Fil negotiates the funnels while Julian Wilson hits a speed hump.
It wasn’t thunderclap, Hail Mary, scream for mum kind of Teahupoo, but one can’t dispute that the Jeep leaderboard number one, Filipe Toledo, put on a commanding display in his round one heat against Yago Dora and Tikanui Smith.
Waiting for his heat to start, Toledo watched his chief, world title rival, Julian Wilson, lose his own round one encounter. Wilson’s capitulation likely filled Filipe’s nostrils with the scent of blood and when the hooter sounded he quickly morphed into a salivating tube hound.
In 2015, Toledo infamously failed to catch a single wave at Teahupoo, in his round one heat against Italo Ferreira. There was no such draft dodging this morning, as Filipe took control of the heat with two seamless backside tube rides in quick succession. Toledo looked like a meerkat that knows every inch of their underground tunnel system as he confidently controlled the heat. Commenting on Toledo’s precision in one particular barrel, the engaging Barton Lynch suggested, “His positioning was perfect. If he was six inches back he was too deep and if he was six inches wider he wasn’t deep enough.”
In a swaggering display of how much more confident he has become at his bogey wave, Toledo emerged from a third, bigger barrel and nonchalantly looked back into the sizeable chasm from which he had just emerged.
For Toledo the victory and 15.50 heat total validated his decision to dismiss the US Open and head to Teahupoo early. His Instagram feed is now spiced with video and photographic imagery, which suggests he has lifted his game at the intimidating left.
While Toledo is undeniably a big improver, is he equipped for eight to ten foot, bone-rattling Teahupoo? Perhaps it won’t matter, as at present the forecast does not suggest we will see Chopes at its fearsome best.
While it would be compelling to see Toledo put to the test in heaving Chopes, his focus is on earning invaluable points for his world title quest. If Filipe conjures a keeper result and Wilson, the incumbent champion, fails to capitalise on his strengths then it will go down as one of pro surfing’s greatest ever steals.