Filipe Toledo Wins The Freshwater Pro Despite A Cacophony Of Confusing Whistles

by stab September 22, 2019 5 min read

We have arrived. 

Finals day of the Freshwater Pro is here—here at last! After this afternoon, there will be no reason to watch a wave from this central Cal wonderland for the next 363 days, if ever, seeing as how Surf Ranch might fall off tour in 2020. 

And can I be completely honest with you? I haven’t watched a lick of the live event. Not one damn second and I’m so incredibly happy about that. Partly because I’ve been busy with more fun/meaningful activities alongside friends and family, but primarily because the pool has truly become a sterile, uninteresting spectacle.

Incredible idea, remarkable technology, the most fun to ride, but if the world’s best surfers (barring one or two of them) can’t make the basin fun to watch, then why the hell are we watching it? I tried to digest Owen Wright’s (who is currently in third place) top two waves in succession and almost had an aneurysm. A surfing icon had managed to ride two 45-second waves to completion and I can’t remember a single maneuver. He also earned a high-seven and low-eight for the effort. 

Ugh. 

Filipe and Gabby are so good that they make the pool partially tolerable, but other than that, no thank you. The people have spoken and the people are right. The pool event is boring, and not, like I’d assumed, simply because it’s predictable. It’s more monotonous than anything, and surfing, as an activity and culture, is meant to be anything but dreary and drab. And yes, we do host an annual wave pool contest in Waco, so we’re currently skipping stones into Freshwater houses, but whatevs.

I’m feeling rather prickly today.

So, in an effort to improve your Saturday (or Sunday, for our Antipodean friends), I’ve gone ahead and pre-written the script for finals day at the Freshwater Pro. Spend six minutes reading this faux report and get on with your day—go outside, call a loved one, protest for the climate (better late than never!). 

The best waves will end up on Instagram ten minutes later, that much I can guarantee. 

Finally ‘the masses’ were allowed to enter Kelly’s cedar gates, but the masses they were not. 

Judging by the webcast—which to be fair, probably missed a few people in the porta-potties, etc.—I’d estimate that a crowd of 2,600 could be seen dotting the 750-yard basin, which left the arena looking patchy and morose like a John Florence beard. 

Still to surf their pre-finals “bonus waves” were 12 men and six women. Of them, only three—Kelly Slater, Julian Wilson, Stephanie Gilmore—were able to make the leap from beneath the qualification line to within the top four (women) or eight (men), knocking Courtney Conlogue, Wade Carmichael, and that surprisingly nimble Panda out of contention for the win. 

Speaking of which, do you think it’s almost a good thing for Willian that he didn’t win the Freshwater Pro? After his recent performance at Teahupo’o, where in pumping six-to-ten foot surf, he was unable to secure even a one-point ride, don’t you think it would add to the embarrassment if he then won an event at the most sterile, non-threatening (except in the case of one journalist) surf environment on earth? 

I’d think yes, but then again, I’d probably be happy to pocket the aseptic $100,000 check and guaranteed re-qual if I was in Willian’s position, too. 

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So, the finals—eight men, four women, two rights and lefts apiece (plus two bonus waves for the top half of finishers). 

Here are the official lineups:

Men’s

Gabriel Medina
Filipe Toledo
Owen Wright 
Italo Ferreira
Griffin Colapinto
Jordy Smith
Kelly Slater
Julian Wilson

Women’s

Johanna Defay
Carissa Moore
Caroline Marks
Stephanie Gilmore

And when you think about it, isn’t the fact that the WSL halved the women’s final in respect to the men’s kind of odd? I realize that, because the women’s tour is half the size of the men’s, it makes logical sense to cut the final down to the same percentage of the total field of competitors on the women’s and men’s sides  (22.22%), but at the same time, why does it matter?

Like, they could have just let eight women be in the “final”—which is an arbitrary construct in and of itself, as there is no difference in placings/points from any other event in the season—so that the last event day was equitable in the sense of men’s and women’s airtime. And on the one day when spectators were finally allowed to attend, don’t you think they’d want to showcase as many competitors—male and female—as possible?

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Not to get all preachy, but this seems like another pointless misstep in the gender equality movement. The WSL has done a great job of delivering equal pay, but it’s decisions like these that have a silent but persistent impact on women in sport, if not life in general. 

An anecdote:

I was recently invited to golf at a relatively upscale country club.

When I golf, which is not very often, it’s typically at a cheapest-price-you-can-find sorta joint, so for me, this was a major upgrade. 

The course, staff, food etc. were immaculate. I noted to the member who had invited me that, were I ever independently wealthy enough to belong to such a facility, I would likely spend all of my time there, as it was something of an adult theme park. Drinks, food, sport, etc.

Add a wavepool and you’ve got an artificial heaven. 

Then he told me something that I still haven’t been able to fully digest.

He said that, yes, this place is great, but a friend of his recently joined and abruptly left the club after learning about its prehistoric gender bylaws. 

For example: women cannot become a member on their own accord. Their husband must be the primary member, and they can be a tagalong. Also, female members are not allowed to book tee times on premier days (namely Saturday and Sunday), but rather have to show up and see if there is a gap to play between the men. 

This, in 2019! 

According to my member acquaintance (see how I distanced myself there!), the club recently sent a silent ballot to all of its members, asking whether or not they should change these gender-based rules. Being that it’s a private club, they are only obligated to serve their members’ interests, not abide by any common laws or recent societal standards. 

My member acquaintance reportedly voted in favor of changing the rules but has heard nothing since, leading him to believe that his side was outnumbered and no change will occur. 

I don’t mean to imply that the WSL, by having less women included in the “final” of the Stillwater Pro, are by any means functioning at this excessive level of bias—only that it still exists. And, I think most would agree, the pool might be the only Tour stop where women’s performance holds a flame to the men’s—did you see Johanne’s tube!—so why not have them front and center?

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Anywho, you’re probably wondering how the finals went.

I’m not gonna waste my time or yours by breaking down 60 identical waves in written form—you can watch the replay feature (with awful pre-roll) if that’s your kink—but I will tell you who won. 

Men’s: Charlie’s whistle scheme backfired as Filipe surfed the best wave in Surf Ranch history, completing over 18 maneuvers in 45 seconds thanks to rapid misdirection from the crowd. Filipe retains the Yellow Jersey heading into Europe, with Medina lurking closely behind. We’ve all read that book before. 

Women’s: Steph Gilmore got the best single wave, Caroline nearly stuck a massive air for a ten, but it was Carissa Moore who linked two waves seamlessly from plow to plunge, earning her the win and a sizable ratings lead. 

Begging the question, where the hell is Tyler Wright?

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