Filipe and the J-Team turn on at Trestles

Ah Trestles. Woken by the sound of rattling cobblestones and the resounding slap of Filipe Toledo’s board as it landed from yet another air. It was left to the velvet-toned delivery of Ronnie Blakey to create the context. “ It must be scary for Miguel out there. Filipe hasn’t even had a set yet and he’s already posted an 8.83.”

Miguel had good reason to be afraid. He was fighting for his spot on tour against an in form Filipe Toledo who was also fueled by world title ambitions. Migi and Filipe may be best friends, but Toledo wasn’t showing Miguel any mercy as he viciously swung the blade in their round three match up. At Trestles, Toledo is on the cusp of connecting dramatic aerials with aggressive rail turns without a hitch or hop in-between. If he starts to put together those kind of combos with complete fluency then he will be almost unstoppable. Quizzed by Rosie Hodge about what exactly he was aiming for in a heat, an upbeat Filipe delivered the kind of response surf fans love to hear, “I just want to go high.” 

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A scan of the other heat three duels suggests it’s the J-team ­– Jordy, Julain and John John who look the most potent. Each of their approaches to the wave in round three was markedly different. Jordy relied exclusively on his battle-axe carves to secure a dominant round three victory. Jordy may be the master of water displacement, but if the other surfers bring an aerial dimension, then he may need to flap his big wings.

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Meanwhile John John’s airs looked the most tweaked. John John knows how to ensure an air reverse always has another element that ensures it looks like more than just a stroll across a zebra crossing. The judges love the variation in angles he delivers. The key for John John will be maintaining the intensity on rail after he’s completed something dazzling in the air.

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Julian’s brand of muscular progression was on display against a typically sleek but underwhelming Ethan Ewing. Julian’s backside, tail-whip reverse has proved one of his most effective weapons. Being able to score big on the lefts gives him a distinct advantage, particularly if the rights get sleepy. For Julian, the challenge is to surf all out when it matters. If he’s matched against John John or Filipe, he will need inspired, video-part surfing to triumph. In the past he has had a tendency to surf too conservatively at the critical stage of an event. Trestles will certainly not tolerate such an approach.

Scrolling back through the results that had unfolded overnight Aus time, there was a reaction of shock and awe to the clash between Kanoa Igarashi and Mick Fanning, with Kanoa a clear winner.

Just as my mouse hovered over those little green dots on heat analyser, word came through from chief Perrow that there would be a heat re-surf. Post-heat, a wylie Mick Fanning had rightly pointed out that Kanoa had violated the new blocking rule. The blocking rule basically implies that if you hold the inside at the start of a heat, you have to make use of it when you paddle for a wave, and fully commit. Kanoa half-paddled, didn’t go and then scored a bomb on the next one. Watch closely and perhaps Mick was cunningly exploiting the new rule and catching Kanoa out. Maybe Mick could have watched Kanoa a little more closely and still taken the wave, but he certainly had a solid case.   

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While the nuances of the rule are up to the judges to interpret, the WSL have made a couple of things clear this year­ – they are willing to reverse a result after a heat (Toledo and Zeke Lau at Bells) and they are also not opposed to re-surfing a heat on the basis of a protest, or if they feel they’ve made an error. It’s a definite precedent and it will be interesting to see if more surfers lodge post-heat protests, based onMick’s successful campaign.

Meanwhile, as we wait for an official statement from the WSL about the future of the sport, the unfolding world title narrative increasingly points to Pipeline as the location where the champion will be determined in 2017. Based on the suggestion that the tour’s climactic event will be somewhere in Indo next year, it may very well be the last time we see a World Title battle go down on the North Shore. Surely the WSL will make an announcement in time to weave the ‘Historical Pipeline Showdown’ into their webcast spiel.     











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