Jordy Smith’s world title hopes got a boost Wednesday with a huge win at the Hurley Pro. The big South African showcased his wide-ranging repertoire of power, flow and flair to get past Filipe Toledo and Joel Parkinson on the final day of competition.
Smith’s surfing was incredibly loose and limber all week, but he had a huge obstacle in front of him during his semifinal match with Toledo on Wednesday morning.
“I’ve had a really good surfboard under my feet this event,” Smith said. “I came into the event with an open mind. I missed it last year when the waves were firing so I just wanted to come in and take it heat by heat.”
During the first three days of competition, Toledo was the dominant force, averaging two points more than all other surfers on his total heat scores. During Toledo’s highly anticipated Monday match with Kelly Slater, the Brazilian sent a huge message when he comboed the 6x event champion in crumbly afternoon conditions.
But conditions improved Wednesday, with a fresh pulse of swell and cleaner conditions that leveled the playing field for Jordy, the big man. Smith knew his only shot at taking out Toledo involved waiting patiently for set waves.
Playing that game is easier said than done. Jordy had to sit out the back and listen to beach commentators buzz and fans cheer while Filipe nabbed waves under priority and let loose. Toledo jumped out to an early lead with his mix of massive aerials and crisp turns, but none of them allowed for multiple strong moves. His biggest score, an 8.33, came by way of a massive, one-maneuver aerial reverse.
When the sets finally came Jordy unleashed, reminding everyone of his power-voltage and his knack for releasing his tail. Like a surfer half his weight, he linked moves with remarkable fluidity, between belting away with heavyweight turns. Smith’s two scoring waves were an 8.00 and a 9.23, earning him huge a 17.23 to 14.25 victory over Toledo.
“I had a few mistakes in that heat,” Toledo said. “The one wave where Jordy went right and I went left, I should’ve stayed out back for priority. I would’ve gotten the second wave of the set where he got the 8. I think that one mistake was it for me, but I’m happy with third place.”
The second Semifinal heat was a much closer affair.
Joel Parkinson and Tanner Gudauskas had a similar storyline, with Gudauskas jumping out to an early lead. Tanner, the hometown hero, got going in a hurry. He leaned on his lethal backside attack to bag a 7.50 and a 6.27 before Parko even had a score on the board.
Sitting out the back in a combination situation, things looked bleak for Parko 10 minutes into the heat…and then his opportunity came. Joel speared the lip and attacked the long wall with his signature carves. He was rewarded with an 8.00. After that it was a horse race to the finish, with both Parko and Gudauskas taking shots. When all the spray landed and the buzzer blew, Parko ended up with a narrow win, 14.43 to 14.33.
The impressive showdown earned both surfers a huge encore cheer from the appreciative crowd.
“My whole mantra this entire event has just been either make the heat or go down swinging with everything you have,” said Gudauskas. “I feel like that was kind of a testament to that. I’m stoked, and good on Parko — he’s literally one of my favorite surfers and to have that heat with him at Lowers was as good as it gets.”
The Final clash between Jordy and Joel was interesting on a couple of levels. Both are former winners at Trestles, which is proving to be a stingy spot to win.
They’re both big blokes, indeed some of the biggest on Tour, yet their oversized frames were used to their advantage even in the small California conditions. Joel and Jordy also begin every season as title contenders.
While Parkinson jumped to No. 6 with his runner-up finish, he remains on the outside looking in when it comes to this year’s title race — a full 13,000 points behind John John Florence.
“I really fell in love with this wave and this town in 2004,” Parkinson said. “This year was another wonderful one at Trestles and I’m really happy to be back here and on the podium. It feels really good.”
Jordy, on the other hand, is looking like a much more legitimate threat now that he’s only 6,000 points behind John John. He’s jumped past Adrian Buchan to No. 4 on the Jeep rankings and as the Tour heads to France, he’s fewer than 2300 points behind Gabriel Medina and Matt Wilkinson.
“If I can be in with a shot at the World Title this year, that will be great,” continued Smith. “Europe can go either way so I’m just going to try my hardest and see how it goes.”
Tyler Wright just did it again. The current World No. 1 won her fourth Championship Tour event of the season, taking out the Swatch Women’s Pro at Lowers like she was born at this beach. The huge victory over Stephanie Gilmore brings her one giant step closer to becoming the 2016 World Champion.
“I had one goal this year and that was to win every heat, and every Final,” Wright said. “Regardless of what situation the ratings are in, that’s my goal and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m just doing what I’m doing.”
But Trestles, with its perfect canvas and secluded setting, can bring out the best in every surfer and there were impressive standouts throughout the contest. One was Sage Erickson, Wright’s Semifinal victim Wednesday morning. Wright surfed away with the win, but Sage made her work hard for it. Tyler won by less than half of a point.
“Trestles is such a groomed wave that it lets you showcase your style,” Erickson said. “So I love that the girls get to show that. [But] coming up against Tyler [Wright], you can’t leave it that close. All-in-all, I’m excited and ready for Europe.”
The women’s second Semifinal pitted another tour titan, Stephanie Gilmore, against another contest breakout, Nikki Van Dijk. Like Sage, Van Dijk’s talent has never been in question, but she’s rarely made it past the heavyweights. Maybe it was Trestles, maybe it was having nothing to lose. But Van Dijk kicked into a higher gear and took some scalps along the way.
In terms of new gears, however, there was no one as fired up as Stephanie Gilmore, who has had her own demons to out-surf this season. After making it to the Semis Monday she said she had gotten the “Quarterfinal monkey” off her back, and seeing the 6x champ find her stride was a welcome sight for her friends and fans.
“I feel like at this event I’ve found some clarity in my decision-making and what it takes to win,” Gilmore said. “I’d just love to win an event. That’s the name of the game.”
Still, the contest — and perhaps the whole season — belongs to Tyler.
Wright was so focused, in fact, that she waited for almost half of the final heat before taking a wave — and when she did, she made it count. Gilmore was in better form than she has been all year, with a competitive zeal that has been in hibernation. She went for broke in the dying minutes with a 9.13, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Tyler’s lead.
Wright arrived at Lower Trestles wearing the Jeep Leader’s yellow jersey, reserved for the rankings leader. After today, she should feel that much more comfortable heading into the home stretch of the season.
Men’s Hurley Pro Final Results:
1 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.80
2 – Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.36
Men’s Hurley Pro Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.23 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.50
SF 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.43 def. Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 14.33
2016 WSL Jeep Leaderboard Top 5 (After Hurley Pro)
1. John John Florence (HAW) 41,650
2. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 37,450
3. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 36,500
4. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 35,200
5. Kelly Slater (USA) 29,650
Swatch Women’s Pro Final Results:
1 – Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.13
2- Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.13
Swatch Women’s Pro Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.60 def. Sage Erickson (USA) 14.17
SF 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 18.60 def. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 14.60
2016 WSL Jeep Leaderboard Top 5 (After Swatch Women’s Pro):
1. Tyler Wright (AUS) 63,450
2. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 46,200
3. Carissa Moore (HAW) 42,500
4. Tatiana Weston-Webb 38,450
5. Stephanie Gilmore 37,300