Filipe’s high velocity direction-changes and Tatiana’s end-section valour prove the difference on finals day.
Filipe Toledo may have a reputation for being a frequent flyer, but sublime rail-turns and radical direction changes were the weapons he used to overwhelm Jordy Smith in the final of the Boost Mobile Margaret River Pro presented by Corona.
The final was a little like watching a Rhino and a cheetah take on an aquatic obstacle course. Jordy could stamp on the sections that got in his way but he couldn’t match Toledo for speed through turns. Toledo bent pliable limbs through zesty power-carves, marrying knifey, Sharp Eye rails to the water as he massacred stretched blue lines, and then attacked from different angles to throw tail-tweaked lip blasts. It was a masterful display of how to add variety to your surfing without going to the air. As Richie Lovett pointed out it was surfing that produced an emotional response. The sport may toss up an objective criteria, but if you make the fans and judges go ‘Wow!’ then the big scores typically follow.
Toledo’s performance was far removed from the gymnastic antics of Newcastle and Narrabeen and will restore faith in the judging system for lovers of a more classical surfing approach. There was also something of the hero’s journey in the victory, given Toledo surfed with courage and purpose on the opening big day, despite being notoriously uncomfortable in such conditions.
There are those who will complain about Margarets as a venue, but there is little doubt it tests the surfers like few other waves on tour and ensures that rail surfing continues to be celebrated at the elite level. If there ever is a replacement found then a venue that lends itself to barrels and big turns on six-ten foot sections will be tricky to find.
In the women’s final, Tatiana Weston-Webb continued on her upward trajectory and must now be considered a genuine world title contender. After consecutive finals appearances, she is now sitting at number two in the world and entrenched in the all-important top five. Tatiana’s main asset was again her ability to surf in the top tier of the wave. Where other surfers are doing safe down-carves, Tati’ is climbing higher and turning in more critical nooks. She arguably handled the horror end-section better than just about any surfer in both divisions. In the final, one-closeout snap saw her emerge from an impossible avalanche of white water to secure an all-important 7.33 backup. Steph composed a symphony of rail-carves for a late 8.13 in the final minutes, but by then Tatiana, who scored an 8.50 early, was too far out in front.
Steph’s victory over Carissa Moore in the semi-final may have sapped most of her energy, but it will serve her well as psychological ammunition in the future. If Steph does meet Carissa in a heat at Trestles (or a best of three surf-off) then it certainly helps to know you have beaten your opponent in a recent event.
As the commentators rightly pointed out, the top-five ‘Thriller at Trestles’ format gives both Jordy Smith and Filipe Toledo a good chance of claiming the world title that still eludes them. Both are currently inside the top five and both have won events at Trestles, however, Jordy may need to speed his surfing up a shade if he wants to match the likes of Toledo, Ferreira and Medina.
Once again, no Australian surfer made the final of the men’s division. That’s none from four in 2021. Meanwhile, Ryan Callinan is the highest placed Australian at number eight.
Callinan did some of the best surfing of the event, but as Toledo proved today, winning the contest is all about peaking at the right moment. As it stands, Ryan and Morgan Cibilic (ranked 11) are Australia’s best chance for securing a top-five finisher. Both have been doing the kind of surfing that warrants a top-five inclusion but will need to produce exceptional performances more often if they want to make the cut. Failing valiantly will not get you in the top five.
The circuit hops to Rottnest Island off Perth, a total unknown for almost every surfer on both tours. It’s going to be interesting to see who adapts best to the island’s lineups, which don’t seem to be ultra-predictable. Taj Burrow, Liam O’Brien, and Mikey Wright come in as wildcards. That will be sure to throw a cat amongst the Quokkas.