Toledo makes it two in a row on home turf.
A rejuvenated Jordy Smith has undeniably rediscovered his gift of flight but against an in form Filipe Toledo at home he was always going to be up against it.
As the Sunday crowd descended on Barrinah, the beach was no longer a fixed piece of geography instead it became a swaying, cheering strip of humanity.
Poor Jordy would have felt like the undercard at a major rock concert. They may as well have been cheering for him to get off the stage so that Filipe could put on his show. It was as if the roaring crowd’s collective exhale created the perfect updraft for Filipe to float across the sky on.
Truth be told Toledo hasn’t really looked completely on song until this event. Yes, he dipped a rail to secure a second place at Bells and almost poached a win from John John but it wasn’t a commanding performance, not the kind of other-worldy display we have come to expect from Filipe, who admittedly sets a high bar for himself.
In Brazil everything about Toledo looked slick and dialled in, right down to his coloured boards, which add a little extra pop to an already dazzling aerial act.
For the final between Jordy and Filipe, Barrinah dished up three to four feet wedges, cute tubes and inviting ramps, however it was like watching a peregrine falcon (the fastest bird in the world) up against an albatross. The latter looks dramatic as it throws its wings wide and soars but it’s never going to match the falcon for speed and agility.
Toledo took control of the heat when a priority-wielding Jordy failed to catch a wave that he was sniffing out. In hindsight perhaps he would have been better off going just to block Filipe. In the end it was like feeding the enemy, and Jordy was left to watch Filipe turn the wedge into an a la carte three-course meal – neat tube entree, cloud-tickler straight air for the main and a delicate finner for desert. A 9.37 for the master chef who only had pretty basic raw ingredients to work with.
Martin Potter had hit the nail on the head earlier when identifying why Filipe is so dangerous is squashed up waves, which offer minimal manoeuvre opportunities. Filipe’s transition between turns is so fast that he can simply fit in more, major moves than the opposition. The 9.37 was a perfect example. He was still scoring good points with his final lip-gloss because he had time to attack the section. On a short wave he can do three moves of consequence or blow you away with one huge one if he really needs to. When he’s in a flow state that’s hard to beat.
Once Filipe posted a tail-slide inspired 8.67 Jordy was left with twenty long, lonely minutes in combo-land in front of a crowd that was already plotting their calls to the boss on Monday morning so that they could party well into Sunday night.
Despite the finals loss it was Jordy’s best result in a year where he has performed very consistently. (He also boasts two thirds and a fifth) At fourth on the Jeep leaderboard he is still well in contention for the title and as a two-time winner at J-bay the event presents him with a prime opportunity to make his move for the title. Curiously enough it’s Toledo who has won the last two J-bay events with his unorthodox air-focused approach and the glorious right point could also prove crucial in his attempt to secure an inaugural title.
What else is there to glean from the oft-maligned Brazil event, which somehow keeps turning out to be quite entertaining?
John’s John’s dicky knee has returned to haunt him, but his decision not to show for his quarter against Jordy almost played like a front-runner who feels like he needs to give his opponents a chance to play catch up. It’s not clear how bad his knee is but it was certainly the decision of a surfer who is confident in his ability to get big results for the remainder of the year.
A little bit of all of us was hoping that Kolohe might finally claim his first victory. However, while a few tips from room mate John John helped him eclipse Medina in the quarters he couldn’t maintain the momentum against Jordy in the semis.
Still, a win against Medina is a massive confidence boost for Kolohe who retains his number two slot and is surfing every bit like the surfer who can grind his way to a title. There may be a level of heightened brilliance that still eludes Kolohe in contests, but if his peers are not at their absolute best he has everything required to pounce.
Kanoa Igarashi re-enforces his rep as the tour’s biggest improver with a quarter-finals finish that puts him at number five on the Jeep leaderboard. It’s a meaningful result because it’s often hard to follow your wins or good results with another solid performance, as Italo Ferreira knows all too well. It’s difficult to see Kanoa as a contender just yet, but he seems somehow much less erratic than some of the surfers (Medina and Italo) who are definite world champion material.
Meanwhile, at roughly the half-way point of the tour, Julian Wilson’s chances of challenging for the title seem to be receding faster than his hairline. Although I missed the WA event, it seems we are yet to see a really outstanding performance from Jules this year – the kind that establishes him as a surfer who can inspire fear in his competitors and beat them before he paddles out. It will be a strange feeling if Australia does not have a genuine contender for the men’s title but it’s increasingly looking like a reality that fans from down under may have to accept.
The mood is better for the Australian camp on the women’s tour where Sally Fitzgibbons claimed a well-deserved victory over Carissa Moore, and the yellow jersey along the way. Fitzgibbons has obviously been working hard on her technique and it’s paying dividends. One single, frontside carve to rebound had the video team reaching for the rewind button and the commentators bubbling with superlatives. In the past such a move by Sal may not have inspired such an emotive response but now her improved form means she is scoring more points per manoeuvre rather than simply relying on longer or better waves. Sal has been in front before, while never deciphering the right alchemy to claim a title. It’s undeniable that she is doing her best surfing ever and has set up an intriguing race for the women’s world title. Steph for eight or Sal for her first title? It will be a tough call for Oz fans to make and of course there are plenty of players who can upset both of the green and gold painted scenarios.