29 April, 2019 29 April, 2019

The Chairman’s Report – Rip Curl Pro

According to Peter Mel, a text delivered from the WSL Head Judge to competitors on finals day at The 2019 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach read: ‘We’re looking for a combination of critical moves on the outside section.’

John Florence assimilated the info and responded with brutal drop wallets and searing rail work to ring his first bell at pounding 6 to 8ft Bells Bowl.

Considering the war at sea conditions, I was surprised not to see Johnny Utah himself chasing down the Two Times World Champ. Instead, that role was left to Filipe Toledo, who surfed with a passion that was a hybrid of equal parts anxiety and adrenaline.

Jordy Smith came close (online opinion is that he got robbed against Florence) and with two semifinal finishes, finds himself sitting at #3 on the ratings. That’s more than bankable, its an investment with interest for a maiden World Title.

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 27: Jordy Smith of South Africa advances to the semifinals of the 2019 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach after winning Quarter-Final Heat 4 at Bells Beach on April 27, 2019, in Victoria, Australia. (Photo by Matt Dunbar/WSL via Getty Images)

It’s pointless to rehash a wave by wave account of what happened at The 2019 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. You all know the numbers, who ended where and why.

Instead, let’s look at some other pockets of interest that were churned out over Easter at the iconic venue.

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 26: Filipe Toledo of Brazil advances to the quarterfinals of the 2019 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach after winning Heat 3 of Round 4 at Bells Beach on April 26, 2019, in Victoria, Australia. (Photo by Matt Dunbar/WSL via Getty Images)

A return to the wrestling ring.

A lot has been said and read as to how this event stacked up against the formidable might of the revered 81′ Bells event, where Simon Anderson and co were left trying to outrun 12 ft offshore walls.

Did this have the same gravitas? I’ll let you make up your own mind on that one, but for me, what was really, really welcome was a return to the grit of it all. Man against man, against ocean. A grappling match against the Southern Ocean, the clock and the will of an opponent.

No wave pool or 3ft D-Bah A-frame can hold a candle up to the ‘meneer’ conditions witnessed at competitive surfing’s most celebrated amphitheater.

(Photo by Matt Dunbar/WSL via Getty Images)

The beat downs and wash throughs were savage. Seeing a gassed out Italo Ferreira collapse in a heap on the stairwell after his pounding against Smith said it all.

Strip away the balmy, approachable and suburban safety of the Quiksilver Pro, replace it with gunmetal grey skies, stiff offshores and 8ft dome busting sets, and you have a genuine ‘kill or be killed’ contest, not a social event.

So, who tapped out and who went the distance, and what does it say about the rest of the year ahead…

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 27: 2X World Champion John John Florence wins the 2019 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach after winning the final at Bells Beach on April 27, 2019 in Victoria, Australia. (Photo by Matt Dunbar/WSL via Getty Images)

Florence and The Machine. Dangerously fast.

JJF has proven that after a year off, he’s gotten stronger and decidedly faster. There’s a snap to his performance that is incendiary and way faster than the 2018 version.

In the final against Toledo, the big difference was the velocity generated by Florence through the turns. That’s a statement you’d normally have on tap for Filipe. But something has happened in the off season, he’s quicker than ever.

I call em Florence and The Machine. Because that’s just what team Ross Williams and John John have created. An engine that’s running fast and hot. Just like that, JJF is wearing the yellow jersey again.

All of the doubt of how he’d stack up to Medina, Toledo, Ferreira and Smith, pushed aside in a manner of 2 events.

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 27: Jordy Smith of South Africa is eliminated from the 2019 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach with an equal 3rd finish after placing second in Semi Final Heat 2 at Bells Beach on April 27, 2019 in Victoria, Australia.  (Photo by Kelly Cestari/WSL via Getty Images)

Was Jordy underscored and Florence overvalued?

But of course, with all of the praise, there will also be the skeptics. And put under the microscope, the Florence show may have had a bit of a nudge by the men in the tower. The real scrutiny of over scoring came in the Florence vs Smith semi-final.

Watch the heat here for yourself. Was Jordy’s second wave undervalued and John’s high 9 overcooked? This is by no means a pro Smith slant and a Florence dissing, its an observation. And a scrub of the always vocal online opinion was firmly in favour of Smith’s powerful, uncompromising rail work. Here are some keepers from the peanut gallery:

Just watched the semis of bells. JJF is seriously over scored IMHO. Timid turns under the lip yet the beach goes wild and the judges spin him lottery number scores. Jordy’s power surfing deep and hard from top to bottom so much more assured while JJF skipping along like an insecure ballerina“.

I’m a huge fan of JJF yet so are the commentators & judges”.

Noooit! Bru… JJF’s got some big chinas in the judging and commentary boxes… Jordy does 2 sick power carves and an inside move, JJF does one super sick carve, some weak wiggles and an inside move- and gets like a million gazillion more points“.


Return of the King and other notable side acts.

From a wobbly, fragile performance at D-Bah, Slater looked focused and reset at Bells. There was timing, power and flow again. Was it a return to riding standard equipment (he rode a regular PU Simon Anderson thruster), maybe the waves helped to showcase his traditional strengths of timing and power? The GOAT surfed an excellent event and will be confident going into events that play into his favour mid-year.

Ryan Callinan is not only Australia’s new goofy foot hope, but he’s also the worlds. It’s refreshing to watch him surf. It’s raw, original and very smart.

What happened to Owen Wright? If anyone has the right wingspan for Bells, it’s him. I feel he’s going to ring that bell soon.

From a Brazzo perspective, Rodrigues has a great style and flow to his surfing. Ciao Ibelli is ripping again. I don’t care what the interweb trolls think. And finally, the word ‘spicy’ is best used to describe a dish on a menu, not a surfer’s performance. “That was spicy”. You don’t get spicy on a wave, you get it served on a dish. At Nandos.

See you in Bali, I’ll be replacing the couch with a hammock, and hopefully, Jordy will be replacing a 3rd with a 1st. Look forward to your company as always.

The Chairman.


  1. Rob warren
    29 April, 2019 at 12:38 pm · Reply

    Thanks for that Chairman, I was waiting for someone to bring that to light, Jordy was surfing smart and with way more variation than JJF. I feel for Jordy but he is looking lethal smart creative surfing will win in the end! Rob Warren

  2. Dealtry
    29 April, 2019 at 12:57 pm · Reply

    Jordy was unlucky to lose the semi. He hard it in the bag with 8 minutes to go but missing two set waves cost him the win

  3. Name (required)Craig
    29 April, 2019 at 1:09 pm · Reply

    Jordy robben again. it better not be a repeat of last year.

  4. Bushy
    29 April, 2019 at 1:27 pm · Reply

    Great article as always. The carnage was very entertaining on the real big day – within 10 minutes of switching on, I saw 2 broken boards, Italo Ferreira getting swept around the point, Jordy snapping 2 leashes and giving his caddie a workout and then getting flicked off the ski. Before I saw anyone ride a wave, it was already the best day of the year!
    My take on the JJF scoring, and I did not see a huge amount of the event, but from what I did watch: most of the waves I saw, his whole approach seemed to be a prolonged set up of the end turn (impressive as they were). Jordy seemed to use the waves better, big committed bottom turn/top turn combos. I think he’s gonna go bonkers at the Bali Pro.
    You mention Owen Wright – another highlight was him coming in for his back-up board and he’d forgotten to wax it DUH!

    • The Chairman
      30 April, 2019 at 3:02 pm · Reply

      Shot Bushy ,

      glad you enjoyed the review. 200% agreed on the high drama at sea. And the camp Owen fail with the wax less board….far from ideal prep work from that pit crew.

      No doubt Jordy is well set for Bali

  5. Alex
    29 April, 2019 at 3:30 pm · Reply

    An astute and erudite overview as always. Florence and the Machine – brilliant. What does that make Jordy? The Smiths? Well, they do have a song called ‘There Is A Light Which Never Goes Out’ which could very much be about Jordy’s title dreams. In epic He-Man conditions the big guy was absolutely robbed in the semis – the judges might as well call themselves John John Fellatio after giving JJF 9.43 for that underwhelming heat-winning wave. Whereas Jordy committed to smashing through the lip, Florence stuck to conservative little low-risk under-the-lip snaps at the death. Judges say they’re looking for critical moves on the outside section then save the big scores for cute little close-out snaps? Well, Mr Mel et al, you were clearly looking through Florence-fogged glasses.

    • The Chairman
      30 April, 2019 at 3:05 pm · Reply

      Great reference to ‘The Smiths’ Alex.

      It seems the big guy was denied by the judges possibly underscoring at the start of that semi and then had no choice but to blow out the score for the JJF wave due to its size?

  6. Liam
    30 April, 2019 at 5:27 am · Reply

    Very entertaining read Chairman, once again you’ve nailed the Key points. Bummed for Jordy, but surely he’s gonna be topnof that podium I’d he keeps surfing like this? Just happy to see him hitting some great form again!

  7. Mark
    30 April, 2019 at 7:07 am · Reply

    Entertaining as always and love the Florence and the Machine and Johnny Utah references… Gold!

    This certainly was a surf contest and I think the surf may have won… But it was southern Ocean’s retribution for being goaded for the lack of swell early on in the waiting period!! The surfers who made it to finals day, deserved to be there and we can relook at the JJF and Smith heat over and over again and the result won’t change… But the New Jordy is going to place that one into his memory bank and fire back! He thus far has a 2-0 win ratio against the most dangerous Brazzo Goofy duo this year…

    I think what needs some more in-depth review is the Italo paddle interference and the R Cal fall in their respective Quarters, mistakes that cost them their heats and potential wins… Just go ask Dog Marsh what he thought???

    • The Chairman
      30 April, 2019 at 3:09 pm · Reply

      you raise a good point on Jordy’s dominance over the braze goofy charge . twice he’s had the better of em. It points to a huge change in confidence early in the year which will set him up well for mid year….

      As for the Italo interference , that was a dice roll for sure and it came up ‘snake eyes for him….R Cal had an exceptional contest , guy belongs on tour . no doubt.

      Dog Marsh will still be growling in Bali….

  8. Jon
    30 April, 2019 at 8:56 am · Reply

    Lovely overview, thank you chairman!

    As much as I appreciate the JJF drop wallet, its getting over used and very predictable.
    He’s dropped his wallet so many times, theres credit cards and loose receipts floating around in the line up. What else can you do on a section like that? Don’t ask me, I would be straightening out. ha ha

    Some of Medina’s close-out hacks were mental!!!!!!!!!!

    thanks again for sick read.

  9. The Chairman
    30 April, 2019 at 3:12 pm · Reply

    God point of the JJF drop wallets Jon.

    every year , judges favour and tens to be bias toward a particular turn . A few years back the air rotator was grossly over scored , now its the JJF drop wallet that has come under scrutiny.

    The judges need to firm up when it comes to degree of difficulty .

  10. Voice from Oz
    1 May, 2019 at 6:39 am · Reply

    Good read Chairperson (Doesn’t the Zag need to be more gender neutral? he he) Drysdale.
    The 2019 Jordy version has started off well and the results against Italo are really really impressive. However, I disagree with the those on this site, who say he was robbed. JJF’s was on the bigger waves, and doing turns in way more critical sections. Jordy’s waves were smaller and there was a lot of what he now becoming renowned for and that is “Safety surfing”.
    To have a global perspective, I think it’s important to review what other folks outside of South Africa are thinking. Take a look at what the Aussies think of Jordy’s surfing? https://beachgrit.com/2017/07/opinion-jordy-worst-safety-surfer-on-tour/
    That article is old, and I do think Jordy has worked on his surfing since then, but I thought it worth sharing. Of course, South Africa currently has a surfer sitting comfortably in the top three, and the top five is now made up of three Brazilians, Italo, Filipe and Gabe, plus a Hawaiian JJF. Few could argue that these are indeed the best surfers in the world. Where are all the Aussies? Australia’s only hope is a lanky goofy foot sitting at number nine. so you could say the Saffas have had the last laugh?

    • The Chairman
      2 May, 2019 at 11:43 am · Reply

      good to have. an Ozzie perspective, thanks for sharing voice from Oz,

      approaches to contest surfing will always be highly debatable. Some consider rail surfing ‘safe surfing’ others consider airs boring.each to their own.

      from an oz perspective , one could argue that Oz has produced 2 x world champions who have been masters of ‘safe surfing’ in mick and parko ?

      no one will argue the point of braze dominance though. they are ruling the sport .

  11. Stephen Hutchison
    1 May, 2019 at 10:29 am · Reply

    Excellent read Chairman. I love the way Jjf surfs and his unconventional style is a refreshing contrast to the pooman style that the judges seem to overlook. But he seems to do a weird weak looking yank at the end of his wrapping top turns, yet he still gets the credit for these turns even though he disengages the rail halfway through. It’s meant to be a full rail power carve ala Jordy/Parko. It’s great to have him back though

  12. Alex
    2 May, 2019 at 8:53 am · Reply

    An interesting perspective there Voice from Oz. However the consensus across the interwebs is that the one getting maximum reward for minimum risk is Florence.

    Btw, ‘chairman’ is indeed a gender-neutral term. The suffix ‘man’ refers not to the masculine gender but is derived from the Latin word ‘manus’ meaning ‘hand’. It is therefore the hand that steers from the chair, irrespective of whether that hand is attached to a male or female body. We also get ‘manual’ (as in labour) from there which is equally gender non-specific.

    C’mon Jordy – the new Taylor Swift song is called ME! Listen to it before every heat.

  13. TrevT
    4 May, 2019 at 11:53 am · Reply

    You learn something new every day. Thanks for clearing up the gender neutrality of “man – manus – hand” Alex. I cannot wait to use this the next time a fem militia tells me something ridiculous like iphones are a sexist. There are better and worthy battles to fight for women but that is not one. Anyway…
    Touché about Joel and Mick being the most safety of safe surfers. Albeit the Tesla and Volvo of beautiful safety. I think Jordy gets robbed like a – insert clever anology here about something that gets robbed a whole f*&ckin lot! Maybe I am so used to it. But I didn’t think it so much this contest. Thanks Maneer. I always look forward to reading these reports. Always good. These bells conditions were very entertaining. May our year ahead be filled with massive swell

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