It was a long day on the ranch. Heats at the Surf Ranch Pro started at 7:38 a.m. (sharp) and rolled through to the night session – wrapping up in the 11 o’clock hour. In between the world’s best were culled down to the quarterfinal finishers in the men’s, and semifinalists in the women’s draw.
The Ranch was surprisingly rowdy, with the Brazilian contingent making a party of it, fueled on by 805’s and Pacifico’s. And they had a lot to cheer for. Gabriel Medina, Joao Chianca, Filipe Toledo, and Yago Dora were all winners in the four-man heat format, moving directly to the quarters . Italo Ferreira qualified in the night session (along with Griffin Colapinto). In fact, Griffin, Ethan Ewing, and Leonardo Fioravanti were the only non-Brazilians to make the quarters.
Surprises? Kelly Slater for one, was on his way to a massive score during his first ride of the night cap when he caught an innocuous rail on his right-hand wave, then fell again on his left, ending his campaign (each competitor got two waves). “Great to have everyone here,” he said after, sounding a bit like a man singing a swan song. “We hear the comments online about what people think about the contest but it’s a different event, and it’s a unique event. The great thing about the Surf Ranch is it’s a great place to come with your friends and have a good time.”
True, while the contest certainly has its detractors, it’s one place where people can get really close to Championship Tour surfers and watch them on a head-high wave to see what happens when power and skill meet moving water (and technology). It’s difficult not to be impressed.
Jack Robinson’s early exit after missing West Oz with a knee injury was definitely unexpected, if not a mild surprise. Mr. Robinson was quickly on to El Salvador after bowing out in the first heat of the day.
On the women’s side world number one Tyler Wright was gone after the first set. As was Bettylou Sakura Johnson. Both results were head scratchers, really. But Caroline Marks looked as good as she ever has, seemingly at ease on the quick lefts the Surf Ranch throws out. Tatiana Weston Webb looked equally comfy. Both made finals along with Carissa Moore (always a standout) and Caity Simmers. Simmers, honestly, continues to blow people away. The kid is just so composed and skilled and impressive and nonchalant. We get everything in there? Because she’s everything that’s great about women’s surfing right now. She makes barrel riding here look easy, and when she was pinned to the wall (relegated to the night shift to qualify for finals day), the pride of Oceanside didn’t blink. She’ll meet Marks in the semis.
More to come tonight.