The new guard have finally signalled their arrival.
Six of the eight finalists are under 30 at Margies. Leaving Adriano de Souza and Michel Bourez, the outliers. Today round 5 whittled down the final eight in significantly smaller, but definitely exciting, Mainbreak.
The major upset was the loss of Julian Wilson from the event. I don’t really know how to defend Julian’s performance. He lost to the heavyfoot hacks of Michel Bourez. The former event winner dropped hammers and surfed way more aggressively than the Aussie.
Jules has enjoyed the whole buffet of pro surf stardom. He’s been paid handsomely by sponsors since youth, recently married his dream girl, and is arguably one of the most technical and talented surfers on tour. He’s forever been touted as a future world champ.
His exit before the quarters leaves the door wide open for Kolohe and Jordy—two other surfers’ prophesied as “future world champs”. Both remain in the draw after today. Meanwhile, Jules is walking the tightrope of becoming Australia’s next Taj Burrow or Luke Egan. It begs the question, ‘When you have everything, does a title really matter?’ Hopefully this loss stings enough to provide the ammo he needs to turn it around and go all the way.
Jack Freestone is doing the best surfing of his career at this event. The difference between this year and last is like night and day. He looks comfortable, like he’s found himself or on some outwardly, spiritual journey. Conner wasn’t a chance against his big powerful wraps. He towelled up the Californian without breaking a sweat.
Seabass was the headline act against Toledo. The defending event champ has been on a tear, dropping 10s and revelling in the Sunset-like conditions. Today he let the Brazilian get off to an early start and seemed to clamp up. The judging was slightly questionable. I thought Sebass’ 6.33 was better than Toledo’s 6.93. The Brazilian’s two-move combo 8.50 also felt a tad high. No matter. The win signals Toledo is back in the title race. He muscled up in the big juice yesterday and got past the pressure cooker heat of today.
Jordy came out swinging and absolutely attacked Jeremy Flores. I was critical of the South African’s performance yesterday, mostly for his lacklustre effort at big Mainbreak. Today, he blew the critics out of the water and took an axe to every lip. His 9.00 rained buckets over Strider and despite not riding out of his 7.83 the damage was done and Flores was going home.
With Owen looking to write another chapter in his fairy-tale comeback, Filipe firing, Jordy and Kolohe back in the business end of the draw the new guard has finally arrived. All that stands in their way is a guy called John John Florence—the guy with the world title they all want. Finals day will reveal the contenders from the pretenders.
With a dying swell it looks like the event will go on hold for a couple of days. The finals won’t go down at The Box—it’ll be Mainbreak all the way. Despite questions of Margaret River’s legitimacy as a CT event it’s undeniable that it reveals the most versatile surfer on tour. Should the rumours of it being replaced by a KS wave pool event come true it will be a shame to lose it for good.
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Men’s Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Jack Freestone (AUS) 14.33 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 7.70
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.44 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.20
Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.43 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.33
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.83 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.66
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Men’s Quarterfinal Match-Ups:
QF 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
QF 2: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
QF 3: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Filipe Toledo (BRA)
QF 4: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)