Days like yesterday are what pro surfing is all about. Perfect conditions, mind-blowing surfing, and a whole lot on the line as the WSL final five are now all but set in stone. If you weren’t glued to your screen like I was yesterday afternoon, hit play above. There were plenty of incredible moments to re-live as the action continues today – finals day.
1. Griffin and Kanoa’s Battle for the Final Five
A heartbreak for some, a celebration of clutch surfing for others. As Joe Turpel mentions above, Griffin was on fire yesterday at Teahupo’o. After a couple of heavy wipeouts in his early heats that had him fall into the elimination round, the surfer from San Clemente, Calif. turned on, slotting himself insanely deep at the start of his round of 16 heat against Yago Dora to score a flat 9.00. It was a must-win situation for Griffin if he wanted to clinch his spot at Trestles, but Yago came from behind in the final minutes to take the win, and open the door for Kanoa who would surf a few heats later.
However, Kanoa needed to win his heat against Jadson Andre to take the spot from Griffin. With two minutes to go (four-minute mark, above), it didn’t look like that was going to happen, until Kanoa took off on one of the better waves of the day, got crazy deep, and re-emerged, earning a 9.70, the lead, and the last spot at Trestles. Talk about clutch.
2. Kelly Slater and Nathan Hedge Prove That Experience Reigns Supreme in Waves of Consequence
Age is just a number. Really. We started the day with Nate and Kelly going toe-to-toe with Filipe Toledo in a three-man opening round heat, and Kelly showed he knows how to get high scores at the legendary wave. “It’s all about playing with the foam ball,” he said in a post-heat interview. In other words, if you’re not almost getting gobbled, you’re not deep enough.
That sent Hedge and Toledo to an elimination round surf-off, where Nate showed just how deep you can get at Teahupo’o, dropping a 9.43 for a disappearing act that blew everyone’s minds and sent him to the round of 16. There, Nate and Kelly continued their dominance, dropping 18.30 and 17.00 heat totals respectively.
Nate’s win over Jack Robinson was particularly telling. Jack’s a surgical tuberider, as you can see with this wave that blew Peter Mel’s mind. With nine minutes to go, Kaipo and Pete were already talking about Jack’s potential to win the event, but Nate must have heard them, as he dropped a 9.87 and 8.43 in rapid succession, surfing on pure instinct while eliminating J-Rob.
Want more proof for my claim about experience? Check out Kauli Vaast’s heat against Ethan Ewing. Ethan started off strong, but Kauli came from behind, simply getting deeper, longer barrels with an intimate knowledge of positioning and speed-management at his home break.
3. Matt McGillivray’s 10
Hard to stop talking about this wave, or this kid. Let’s start with the kid. Matt has been on a tear this season. He started off the season as a replacement wildcard, and a third-place finish at Margaret River earned him just enough points to make it to the second half of the season. Seeing him up close at the US Open a couple weeks ago hammered home how built this guy is. He’s got the frame of a rugby player. To see him muscle through that wild drop was almost unsurprising.
These were just my top three. There were so many more. Nat Young and Miguel Pupo had an awesome shootout in the last seven minutes of their elimination round heat. Jadson and Italo had their own back and forth action. Ethan Ewing had a last-minute 8.67 against Michel Bourez to clinch his spot in the final five. Caio Ibelli had the best wave of the opening round with a 9.67. I’m sure I missed a few key moments, so feel free to sound off.