Italo with priority, gave a good-looking left to Filipe, and he took it apart with almost desperate speed and agility, and his back-up score was a straight 7, giving him a total of 15.93 with 24 minutes to go, and with Italo yet to get onto the scoreboard. Filipe seemed to have improved overnight, and it looked like a new world champion was fast emerging. “People are shocked at what Filipe has been doing,” said Pottz. Italo ended up combo’d, needing 15.94, but no will leave Rio with his head held high as the best-placed rookie that slayed some giants along the way.

Bede vs Wilko

Bede diligently worked his way to the final with a series of strong backhand turns that can only be described as standard in relation to the aerial antics that have been happening throughout the event. He surfed smooth, he carved, he didn’t fumble and he didn’t fall. His first two waves were small, clean-faced left-handers, and Bede scored a 6.33 and a 6.73 for his three turns apiece. Then he found a nice right-hander and boosted into the air for a rare rotation for a 7.10, followed up quickly by another clean lefthander that he cracked three times for a 7.53. Matty Wilkinson was in an unfortunate position of not being able to find a single wave with some wall on it, catching frustrating close-out after close-out and not finding many opportunities to do some big hits all the way through the final siren.

The Final

Filipe opened up on the siren with a smooth and fast left-hander, cracking it off the top twice before failing on a reverse for a 4.50. The screaming crowd reached new heights, with one over amped spectator nearly managing to reach out to Filipe on the inside. They had no idea what was coming.

He quickly backed it up with a 6.17. Bede followed back with a good rotation of his own for a 7.6, but it was short-lived, as Filipe took off on a set wave, went flying through the air for the biggest and cleanest and highest air rotation of the event into the flats for a perfect 10-point ride, and a creased board. Bede was in trouble, as Filipe headed for the possibly the biggest breakthrough performance in the history of the sport.

Filipe picked up a second scoring ride, that was a series of fast and radical turns with perfect transitions, with his high-speed flow and rail surfing, for a back up score of 8.33. “Filipe is breaking the mold as we speak,” said Joey Turpel.”

“Agreed,” said Pottz, “You couldn’t mind-surf a wave better.”

Filipe followed up with another crazy air reverse, and an 8.53, to unbelievably improve his score. It wasn’t over. He picked up another shitty wave, busted into another full rotation air for his legitimate back-up score of 9.87, and it was all over bar the shouting. And the shouting didn’t stop.

“Look at the crowd,” said Filipe as he was interviewed by Rosy in the water. “I’ve never seen something like that before. I really need to be grateful for everything God has given me in my life.”

The crowd was so manic, so loud and so wild, that Filipe couldn’t find a way to the beach at the end of the final. He tried once, but retreated back to the safety of the jetski. When he tried again, Woody had his hands full keeping off the manic crowd. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Ross Williams.

After what was possibly the best small wave performance in surfing history, Filipe was emotional to the end. “My dream was to win this contest here in year on my opening year that I qualify, so I am really stoked to win.”

Standing on the podium in front of a crazy wild-eyed crowd, Filipe spoke calmly “It’s more emotional than the world cup. I have to thanks all the support from the beach from the crowds from my family and friends.”

Going into the next leg of the tour, Fiji/JBay/Teahupoo, it will be interesting to see if the Brazilian Storm keeps going strong. The history books will show otherwise, but the history books are busy being rewritten as we speak.

Disappointment of the Event

We all expected more from Gabriel Medina, and he crumbled in front of his home crowd. To be fair, his walk to the water’s edge in his round 3 heat against Hawaiian Keanu Asing did look pretty harrowing, with animated fans wanting every part of him, and a posse of security guards and police working hard to keep them at bay. It must have had his heart pounding. Still Keanu had a similar run to get to the water, and he showed absolute confidence in their heat. Gabby didn’t have that magic, fell on a few waves in which he seemed to be maybe trying to hard, and after a flurry of waves towards the end, he couldn’t string together a combination of moves the judges want to see so much. Still, he faced the cameras bravely after his loss, and spoke briefly about the disappointment before talking about the upcoming Fiji event, of which he is a defending champion. He probably needs to win this one to stay in any sort of contention.

The Rookie Blitz

We would like to talk about Filipe Toledo, but has already had so many moments and column space that we decided to give some love a bit further. The rookies were the stand outs in the event, pretty much, with Ricardo Christie making it to the quarters, and Italo Ferriera making it to the semis, Wiggolly Dantes being beaten by a rampant Toledo in round 3, Matt Banting knocking Kelly Slater out of the event and Keanu Asing having an absolute belter of a heat by beating the current world champion Gabby Medina in front of a fervent 20,000 strong Brazilian crowd. In comparison to last years rookies Mitch crews and Dion Atkinson, both nice guys and maybe too nice as they both disappeared off the face of the earth with barely a whimper, the current stock of rookies look like they are going to properly shake shit up, as rookies are supposed to do.

Defining Moment

Kelly’s two barrels in the opening round of the event. A 9.5 and a 9.77 showed the world why he is the 11 times world champion. Give him some real waves with serious juice or a challenging, hollow section, and he has the best skills in the world. Last year he had the wave of the event with the below sea level left tube, and these two waves were arguably the waves of this year’s event. However the defining moment was Kelly’s loss to rookie Matt Banting in the third round with a heat total of 6.70. Without wishing to detract from Banting’s performance it was ultimately a lackluster heat, with Kelly paddling a fair bit against a rip for no wave to come to him. One can’t help but think that Kelly doesn’t have too many 3-foot and onshore beachbreak losses left in him. He might have taken the loss like a champ, as he does, but if one was looking for it one might have noticed a slight dampening of the spark in his crazy eyes. Let’s hope that a dismal heat in an event in Rio isn’t the watershed moment that we are all hoping doesn’t happen too soon. With Filipe’s breakthrough performance, Kelly must be thinking about his future and that the future of the sport is in pretty good hands.

Quantum Leap

While Keanu Asing blew away the world champ with confident surfing, including a massive and flawless alley oop, it was Italo Ferriera who, as part of the Brazilian Storm impressed the most with his confident surfing, and huge air moves. His backhand full rote in the third round against Nat Young was one of the best moves of the event, and his final result of was the most impressive rookie results in recent history, comboing John John in round 5 along the way. He lost decisively to Filipe in the first semi-final, but showed what he can do, and has a rosy future on the Championship Tour.

What They Said

“It’s like the Thunderdome down there.” Ross Williams commentating on a crowd gone mad.

“Bede has been surfing a lot more funky this year,” Ross Williams after watching Bede pull off a decent forehand rotation.

“It almost feels cartoonish watching Filipe surfing. He’s like a remote-controlled surfer.” Joey Turpel muses about Filipe’s form.

Watch Heat Analyser here.

Oi Rio Pro Men’s Pro Semifinal Results:

SF 1: Filipe Toledo 15.93  (BRA) def. Italo Ferreira 6.34 (BRA)

SF 2: Bede Durbidge 14.63 (AUS) def. Matt Wilkinson 8.23 (AUS)

Oi Rio Pro Men’s Pro Final Results:

Final: Filipe Toledo 19.87 (BRA) def. Bede Durbidge 14.70 (AUS)