The morning will be remembered for Joel flying through an 11 out of 10 barrel, when Matt Wilkinson shut him down and took what was his. Priority. The best regular foot of the competition was sent packing, and the goofy domination was in full effect.
The afternoon will be remembered for Owen Wright and his throw-tail reverse which delivered him the most unlikely of wins in all of surfing history. It symbolised Owen’s return from the depths. In a week where just turning up was victory for Owen, he far exceeded that. He did the impossible.
There were still plenty of sets with workable size, but the sectionless freight trains we had been seeing, were still at the station. In their place were hard to pick waves. Some would link up inside, others would go all washy and fizzle out. Yet from out the back, they all looked the same.
Snapper has always been about wave choice. Picking the ones which link up to the inside is an art form only mastered by few. On a day like today with the margins between surfers so microscopic, that would ultimately decide who wins and who loses.
Tyler nailed it after her quarters loss, “Once you were on the back foot out there, you just couldn’t get back onto your front one.”
THE KING’S RELENT
Kelly surfed to the criteria impeccably … the only regular foot to consistently do so. There was plenty of public conjecture, of which Surfing Life were a part of, about Kelly’s boards.
At times, he would lose speed through his turns, his arcs looked wider and he seemed to be constantly battling to stay in front of the section. Kelly turned a corner with his heat against Jordy. His boards looked good and he was back to drawing blood every time he waved his blade at the lip.
Kelly let it all hang out today. Layback snaps, full, tight arc reos, the knifing cutback back into the foam, his tail waft into a slide; and then he’d stall and get barrelled whenever the wave opened up.
But that still wasn’t enough to beat Medina and the funky cold Porta scoring system.
The goofyfoots could just hit their way down the point putting on the wiper blades and rinse and repeat. Over and over. Essentially the same turns for high scores. It looked good, it was super critical, but it was, well … repetitive.
One can’t help but feel for the regular foots who were neutered by the scoring scale. If both surfers perform 10 turns on a wave, and the natural foots are mixing up and doing three or four different turns, while the goofies are doing one type.
Which is better to the eye? Which is the surfing you want to see? Variety of technical turns and barrels, or the same critical turn over and over?
The consensus on the beach was variety should trump repetition.
THE SUPER HEAT
Carissa versus Steph. The Hawaiian warrior against the Queen of Snapper. You knew these two would deliver, and they did. A quarter final worthy of a final.
When Steph lost her last heat to Carissa by a last second, buzzer-brain-fade – allowing Carissa to slide into the winning wave right under her nose and priority. You just knew if this heat was close coming down to the final minutes Carissa would be inside Steph’s head.
And she was.
Only this time Steph kicked it up a notch and delivered a critical wave, where her turns were so acute, she would free fall from the lip into the pit. Bounce, somehow keep her speed and line up the next turn.
The judges answered with a perfect 10, and a nail biting heat turned into a combo situation for Steph in a canter.
JOHN JOHN FLORENCE
John John is the lowest key world champion ever. He’s stayed unremarkable this whole contest. Got a little scare against Mikey Wright, but blew up on his last wave and sailed through another heat without as much as working up a sweat.
Enter the semi-finals, and John John awoke from his hibernation. The bear exited his cave and went looking for his first meal of Spring. He destroyed his opening wave, but as it has been this week. John never found a backup to his 9.5.
Meanwhile Wilko followed the formula. Wiper blades to the beach from out-the-back. You can fit eight or nine of them on a wave, and you’re going to get in the ballpark of a nine from the judges. Every. Single. Time.
The inevitability of the goofy invasion was complete. An all goofy final at Snapper rocks. Once upon a time, unthinkable. Now, it felt like destiny since day one when Rich Porta announced the judges don’t want no stinking barrels.
TEARS AND TRIUMPH
While the men were dominated by suspect subjective judging and a definite hard lean towards the goofyfooters. As Barton Lynch said, “There’s been a preference (from the judges) all event long for belting it, over pulling into it.”
The women however, were going to plan. The two best female surfers throughout the week made it to the final. Lakey and Steph.
Steph smiled her way through the final. When she caught her first wave, she was actually combo’d. That wave – a near eight, had the feeling of inevitability about it. Steph looked like the girl who’s won 24 previous Championship events. Number 25 seemed a formality once she got past Carissa. And it was.
Owen was spectacular all week long.
His legend of rehabilitation is more of a Rocky Balboa storyline. Only it’s so ridiculous, there’s not a Hollywood scriptwriter who would dare put this one forward. They’d be laughed outta the room. “Too far fucking fetched!” producers would scream as they point to the door.
About halfway through last year Owen posted an Instagram pic of himself going for his first surf in over a year. On a 9’2” longboard. Literally teaching himself how to surf again. On a freaking longboard.
He’s lost over 10-kilos since his injury. Just two weeks ago his dad, Rob, wasn’t sure Owen was going to be able to surf this year. Such was the uncertainty around Owen’s stamina, his ability and just how low the base was from where he’s come from.
But there he was. In a final at Snapper Rocks.
He’s lighter across the water, offering much less drag and because of all of that he’s linking his turns and has a flow across waves he hasn’t always had in small or junky conditions. He looked strong.
Through tears after his win, Owen talked about confronting fears. So many fears have had to be conquered for Owen to be where he is. Photographers and commentators capturing the event were in tears after Owen’s win. The power and scope of what Owen has overcome and achieved, none of us will really understand. With Owen’s memory still hazy of Pipeline, we’re not even sure Owen understands.
Someone get Spielberg on speed dial. I wanna pitch him a story.