Filipe Toledo looks like a mini Michel Bourez at this year’s Quiksilver Pro. He’s winning heats on rail and hasn’t yet gone to the air. The stick-figure flyweight we met in 2013 has undergone a complete transformation. When he jogs past spectators in his lime-splice boardies he looks like one mean, green, machine.
But let’s wind it back a second. Do you remember Filipe Toledo losing to tour Rookie Mitch Crews in round two at the 2014 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast? I bet you don’t! You had probably never even heard of the Brazilian jumping bean.
Filipe only managed a heat total of 7.83 back then and I remember seeing him in the apartment block afterwards absolutely distraught, seeking counsel from family.
Now, fast-forward to 2015 and he wins the event. Then goes and wins Rio, Portugal and starts knocking on the door of a world title. Tell me that hard work doesn’t pay off?
This morning he put together a clinical performance defeating Newcastle’s Ryan Callinan in the opening heat of the day. Nothing flashy, just taking apart chunky Snapper walls that wobbled down the point with surgical precision. But those turns… they were big – man turns, every one of ‘em. He’s surfing a little bit like Mick, a little bit like Bourez and still has his patented aerial act hidden up his sleeve.
So, just three rounds in to the Quik Pro, can you see anyone beating him in the final?
There’s only one other guy left in the draw that might. John John Florence – the Hawaiian wunderkind. And he has been going to the air. Maybe it’s instinctive but he couldn’t help himself against Tahitian Michel Bourez. Despite the acrobatics, he’s come into this year’s event with a more conservative approach. He’s employed Bede Durbidge as a sounding board and isn’t relying on one huge manoeuvre to manufacture a score. Florence will already take home the best result he’s had in his career at Snapper Rocks. With film projects in the can, Florence has his sights set on finding that winning feeling on the CT.
“The film projects have been fun and that was something I always wanted to do and it was good to accomplish,” says Florence. “When I got to the end of it I was like, ‘Ok I’m done’ [laughs]. Now it’s actually really fun for me to take a break from that and instead of going somewhere for a freesurf trip, going home, training and getting ready for the next event.”
“I know that this [the CT] is a marathon so I’m trying to put in the work.”
While Florence and Filipe have established themselves as the event front-runners, there are a few rivals baying for their blood.
Adriano de Souza: The grinder. Adriano’s strength is his ability to pick and pick at a carcass until there’s nothing left on the bone. He scorched past Mikey Wright and his flaming mullet with a 9.27 and isn’t surfing with a target on his back.
Kolohe Andino: I thought his goose was cooked against Banting. But what a fight back! Then surfed out of skin against Nat Young. Finally we’re seeing the kid’s potential.
Stu Kennedy: The man of the moment. He threw the kitchen sink at Medina – easily the best heat of the round. The North Coast points have been firing all summer and he knows this is the biggest opportunity of his career. That board moves like lightening.
At time of writing Filipe was surfing Round 4 and made me eat my words by going to the air!
A huge thanks to Isuzu for providing the Tracks team with vehicles for the 2016 Quiksiliver Pro Gold Coast.