John John denied the double and invites a triple threat.
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
On the whim of a Portuguese beach-break and the whip of a Kolohe Andino air reverse, Gabriel Medina, Julian Wilson and Jordy Smith have been resurrected in the world title race.
Meanwhile, John John Florence is left to lament his lackluster quarterfinal performance against captain America, Kolohe Andino. Someone once said be careful what you wish for. John John has always claimed he wanted to clinch a world title at his beloved Pipeline – now he will get his chance.
The rout started with the opening quarter final between Sebastian Zietz and Julian Wilson. Let’s be clear, Julian Wilson did not surf like a potential world champion. He surfed like a racing car driver with the handbrake on. A busted fin and a suspect back up board didn’t help, but at this level, in a world title context, he should be in synch with half a dozen boards.
Fortunately for Julian, the typically zesty Seabass was in a sleepy mood. Zietz couldn’t even make it around one last corner to secure a 2 and victory. If you were a conspiracy theorist you might have argued that Seabass had been paid off to keep the title race alive.
Julian crawled over the line with a performance that would have been lucky to get him through a decent heat at a local boardriders event, but as he indicated post-heat, you take your wins any way you can get them.
John John was never in the game against Kolohe in their quarterfinal match-up. In their youth, both were blonde wunderkinds, touted as potential champions. John John has obviously streaked ahead and you sense star-spangled Kolohe loves nothing more than slaying the number one guy who technically carries a US passport. Poor old Jon Pyzel looked like he was going to puke as he watched the genius on his boards capitulate. Strider talked about the Supertubes lip that blocked a barrel exit for John John being like a tomahawk to the head, but it was Kolohe who had done a hatchet job on JJ”s world title campaign. Somewhere, Jordy Smith was punching the sky between mouthfuls of biltong.
John John’s loss spilt the blood in the Supertubes line-up and other title contenders soon had the scent. Wilson found a better board and another gear as he burrowed and belted his way past Kolohe. At last he was surfing like someone worthy of surfing’s ultimate prize. Julian seemed to surf better when his opponent was pushing performance levels and locking in above average scores. Kolohe brought out the best in him for the day.
Medina is better equipped at winning dirty and did what was required against Kanoa Igarashi, whose overall performance in the event was exceptional, particularly given he came back from a round one horror show that featured a 0.5 heat total.
And so it was to the final that the majority of fans and the WSL commentary team wanted.
“It was the worst case scenario,” for John John, the team in the box told us. The two surfers who began the event with outside chances of a world title had suddenly become legitimate contenders, and now they were facing off in the final. There was little John John could do but shield his face behind the yellow jersey and pray for the kind of big, random Pipeline that only he knows how to read.
Suddenly Medina and Wilson also had something to lose and the nerves stymied their flow. Every scoring wave in the final was ridden within the last nine minutes. Both surfers came achingly close to pulling major aerial maneuvers, but Medina was pushing the envelope much harder and you sensed that on the law of averages eventually he was going to find the landing gear.
Julian’s standard technique of picking the better waves (his wave count was 9 to Gab’s 13) seemed to pay off when he found a cute backside barrel under priority with 4.40 on the clock. It handed him what appeared to be a healthy lead in the context of the time frame and a low scoring heat, and many watching probably felt it was enough to seal it. Maybe Julian did too.
However, Julian’s late 6.27 and seizing of the lead simply seemed to frame the scenario for Medina. It was now clear what he needed to do to win and with an aerial repertoire as extensive as his it was easy enough to manufacture the mid-range score he needed.
Pottz got all jazzed with Medina’s straight air loft and the judges delivered the necessary digits – 6.93. Moments later, with Pottz still frothing on old-school punts, maestro Medina swung through a tail-high spin that was the sort of thing Martin only dreamed about ‘back in the 80s.’
Medina’s two scoring waves were ridden within one minute of each other and both in the final two minutes of the heat. That’s a little scenario the other contenders might keep in mind if in fact the title is decided in small Pipe. Mick Fanning certainly hasn’t forgotten Medina’s controversial air-to-victory at Pipeline three years ago. That one set up the world title for Medina, would the judges give the score again?
Going into Pipe the possibilities are infinite. The wave can be a cavernous dream, a crumbling corner and a colossal wash through. Pipe is not a wave pool. It will be left to the vagaries of swell and sand (yes sand plays a big part at Pipe) to determine the mood for this four-way joust.
Wildcards – now that’s a whole other bunch of curve balls.
Fans can only hope for all kinds of intriguing duels to unfold, but as it stands there is a Hawaiian, an Australian a Brazilian and a South African in contention for the world title. The multinational flavor of the title quest certainly makes it look like surfing is in a good place and the battle for supremacy on the beach at Pipe is likely to be as lively as the one in the water.
As for the scenarios see below:
If John John gets first or second at Pipeline he wins the world title.
If John John Florence gets a third (semi-finals) Gabriel Medina needs to win the Pipe Masters to claim the world title.
If John John Florence gets a fifth (quarter-finals) Gabriel Medina still needs to win the Pipe Masters to claim the world title.
If John John Florence gets a ninth (round five exit) Gabriel Medina needs a second and Jordy Smith needs to win the Pipe Masters to claim the world title.
If John John gets 13th (round three exit) or 25th (round two exit) Gabriel Medina requires a fifth (quarters) and Jordy Smith needs a second and Julian Wilson needs a 1st.