The Aussies shine as a big North Swell swings through Sunset and Honolua Bay
The WSL was in octopus mode today as its various tentacles produced webcasts for the Vans World Cup at Sunset, the lululemeon Maui Pro and the World Longboarding Championships in Taiwan. Meanwhile, fans furiously skipped between screens to stay abreast of developments, with world titles in play and WCT qualification glory up for grabs.
At Sunset Australian hopes of better representation on the WCT were kept alive as Ethan Ewing, Stuart Kennedy, Jack Robinson, and Morgan Cibilic all advanced through their heats on a day when big North Swells cannon-balled through the Sunset lineup. Cibilic fearlessly attacked the lip on twelve footers and executed one giant frontside belt that echoed across the Pacific. In a spirited performance, which saw him eclipse Griffin Colapinto, Morgan finished a close second to Zeke Lau to keep his qualification dreams alive. Unfortunately another OZ, WCT hopeful, Liam O'Brien was a casualty in the same heat. Cibilic spent his early years in Angourie/Yamba before moving to Merewether in Newcastle. Despite the relocation south he stuck with shaper Will Webber (brother of Greg) who made his boards from a young age. The stocky natural footer has emerged as the WCT dark horse and will be a very popular qualifier if he can wrangle his way to a good result on finals day.
Stu Kennedy found himself matched against an inform Kelly Slater who claimed the spot left vacant when Gabriel Medina pulled out. As Slater destroyed his Sunset demons and roared to victory, Stu scratched his way to second with an 8.04 heat total. He’ll need more to nail a qualification spot on finals day, but in unruly Sunset conditions, he did enough to put a return to the WCT within reach.
Jack Robinson looked imperious as he gouged through meaty sections and speared through a deep barrel. He’s unquestionably a favourite for the event if he maintains his form. Every fan in surfing is screaming to see Jack on the WCT but the chorus of emotive internet proclamations mean nothing when matched against the cold finality of WQS point calculations. Jack will need to be at his best to surf his way through the eye of the WCT needle. Perhaps the biggest mistake Jack can make is to pay too much attention to those who are content to utter ‘You should be on tour mate.’
Ethan Ewing is another who has perhaps fallen victim to all that easy praise in the past and that’s why he finds himself fighting to regain a slot on the WCT. Ewing’s talent is indisputable and he glided to a second-place today with a typically polished performance. He is however vulnerable when someone decides to really attack, as we saw today when he was beaten in the final moments by a rampaging Wesley Dantas. Ewing’s surfing is celebrated for its perfect style and technique but it seems that sometimes he needs to sacrifice a little form just to get the job done. If Ewing secures the better waves he will be hard to beat, but he needs to be prepared to get through the next rounds anyone he can.
Over on Maui the same North Swell that was hurtling through Sunset in unruly fashion was bending glorious, horseshoe bowls into Honolua Bay. Tyler Wright decided to use her come-back as an opportunity to play dream slayer, ending Lakey Peterson’s world title chances and simultaneously knocking her off the Olympics perch. It was a bittersweet moment as Tyler’s valiant return from illness was celebrated while Lakey was left to reflect on another year where the world title had slipped from her grasp.
Coco Ho had the chance to gift the title to Carissa Moore when she came up against the only other remaining contender, Caroline Marks. Caroline’s backhand sliced through sections like a sharp scythe through cornfields, but when Coco maneuvered her diminutive frame beneath the arch of a majestic Honolua bowl it seemed she was in with a shot. However, after claiming the barrel she failed to complete the final move, prompting a rumbling Pottz to heavily criticize the premature celebration. Perhaps it would have made a difference but Marks continued to carve and dice her way through to a finals day that gives her the chance to be the youngest world champion ever. Caroline's victory over Coco Ho also guaranteed her a position in the Women's USA Olympic team.
Honolua’s bend-back bowls suit Caroline’s weaponized backhand while Carissa is indisputably one of the best forehand practitioners at the fabled right point. In the words of classic punk band The Johnnys, There’s gonna be a showdown.