Julian takes Tahiti, Jordy grabs the yellow jersey and the ratings lead.
No flying sharks, near catastrophic water safety craft barrel rolls or petulant dummy spitting in the direction of the judging tower. Just a well-deserved winner and a world title race that is, once again, wide open.
Julian Wilson is the 2017 Billabong Pro Tahiti Champion, defeating 2014 World Champion Gabriel Medina in a combination breaking, come from behind victory that was decidedly more vivid than the muted grey skies, annoying cross shore winds, or anything that came from the WSL commentary box.
Wilson is the seventh different event winner on the 2017 Championship Tour, which means were in for a hell of a world title race going into the last 4 events.
It also means we have a new surfer wearing the yellow jersey and holding onto the ratings leader board, all at a venue that will potentially set him up for a very strong chance at a maiden world title. Take a bow Jordy Smith. More importantly, take out a win at Trestles and bring it home.
The Billabong Pro Tahiti happened so quickly that at times, it felt as foggy as the weather that prevailed.
Who won , who needed to win, which commentator would embarrass themselves first, would the wind arrive, would a shark fly , what about an angry flock of birds crapping on the heads of SUP boarder’s that got to close to the competitors area?
Finishing 3 days of surfing back to back, with a 12 hour time difference pushing you deep into the night and early hours of the morning, it was all a bit of a blur, a combination of coffee and commentary team ketamine.
There were moments of gripping action, powerful drama and engaging back stories. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell how long you’ll need to wait for these pockets of magic to present themselves, as you watch two surfers impatiently and inanely bobbing, waiting for a 3ft cross shore wave that may never arrive. It’s tough for them. It’s another kind of hell been forced to watch it.
Here’s what made a difference at the 2017 Billabong Pro Tahiti, or at least the bits I can remember:
The reinvention of Jordy Smith. Now available in fiercely determined ‘Yellow Jersey’ Leader Board Mode.
Smith to defeat Florence at Chopes.
Almost as believable as Martin Potter not asking a rhetorical question or referring to grown men as ‘kids’.
Not only did Jordy Smith beat John Florence at his favourite game (backhand tube riding) at one his favourite waves, he did it under pressure and his heat strategy and decision making was impeccable. I may get flack for saying this, but the Jordy Smith of old would have folded and counted a 5th as a keeper score at a venue that he doesn’t like to court.
But the 2017 version of Smith is a different beast. The focus and intent is spiked, the adaptability to a range of conditions has never looked sharper and the mental fortitude under Gallagher’s coaching seems to look beyond ‘event to event’ thinking and appears to be more ‘single big goal’ in its approach.
And we all know that goal is. For Jordy Smith, it’s never looked more achievable.
Medina will fight. Julian will be there all the way to Pipe.
Whether by design or not, not many people like Gabriel Medina. Aloof, arrogant and unapproachable with the swagger of a winner to boot. Go onto any web forum and there’s reams of contempt directed at the 2014 World Champion.
People generally don’t like posturing and posing winners. But in Medina, they have also found a whiner. And this is not helped by the ever whinging presence of step dad Charlie.
Whether you love the confidence, or hate the arrogance, Medina will push hard with his brand of electrifying surfing, including massive airs and clinical tube sense, which will work wonders for him considering the venues that await. And of course, there’s the mental edge and ego that could either work for or against him.
If Gabriel is the Dark Prince, Julian Wilson is the People’s Champ. Affable, approachable and engaging, Wilson’s clean cut approach, good looks and easy going nature mask a ferocious competitor with an assassin like approach.
Everything is clean, calm and collected. The faultless bottom turn, grounded stance, easy style and variety. And like a trained assassin takes out a target, you won’t even know you’ve been until it’s too late.
Julian is a former Pipe Master and he’ll be staring down the barrel all the way until the end of this Title race.
What will happen at Trestles? Will Richa Porta finally set the judging scale correctly, or will we see more 9’s that are actually 7.5’s? Will the WSL fine members of the commentary team every time they use the words ‘kid’, ‘lully’ and ‘wow!’? Will Jordy Smith win and will you be watching?
I know I will, I’m cranking up the coffee percolator right now!
See you there, The Chairman
2017 WSL Men’s Jeep Leaderboard (After Billabong Pro Tahiti ): 1 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 37,850 pts 2 – John John Florence (HAW) 36,900 pts 3 – Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 35,950 pts 4 – Owen Wright (AUS) 35,350 pts 5 – Julian Wilson (AUS) 33,200 pts
For the heat analyzer, scores, images etc… click here.