No use repeating what we already know. Julian Wilson pulled off the ultimate perfect 10 ‘Hail Mary’ air to roll Medina and win the 2018 Quiksilver Pro France title, putting himself right back into the World Title conversation.
Ryan Callinan got onto a roll that derailed Toledo, Owen Wright, and Jordy Smith, and together with everyone’s favourite Aussie Mullet, Mikey Wright, has re-ignited the flame for the warriors from the Land Down Under.
The circus has moved on, and with it, the show continues in Portugal. The same performers, hopefully with different acts.
But before we get there, here are some thoughts from France.
Just how close will Jordy Smith get and when will the big airs come out?
I 100% know that Jordy Smith can win a world title. But he’s not going to do it surfing at 70%. And that’s where his performance feels like its sitting post the 2018 Quiksilver Pro France.
The good news is he’s already significantly improved on his horror 2017 European season. There’s fight in the big guy. But he needs to bring it with more ferocity. More bite.
At the height of his powers, Smith has an air game to rival anyone. Thick, big, lofty ascensions that capture the attention and done with remarkable agility and pop, considering his frame.
There were glimpses of it the 2018 Quiksilver Pro France, but they weren’t harnessed with the type of conviction seen by Julian Wilson and Gabriel Medina. And, in my opinion, that’s the one clear point of difference Jordy Smith has over his rivals: Big, high risk airs with unmatched rail power.
Combine those two attributes, apply them with confidence and a high success rate and the title isn’t in reach, its Smith’s to lose.
Of course, none of this is possible without mental fortitude as well. There are times in heats when Jordy appears to fall asleep at the wheel, letting his opponents overtake when he should be dropping the hammer, not the other way around.
No one does it better than Medina, Toledo will shut you down with power, speed and originality in approach, and Wilson gets the job done with single-minded focus and belief.
But Jordy has a real opportunity to blend rail torque and an aerial attack in Portugal to shut the door on those close to him.
Just how close will he get to the title runners in 2018? With a strong finish in Portugal and at Pipe he could go ahead of Italo Ferrira, but the top 3 have bolted.
A top 5 finish. There are worse ways to end the year.
From a further Saffa perspective, Michael February had a forgettable event and the spark and verve we saw in Tahiti seem to have vanished. February really needs to dig deep in Portugal and have a barnstorming Pipe performance if he wants to keep his CT job alive.
C’mon M-Feb you’ve shown the world you want to stay on the big stage, time to earn your keep.
The role of American surfing will now be played by Tom Hanks.
The problem with Tom Hanks is, well, he only ever plays, Tom Hanks. Forest Gump, You’ve Got Mail, The Da Vinci Code, Captain Phillips, Sully, The Terminal.
The films change, as do their stories, characters and plot twists, but the performances from Hanks remain unequivocally and undeniably, beige. Every time.
The same goes for the current state of the US surfers on tour.
Snapper Rocks, Bells Beach, Tahiti, Bali, Portugal, Brazil, Pipeline, France. Different locations, same approach, same unremarkable performances by team USA.
Stuff Tom Hanks into a full suit, shove a Channel Island under his arm, push him into a couple of waves at The Surf Ranch and he could easily be mistaken for Kolohe Andino, Patrick Gudauskas or Connor Coffin.
There’s a sameness to the American class of 2018. Instead of intrigue, we get expected. Instead of individual expression, raw unhinged and off script impromptu performances, we’re left with a bunch of drama students all playing the same role with the same outcome.
All stars with leading roles in movies about themselves. Problem is, the judges and audiences aren’t exactly blown away by the performances, and the take at the box office doesn’t justify a sequel.
The Patrick Gudauskas set up floater into snap is the same in Rio as it is Bali or France. The Connor Coffin rail turn into drop wallet is the same in Margaret River as it is J-Bay and I’m willing to bet, will be the same in Portugal.
Where’s the conflicted Curren, the competitive hostility of Slater, the brash, cocky Gerlach, in your grill Richie Collins or nihilism of Matt Archbold?
Where have the great characters of American surfing gone?
There is, however, one name I haven’t mentioned: Griffin Colapinto.
For it is on his shoulders that the new American surfing foundation will be built around. Colapinto has the edge, variety, confidence, range and, most importantly, unexpectedness that the judges and audience want to see.
In full cry, the Griffin feature is a big, ballsy production that will put buns in seats and, I believe, will win a world title along the way.
Colapinto is the Christian Bale or John Malkovich that American surfing needs right now.
A character of a diverse range, delivering performances that have suspension of disbelief, originality and unexpected outcomes. All the things you want from a great movie.
Besides, Being John Malkovich is a helluva lot more fascinating than being Tom Hanks.
Otherwise, you could just watch Sleepless in Seattle again. With Tom Hanks. Playing Tom Hanks.
Where to for Wilko?
Watching Matt Wilkinson’s post heat interview following his round 4 loss was more like watching an uncomfortable job exit interview. Wilko looked and sounded disillusioned and disenchanted, in a word, spent.
The trauma of another loss when he needed a win more than anything was evident in the shell-shocked, vacant stare and voice that trailed off when asked about hopes of redemption in Portugal.
Personally, I think Wilko can feel short hanged by the judges as he was grossly underscored on a right that yielded way more than the score thrown back at him in that round 4 loss.
Watch it here and you be the judge, tell me that didn’t deserve higher than a 5.57?
It’s a tough gig being on tour, even harder when you’re having a year like Matt Wilkinson. Once a legitimate world title contender, now not even an ‘also ran’.
Wilko’s fighting to keep his job and a return to the QS in 2019, as unbelievable as that seems, may be the only way to do that.
Will Tom Hanks replace Potts in the commentary booth in Portugal? Will anyone survive the boredom as he and Joe Turpell break down the action? Will Hanks have a surf off against John Malkovich for an injury wild card and will Slater watch Forrest Gump with Christian Bale?
Anything’s possible, and you can be certain Portugal will never be the same as we head into a title race that is going down to the wire, and definitely down to a showdown at Pipe.
I’ll be watching from the couch and look forward to your company as always.