Filipe Toledo is untouchable amidst the rookie onslaught

by stab March 14, 2016 3 min read

Today, Filipe Toledo firmed himself as the favourite to take out back to back Quiksilver Pros following a scintillating round three performance. Though, it was rookie Conner Coffin’s last second heroics that set the tone for a rookie onslaught in the early morning heats.

Up against Brazilian standout and 2015 Rookie Of The Year, Italo Ferreira, both surfers struggled for waves early. Conner up on a short-length runner at the 10-minute mark, driving hard off the bottom into his signature power gaff on his way to a layback closeout hit.

“I felt like the wave I surfed the best was my (opening) 6.67 with the layback at the end,” he said. “I made it but maybe fell at the end a little so maybe they nicked me for it for not riding out super cleanly.”

Italo answered, pegging a vertical hit in the pocket straight into a daring floater, and a series of tags down for a 7.83. The Brazilian won the battle of the back up scores, leaving Conner requiring something solid with less than 30 seconds on the clock. He shook of the nerves, dropping a series of heavy slashes, gaffs and a pointed layback jam on the long, wobbly runner for a 7.83 and a memorable win.

“There was only 20 seconds left so I knew I had to ride that one,” he said. “At first I was like, this wave is insane, I did a first wrap and I looked up and the wall was like meehhhh, dang it! I just tried to do what I could on it. I fell on the last turn on my wave yesterday and there was no way I was gonna do that again.”

If anything he enjoys the pressure situations, he said:

“I felt good (paddling into it). I was probably the most ‘in the moment’ on that wave of any wave in the whole heat. It was a tricky wave to ride, so I didn’t feel like I surfed it really well. It was just washy and bouncy and fat and I was just trying to connect the dots without screwing it up.”

Conner 3 Kirstin

WSL/Kirstin

“In those situations it can so easily go flat. But if you get the wave the worst thing you can do in my opinion is be all freaked out about it because that wave could easily not have come and you would’ve never had a chance. So when I get those last minute chances I’m like, alright, cool, if I don’t surf this wave as well as I can I’m not gonna get the score anyway, so it eliminates any negativity. You just wanna surf the wave well.”

The Santa Barbara native has worked hard over the offseason to iron out the kinks, both mental, technical and equipment-wise. Conner almost gave competitive surfing away in 2014 following a poor run of results on the notoriously gruelling WQS. He’s since re-enlisted the help of mentor and former World Tour surfer, Brad Gerlach, also spending the off-season working intimately with his shaper at nearby Channel Islands, testing the refinements on a bumper winter swell season at Rincon (one of California’s best right points).

“I’ve been working on (clearing my head) in life in general for the last couple of years,” he said.

“I’m just so stoked to be here and the whole experience of this, being 22 and being a pro surfer, it doesn’t get any better. You just wanna enjoy it all the time, win, lose or draw. If you’re not enjoying it why the fuck are you here?” he laughed.

Fellow rookie Caio Ibelli triumphed over tour veteran, Josh Kerr. But it was Filipe Toledo who wowed the crowds. Having added weight over the off-season he is close to untouchable in rippable Snapper conditions. He racked up the highest heat total of the early morning heats, a 16.6, comprised exclusively of rail surfing. His high score of 8.77 opened with a lightning layback hack and a series of hooks and carves, all performed with incredible speed, rhythm, and body positioning.

“I’m just trying to surf smart, use priority, and surf the waves I need to make heats,” he said.

“Yesterday was a big day. The rookies are pretty impressive. Conner is surfing so good, all the boys still in it are really dangerous. So I’m just trying to focus on my surfing and doing what I have to do against those guys.”

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