A lot can happen in 4 days. And if your name is Willian Cardoso, you went from world number 16 to 5. Just like that. In those 96 hours, Cardoso’s life trajectory took on a new shape, an entirely different form. He went from hard slogging QS warrior to CT Event Champion. He’s no longer an ‘also ran’, Willian just ran over the whole pack.
Brazil’s latest powerhouse addition to the nations complete domination on world surfing will enjoy every moment of a hard-earned victory. And rightfully so.
But one gets the feeling that Cardoso isn’t the type of man to bask in the glory for too long. Victory can be snatched away pretty quickly if you don’t remember the hard yards it took to earn it. That warmth and comfort of going from ‘underdog’ to ‘top dog’ can rapidly be reversed. And the chasing pack all know: Revenge is a dish best served cold.
But if there’s something we know about our 2018 Uluwatu CT Champion, it’s that he has an insatiable hunger of his own. Now that he’s tasted victory, he’ll want to feast at the winner’s table again. No more cold scraps dished out on the QS for the man they call ‘Panda’.’ Those days are done. Hell, he spent 10 years at that trough getting his big league meal ticket. It’s time to tuck in.
Talking of hunger, Jordy Smith seems to have developed a voracious appetite for winning of late. It’s great to see him chomping at the bit again. He surfed boldly at Uluwatu. The expressive performances and confidence are soaring, along with the spray. Smith’s 2018 backhand approach is more angled and acute, the manoeuvres sharpened with an arrangement and variety that the 2017 version lacked. The slow start to the year is thankfully gone. The appetite for destruction is back.
The 2018 Uluwatu CT had a frenetic, almost anxious ‘stop-start’ pace and feel to it. But strip away the weird timing of the event and the potential ‘deal closing’ importance of it regarding the World Title race presents itself. One gets the sense that those who kept their eye on the prize were the very same people who got the desired results. With the exception of Cardoso, Andino and Mikey Wright (surprise, surprise) as the party crashers, all the World Title candidates got results to keep them in the hunt going into J-Bay.
For me, here are 3 talking points from the 2018 Uluwatu CT worth mentioning.
- The judging scale is off. Again.
They finally got it right after years of benevolence and ambiguity under Richa Porta’s rule. Back then, 7’s were sugar-coated and paraded as 9’s. Scales set so high, so early on that, there was little or no room to move away from the heaping praise on mediocre performances.
But the 2018 panel, under the strict control and scrutiny of new head judge Pritamo Ahrendt, thankfully wound it back in. At Snapper Rocks, we saw mid 5’s that would have been 8’s in 2017. Finally, the restoration of a judging system that genuinely awarded risk and didn’t decorate safe surfing as savage intent.
But unfortunately, we’re now back to a scale that can’t define itself or be clear as to what it’s looking for. Watch Filipe Toledo’s opening wave of heat four and you be the judge. A 5.67 for that level of surfing? Another case in point was Jordy Smith’s 6.5 drainer in his quarter-final against Julian Wilson.
Compare his tube to Julian’s (yes Julian’s wave was bigger and he nailed the floater) but I’m looking at the technical difficulty vs completion as a score comparative. This isn’t about Saffa favouritism, it’s about delivering on a score that matches the level of performance.
You be the judge right here and give me your thoughts? I’m hoping to see a judging panel at J Bay that doesn’t favour banality but rather heaps praise on brutality.
- Mikey Wright will qualify for the CT as a wildcard.
And the tour will be better off for it. The reckless abandonment in approach and lack of any obvious threats to his abilities make for a wholesome, entertaining character that is welcomed in an over-coached, cookie cutter, pop em out age of uniformity.
Mikey Wright has shown that having your own set of rules beats following the rule book. It’s full tilt, calling all pockets surfing. He’s the surfing equivalent of John McEnroe. And we certainly don’t need more Stephen Edberg’s on tour. Why play it safe from the baseline when you could be charging the net? Or in Mikey’s case, the next triple upset.
- Brazilian lead pack to widen the gap, Jordy to stay in range.
Filipe Toledo vs Jordy Smith in the final at J Bay. Who wouldn’t want to see that? It’s not impossible and I really hope that’s the case for both South African surf fans and Smith’s world title aspirations.
One gets the feeling that Jordy is getting close to taking out an event win in 2018. J-Bay would be the perfect place to do that. Besides the obvious familiarity with the wave, it wouldn’t hurt to do it in front of a home crowd before departing for the more ominous Teahupo’o.
Regardless of where Jordy Smith’s places at J-Bay, one thing is certain: the Brazilian pack will break further away. Onward and upward they will go, seeking their next World Surfing Champion, taking their new favourite son on board for the ride…who knows…maybe that World Champion could, in fact, be everyone’s favourite Brazilian surfing Panda Bear?
Will Julian Wilson stay in the yellow jersey, what about a surprise injury wildcard return by Kelly Slater, perhaps even a shark steering a rubber duck? Whatever unfolds, I’ll be on the chair watching…always watching.
See you at J-Bay.