Welcome back to the 5 Minute Recap. A quick concise overview of each event on the WSL championship tour. Today, a recap of the Oi Rio Pro.
The 2018 Oi Rio Pro is the single greatest Brazil WCT event we’ve seen, certainly in Internet streaming history. This is a confluence of 3 factors; the waves, the athlete performances, and the decisions about where and when to run, made by deputy commissioner Travis Logie.
The event ran at 3 different locations, Barrinha being the spot where the highest scores were rewarded. The importance of running at this location cannot be overstated; firstly, it was a highly risky choice. The decision to run men’s round 1 was made the evening prior, which required a large staff to work through the night to physically move the event site. Thankfully, the choice paid off as the waves at Barrinha are in a word, exciting. It’s a barreling right hander, with big air sections. And that’s the 2nd reason that this decision was important; excitement. Believe it or not, it’s 2018 and we’re on a precipice, faced with a real concern that competitive surfing is boring. With a repetitive, literally mechanical wave on the tour schedule this year, a judging criteria that has traditionally rewarded safety surfing, and big monied contracts encouraging athletes and commentators to avoid controversy, professional competitive surfing has, or maybe had, become almost unrecognizable from the original, unadulterated act of surfing itself.
But alas, head judge Pritamo Ahrednt has righted the judging panel; rewarding risk and progression, the WSL has opened new venue options within each tour stop, and grateful, deputy commissioner Travis Logie seized the opportunity and allowed the male athletes, anyway, the best playing field to showcase their talents. Now, if Trav Logie deserves praise for his decisions on the mens side, his decisions on the women’s side deserve equal scrutiny and perhaps even ridicule. I’m not sure if their event site was the athlete’s preference or if they were dealt 2nd priority and forced to surf marginal conditions, but either way, their opportunities to get barreled were non-existent and mushy shoulders were far more common than critical sections.
Round 1 ran at Ituna in soft, fat, waist high lefts, which some of the women surfed well, but the surf was akin to what we commonly see on the QS, not exciting, and a very stark contrast to the waves the men had on offer. Round 3 of the women’s event finally brought head high surf and ripabble waves. It also brought the highest heat score of the entire event, a 15.90 by Silvana Lima in heat 3. This is important to note. 15.90 was the highest heat total of the women’s event. Silvana’s best scoring wave was an 8.90, ostensibly scored for 1 main, highly critical maneuver. A lip line, upside down, float on a nearly double-overhead oncoming section. Again, risk was rewarded.
The opportunities for the women to showcase risk however, were less available as the contest progressed and they surfed a diminishing swell. Ultimately, it was Lakey Peterson who met Stephanie Gilmore in the final. Both of whose strongest attributes through the event was flow and transition between multiple maneuvers. Combos, not large single maneuvers. Consistently connecting 2 and 3 turns with great flow earned them 1st and 2nd place, but not a single wave nor maneuver from the event will make the end-of-the-year highlight reel. This is something for the judges, or perhaps more importantly, the commissioners to consider. That said, the athletes also need to consider risking something. It’s boring to see competitors attempt to surf incrementally better than their opponents. When given the opportunity, throw caution to the wind. Everyone is ready and waiting, especially the judges.
In the men’s event, I mentioned Barrinha being exciting, it’s true, but in round 3 there were a lot of closeouts. Round 4 ran at Ituna, where the women’s event ran, but in larger surf. The key benefit of this location is simply that it offers a more fair distribution of waves. Especially for the 3 man heats of round 4. Filipe Toledo however, nearly negated the importance for a good wave, as his most memorable wave was a very marginal left. I was confused why he took off in the first place, and then why he continued to somewhat lazily cruise down the line. It was because off screen he had spotted an air section. One from which he punted an absolutely massive full rotation; a 360 degree rotation (Chris Cote), tons of loft, tons of speed, and covering more distance than I’ve ever seen covered in the air. He scored a 10 and set a pace by which no one would be able to catch through the rest of the event.
He reestablished his reign as the world’s most exciting surfer, temporarily mantled by Italo Ferreria. He also reminded us that he’s never abandoned his position as the world’s fastest surfer, especially in transition between maneuvers. In post heat interviews he was gracious, humble, positive, and seemed very comfortable. Comfortable with the attention, comfortable with the pressure, and confident with his ability. This could be reflective of the fact that Barrinha is his home break, but if it’s reflective of his general headspace, then he’s poised for a title campaign. He went on to win the event against Wade Carmichael in spectacular fashion, again, back at Barrinha, weaving and soul arching through barrels, doing massive turns and more giant airs. This win catapults Filipe into 2nd position, bumping Italo out of his tied 1st place, down to 3rd.
His compatriot Gabriel Medina, on the other hand, looked shockingly uncomfortable at his home event. Gabriel, one of whom’s defining features is not falling, fell a lot in this event. He repeatedly fell, not just on big risky airs, but on simple top turns too. As a testament to his talent, he still made the quarterfinals, although you could argue that he shouldn’t have won his round 3 heat against Mikey Wright. But in his quarterfinal heat against Wade Carmichael, at barreling offshore Barhina, Gabriel netted a 3.63 heat total. 3.63 points. Total. Losing to Wade Carmichael who had a very beatable 11.40 heat total. All that said, this quarterfinal finish still move Gabe 3 spaces up the rankings, into 4th position.
Equally disappointing was current world champ John John Florence’s 8 point heat total and round 4 loss at Ituna. That’s after a spectacular performance in Round 3 in the, again, exciting surf at Barrinha, where he did an air that will remain on the end-of-year highlight reel. Sadly, this 9th place finish is John John’s best of the year and he sits in 17th position going into Bali.
A couple of athletes worth mentioning, because this might be the last time they receive a mention throughout the year; last year title contender Jordy Smith continued his streak of 13th and he now sits in 25th. Kelly is yet to surf an event this year. Matt Wilkinson is sitting in 28th place, with a string of 25ths.
One continually exciting storyline throughout this season is the Rookie Of The Year race. Perennial standout Griffin Colapinto finally showed a weakness, albeit a minor one when he lost in a closely contested battle with friend and sparring partner Kanoa Igarashi. He now sits in 12th place, behind fellow rookies Michael Rodrigues in 7th and Wade Carmichael, again who finaled and climbed 11 spots, all the way to the 5th position on the rankings.
Another important thing to note is that the previously canceled Margeret River Pro will resume round 3 at Uluwatu within 48 hours after the end of the Corona Bali Pro. Griffin Colapinto and Wade Carmichael are already out of that event. Michael Rodriguez is still in it. He’ll face Italo Ferreria in round 3. So he’ll have an opportunity to improve is position. Regarding the title race, obviously Italo is still in that event, as are Julian Wilson, John John Florence, Filipe Toledo, & Gabriel Medina. So they’ll all likely improve their positions on the rankings. Lots of shuffling to come.
Julian Wilson entered the season with a shoulder injury, decided to compete on the Gold Coast the night before the event started. He went on to win that event and he entered Brazil in first position. He lost to Filipe Toledo in the semifinals and thereby exits Brazil still wearing the Jeep Leaders yellow jersey, in first place.
Stephanie Gilmore does the same on the women’s side, stretching out her lead with her second win of the season. Lakey Peterson has been having a banner season, coming off of injury in 2017, winning at Snapper, finaling in Brazil. Her performances would have her winning almost any other season, but Steph’s not having any of it. Very gratefully, the women will also be competing at Keramas, at the Corona Bali Pro. Hopefully they’ll be offered critical and challenging and again, exciting surf.
Although the cancelled Margeret River event was the previous Championship Tour event, prior to Brazil, the WSL did run the Founder’s Cup in the interim, held in the wave pool at Surf Ranch. This event highlighted the engineering marvel of the wave and how fun it would be to surf, but as we all watched the same exact wave peel down the concert pool ad nauseam, it also highlighted the importance of unpredictability. And almost as if scripted, one short week later, Brazil confirmed the importance of that very sentiment. The event opened with an unexpected commentary team, Brad Bricknell and Chris Cote, an unexpected commissioner Travis Logie, an unexpected new venue, Barrinha, and subsequently every single wave required a spontaneous reaction from it’s rider. And thankfully, many of the athletes, most notably Filipe Toledo, delivered beyond what our imaginations could anticipate. The Oi Rio Pro was, in a word, exciting. In two words, unexpected and exciting. Congratulations to the WSL for an excellent event. I’ll see you all in Bali.
Host, Edit, Produce: David Lee Scales @david_lee_scales