With a south swell brewing in the San Diego waters, and the morning’s wind/tide combo looking favorable for a tube, my 5:30 alarm was set with a fervid anticipation. The only problem? Those same conditions applied to the wider Saquarema region, meaning previous recreational plans were usurped by an obligation to report on finals day in Brazil.
Opening the WSL app to see Gabriel Medina holding a pair of ones with seven minutes to go was strange. They were surfing the right again, which because of its fast and intense nature could be considered a recipe for feast-or-famine, but still, two ones for the steadiest surfer on Tour?
Wanting to get a feel for the day, I dove back into the Heat Analyzer to watch Quarterfinal 1.
Kolohe opened up with a five that’s only worth noting because he claimed it–flew straight out of the barrel and pointed to the judges like he’d just blown their calloused minds. I’m not typically one to claim shame, but considering this was the first real wave of the heat, that there were legitimate tens coming through the lineup, and that he was up against the most explosive surfer on Tour, Kolohe’s gesture felt out of place.
Of course, Filipe made him pay for it, threading a similarly scorable tube before cauterizing the wall with a vicious hack for 7.67 points. The small town neighbors proceeded to trade tubes and turns for the remainder of the heat, but Filipe never looked like losing.
Across the other heats, Julian took the W over M-Rod, Gabriel couldn’t recover against Wade, and Yago lost to Zeke in the final heat of the round.
The Chaos Tour.
Speaking of losing, does anybody want to win this season? The first four events have been all over the place in terms of placings, with John Florence and Jordy Smith holding a bunch of throwaways and guys at the top of the pack looking uneasy.
Heat scores are down dramatically this season, with not a single CTer averaging above 13 points (last year John won the title with 15.8). This can be partly attributed to Pritamo’s new scale, but we also must consider the inconsistency with which the world’s best have been surfing – even the steadiest guys have single-digit heats in their scoreline.
Perhaps most oddly, Julian Wilson sits at the top of the Jeep leaderboard without ever having looked like the surfer to beat. While this doesn’t necessarily feel like Jules’ year for a title, the numbers currently say otherwise, and the next three events fit him like a suede onesie.
The only real takeaway from the semis was that Filipe Toledo could not and would not lose this event. He dismantled Wilson with a series of tubes and punts, looking like he simply could not fall if his board was lathered in baby oil. This is surfing at its absolute pinnacle.
Brazil is best!
The waves at Barrinha are like Kirra with an added wedge and closeout section. Steep, hollow sections are met wet a side-offshore wind, urging surfers to nail the coveted tube-to-air combo, but more often than not a doggy-door exit is necessary to survive the brutal end bowl. Chris Cote called this the best Brazil event he’s ever seen, and who could argue? It’s been completely enjoyable to watch.
Brazil is… meh.
However, for the surfers, Brazil hasn’t been as pristine as the webcast makes it appear. Rumors have swirled about multiple competitors contracting a stomach bug, like John Florence, who was allegedly up all night puking before his Round 4 loss, and even Filipe Toledo, who suffered from an unsettled tummy the night before the final.
Wade the Consistent.
Wade Carmichael achieved a finals berth without ever scoring 14 points in a heat, which is impressive in its own way. Of all the spots on Tour one might expect Wade to succeed at, Brazil wasn’t exactly at the top of that list, but with this second place finish he’ll have a solid seed heading into Keramas – a venue that suits his surfing to a T. Of course with the way this season has been going, he’ll probably lose in Round 2 and have to watch from the sidelines as Michael February soul arches to victory.
Filipe Toledo has never lost a final.
Following his walkthrough win at the 2018 Oi Rio, Filipe is now 6/6 when he reaches the final round of competition in CT events. It appears that once his confidence levels are up, Filipe goes into a complete flow state, allowing him to outperform his competitors in a mindless yet aggressive fashion.
Following his walkthrough final, which featured a near-perfect 9.93 for a throaty inside tube, Filipe was asked how he’s been able to keep his 100 percent win rate alive.
“It’s just the last heat.” Filipe said. “This is what I’m here for. This is my passion. It’s either you win or you get second, so you might as well just go for it, you know?”
Growing teary-eyed, Filipe continued.
“It’s so special to do this in Brazil. This is our people, this is our energy,” he said, pointing to the raucous crowd. “It’s very emotional. Especially with my boy Koa coming into the world.”
Before flying over to Brazil, Filipe and his wife Amanda induced the labor of their second child, and first son, Koa Toledo.
Filipe will return home $100,000 richer and less than 2,000 points behind the Jeep leader, Julian Wilson.
Seeing the shaky starts for both Gabby and John, and heading to Keramas next, Filipe should be feeling great about his chances on the 2018 Championship Tour.
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