WSL – Year in Review
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Run and Won

2015 had challenging surf at times, Kelly doing battle Hossegor Quik Pro.

2015 had challenging surf at times, Kelly doing battle Hossegor Quik Pro.

Wow what a heartbreaker the WSL has become at the end of the year in Hawaii.
An absolute heartbreaker for the contenders who don’t quite get there as witnessed by Courtney Conlogue, Filipe Toledo, Gabriel Medina, Owen Wright and Mick Fanning.
On the flipside this just seems to add weight to the absolute triumph of seizing the moment and grabbing the Title.
Congratulations to Adriano De Souza and Carissa Moore.

Adriano post heat interview Bells this year on the way to a tied final with Mick.

Adriano post heat interview Bells this year on the way to a tied final with Mick.

Carissa Moore diversified in 2015 working with Mitchell Ross at the Quik pro France. Looking to improve her tactical heat performances I guess and gaining a semi final finish.  Tyler Wright was also working with Mitchell and Won the event.

Carissa Moore diversified in 2015 working with Mitchell Ross at the Quik pro France.
Looking to improve her tactical heat performances I guess and gaining a semi final finish.
Tyler Wright was also working with Mitchell and Won the event.

The Pipe Masters this year was epic as usual, but it lost its lustre on the finals day as the surf deteriorated rapidly.
I think the innovation of the local and wildcard trials was a great addition, but on reflection the trials need to be outside the Pipe waiting period to give the event and the World Title showdown in particular every chance to conclude in decent Pipe.
In particular it was hard to watch Mick go down in the dying minutes to Medina on a 2 foot piece of crap that resembled anyone’s local summer beach break more than a worthy Pipe moment.
I don’t know about you, but I was thinking as time ticked by with 5 minutes remaining and Medina was doing everything he could to find a little Barrel that he would resort to the air as a last resort.
It’s in his DNA and one of the biggest weapons in pro surfing.
So I was expecting it, but… 1/ I couldn’t believe how average the wave was & 2/ How big he would attempt the air.
The manoeuvre was amazing and worthy of a higher score but under the circumstances not in the spirit of the Pipe event in a way.
But what could the judges do, I felt for them as a difficult job became almost untenable.
They were called on to make split second decisions on the World Title moments, not only the Mick/Gabriel Semi but the Mason Ho/Filipe Toledo heat which was super close and could have gone either way.
That was definitely a heartbreaker for Filipe, his Dad and supporters.
So I think the WSL should consider holding the trials event outside of the Pipe waiting period, and if this is not possible then reducing the numbers to accommodate 3 heats to only take up a morning of the first day, and give as much chance as possible to finish the event in worthy Pipe.

The Billabong Pipe Masters is the most sought after trophy in our sport and an amazing TV spectacle and fitting end to what has been a great year for WSL.

 

Carissa power to burn Trestles 2015.

Carissa power to burn Trestles 2015.

Back to the Women

I think the girls tour is in jeopardy of being overrun or dominated by Carissa Moore.
If you look at the end of last year where she won the Target Honolua event through to the start of the year where she came within an ace of winning the first 3 events of 2015 and then going on to win 2 more events for a total of 4 event wins,  she also 3 peated Bells and Honolua.
So the danger signs are there.
I think Carissa is the most talented girl surfer we have ever seen and competitively she can become more solid.
So that is a scary concept.

Carissa starting out equipment Snapper.

Carissa starting out equipment Snapper.

But for the other girls there is hope, I wouldn’t suggest they give up just yet.
Courtney won 3 events in 2015 and pushed Carissa to the limit.
In the talent stakes Steph is not far behind Carissa and has 6 World Titles (just 1 behind Layne), Tyler is maybe more powerful and Sally the ultimate competitor will hang in there nipping at Carissa’s heels, and Lakey is finding her feet.
The girls tour have added greatly to the WSL product list, and even if Carissa dominates in the future she will be pushed all the way by the current crop of contenders and the new girls coming through.
Of the new girls I don’t see any Carissa or Steph like prodigious talent, but I see great personalities with good skills in all-round conditions and some with a charger mentality.
So I look forward to 2016 on the girls side as well as the men.

Courtney warming up at Bells this Easter.

Courtney warming up at Bells this Easter.

Tyler Wright powerful.

Tyler Wright powerful.

One of the new breed charger/ characters Tatiana Weston-Webb warm up session Hossegor.

One of the new breed charger/ characters Tatiana Weston-Webb warm up session Hossegor.

 

Back to the men.
In some ways the WSL tour was the best year ever.
The biggest number of possible Title contenders going into the last event.
I managed to attend 4 events this year Snapper, Bells, Trestles and France so was able to witness first hand some of the build-up and surfing through the year.
The Brazilian storm is undeniable and we maybe witnessing the start of a new world order in surfing?

Kelly at Estagnots Hossegor on 5’11 NewXFC.

Kelly at Estagnots Hossegor on 5’11 NewXFC.

The king is dead long live the king.
It may be too early to write off Kelly as a force but it will happen some day ???
But not yet Kelly cannot hold back the wave of Brazilian talent exploding on the tour alone (maybe John Florence can help ???).
KS is still surfing freakishly and can win any event at any time but this year he didn’t ??
I’m sure he wants 12 but he has a lot on his plate right now, new businesses including Outer Known and Firewire.
So is this distracting him, who knows and I’m not going to speculate, but if there are any signs in his surfing maybe he is falling off a little more these days. But that may simply be because the tour is getting stronger every year everyone is stepping it up.

Gabriel risk free high scoring backhand surfing.

Gabriel risk free high scoring backhand surfing.

I think it is possible that the mens tour may be on the eve of a new dominance by an individual similar to girls situation. In watching Gabriel Medina this year it seems to me that his surfing has evolved to the point that he can score 8 plus rides without risk.
I’ve seen this before in the surfing of Sunny Garcia at Bells in waves from 5 to 6 feet plus. Sunny could complete 3 big carving hacks off the top at Bells displacing great chunks of ocean in the form a massive rooster tail. Because the turns were bigger than anyone else could do the judges had no choice but to award big points even though these turns to Sunny were no risk.
Anyway Medina has developed something similar, particularly on his back hand off the top.
He is able to hit the lip vertically and then slide the tail out above the top of the wave and throw buckets of spray like Sunny used to. He is able to do this seemingly without risk of falling and it’s so effective the judges have to score it highly.

Trestles 2015 a victim of the Medina tail drift attack.

Trestles 2015 a victim of the Medina tail drift attack.

Medina somewhere between tail release and arial.

Medina somewhere between tail release and aerial.

DSC_4144Mick has a similar manoeuvre down pat on his forehand, the smash off the top to tail release.

With Gabriel when you add this to his air game and innate tube sense who knows where he can go from here. This year for him was poor, he had a slow start but was still in contention right to the end.
As good as Medina is in the air Toledo is better ??? certainly more dynamic and faster and deadly in any performance orientated smaller surf.
Brazil is not finished there Italo Ferreira is possibly faster and more dynamic again than Toledo.

Holy Toledo, Filipe has speed to burn.

Holy Toledo, Filipe has speed to burn.

The Toledo strike rate on landing airs like this is high.

The Toledo strike rate on landing airs like this is high.

Then you get to the guy who paved the way for the storm front, Adriano, at this point the most successful Brazilian surfer of all time.
Shaun Tomson calls Adriano the Warrior.
He has proved he is a worthy champion by breaking down the Tours most difficult to master destinations and if not conquering them then taming them.
Case in point Bells Beach, Adriano showed great ability to surf the difficult open faces of Bells with long bottom turns and big carves in the Bowl and finishing floaters or airs on the inside closing section.
Becoming Bells champion in 2013 and then dead heating in the final with Mick this year only to lose on a count back.
Also at Pipe he has continued to improve and be relevant at the world’s most competitive outside of competition venue, overcoming all obstacles to become Pipe Champion and World Champion.

Adriano has an air game, another area he has methodically worked on.

Adriano has an air game, another area he has methodically worked on.

De Souza with the yellow leaders jersey earlier in the year at the Hurley Pro Trestles.

De Souza with the yellow leaders jersey earlier in the year at the Hurley Pro Trestles.

So maybe this is it, the Brazil new world order in surfing, consecutive Brazil World Champions Medina 2014, De Souza 2015, Medina Triple Crown Champion 2015 and De Souza Pipe Master Champion 2015.
Add Wiggolly and Jadson to the mix and that is a strong contingent,  like it or not Brazil have earned it and deserve their place at the top.

Owen back to his best this year, Quik Pro France.

Owen back to his best this year, Quik Pro France.

What of Australia

I believe we are in good hands and we can be proud of the surfers we have on tour.
To me they are awesome individuals and now define Australian surfing culture in such a positive light.
It was great to see Owen Wright back to his best and beyond. To see him so fit and contending as he did all those years ago against Kelly was a real bonus and has added greatly to the WSL tour. His surfing in waves of consequence was next level on the tour this year.
As was Adam Melling’s continued go for it attitude, we hope to see Adam in a few CT tour events in 2016.
Julian had a good year making 3 finals, finishing 6th. Probably his best moment was JBay where he placed himself on the line to help out his mate being attacked by a shark.IMG_4019_2

Josh tearing into the Hossegor shore break.

Josh tearing into the Hossegor shorebreak.

Josh Kerr had a steady year finishing just out of the top 10, we will be watching with interest in 2016 to see if he can bag his first win on the CT, (he deserves it).
Bede #12 had a good year making 2 finals, sorry to see him injured at Pipe, shit can happen quickly seemed like a routine take off that instantly went horribly wrong, (speedy recovery to him).
Joel #13, not used to seeing him this far down but he surfed as good as ever and we are now savouring every moment of his career as it nears a completion ?? no wins no finals a poor result by his lofty standards.
16 to 19 Taj, Kai, Wilco and Ace all new Dads except for Wilco, no finals in 2015 for these dudes but they remain much loved and admired members of the Australian contingent.
Glen Hall 30 good to see Micro back on the tour for this year, he surfs for Ireland but is a great asset of Australian surfing, thanks for all you have done.
Matt Banting was injured for the majority of 2015 and we look forward to seeing him in the future.

Classic Joel Parkinson and Trestles glassy wall, no mercy.

Classic Joel Parkinson and Trestles glassy wall, no mercy.

Matt Banting good start at Bells spoiled by an injury plagued first year on tour.

Matt Banting good start at Bells spoiled by an injury plagued first year on tour.

Mick Fanning #2
Bitter Sweet.

Mick engaging some groms during last years 2014 Pipe Masters on his way back to the Rip Curl house.

Mick engaging some groms during last years 2014 Pipe Masters on his way back to the Rip Curl house.

This year may define Mick as our greatest loved surfer of all time.
He is arguably our best ever competition surfer already, irrespective of whether he can equal MR’s 4 Titles.
To lose as he did in the Semi was tough enough setting aside the Fanning family’s sad situation and as much as we were hoping for success for Mick he has won this year on so many levels.
It’s difficult to write about such things and express appropriate sentiments but it was the best and worst year Mick, Australian surfing couldn’t be more proud of you, sorry for the loss of your brother.

 

On the job in France.

On the job in France.

WSL Coverage

I want to congratulate the WSL on its coverage of the 2015 tour.
It was really good, you guys have a great product to work with so it should be good but it’s a hard job to cover any live sporting event.
Surfing has its fair share of challenges, long lulls between sets and filling in that time with sensible chatting probably being the biggest.
The team do this tough job pretty well. I like the fact that you guys as a team seem to be bonding well, this is building a powerful on screen presence for you as a surfing group.
I like the job that Joe and Ronnie are doing as the host anchor role, well done keep it up and Ronnie keep the jokes coming Rosie’s way, it is one of the great delights of the WSL coverage when you make her giggle at one of your smarty comment throw away lines.

Rosie Hodge bringing the glamour to the WSL and can surf.

Rosie Hodge bringing the glamour to the WSL and can surf.

On Rosie wow she is awesome, a genuinely easy on the eye presenter but a hard-core qualified surfing talent adding another dimension to the male testosterone viewpoint.
Pete Mel and Strider, I like the way you guys have grown into your various roles on the panel and in the water stuff. You guys are improving and adding a nice touch to the coverage, keep the equipment info coming Pete.
Martin Potter, good job Pottz having a World Champ on the panel rounds it off nicely.

Not every good wave is surfed but I’d still like to see it go through on the coverage.

Not every good wave is surfed but I’d still like to see it go through on the coverage.

What I would like to see on the 2016 WSL coverage.
More of the same, but I want to see more of the set waves marching in so you get the feel of the venue and the drama as a wave approaches.
I want to see every wave live and every good wave in replay straight away if possible.
I want to see good waves that the surfers let go, this also can add to the drama as this is a surfer mistake and surfers as spectators will always watch an unridden wave from take-off zone through to the inside.

WSL coverage golden moment
Rosie Hodge interview with Mick after his quarter final.
At the end of the interview to Rosie’s last question Mick made a reference to his sad situation that brought Rosie undone emotionally.
She had to throw back to Ronnie quickly while on the verge of tears with her voice audibly affected.
On hearing this I immediately laughed at the situation but quickly choked on that laughter as the emotion of that moment with Rosie hit home to me and I nearly teared up myself.
It was a powerful example of camaraderie shared in our surfing family, in this case between Mick and Rosie, but conveyed in the briefest of moments to a worldwide audience.

CJ Hobgood
Thanks CJ, it took me your entire career to work out who was Damien and who was CJ.
I think I’d nailed it lately after Damien dropped off the tour and it was a safe bet.
Congratulations on your long Career, World Title and numerous CT and QS wins worldwide.
You and your brother shook the world of surfing and fulfilled most of your dreams, well done mate.

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