The last month or so has been rather interesting times for professional surfing, with the Margaret River Pro being called off due to ‘abnormal’ shark activity and the inaugural Founders Cup of Surfing kicking off at Kellys Wavepool. Effectively either side of the surfing spectrum was explored – wild and free vs confined and calculated. The comp was held in front of a sell out crowd, introducing a stadium like atmosphere, it was a showcase of incredible surfing and competition as the world’s best female and male surfers battled in teams for their home countries.
In the end, the combined World Team took an incredibly tight win ahead of Brazil in 2nd, USA in 3rd, Australia in 4th and Europe in 5th. World Team was lead by South African pair Jordy Smith (captain) and Bianca Buitendag being incredibly well supported by Michel Bourez of Tahiti, Paige Hareb of New Zealand, and Kanoa Igarashi of Japan. As competitors moved into the last heat of the final, it was Brazil who had the lead with Team World needing one helluva performance from their Captain as he squared off against Kelly Slater and Filipe Toledo. And that’s exactly what Jordy delivered, earning the required score for the Team’s victory at the Founders’ Cup of Surfing.
“It’s an incredible feeling to win as a team. That was a wild few days and this just leaves room for bigger and better things to come. We’ve been talking about it as a team all weekend, and you can’t leave anything on the table when it comes to Finals Day. You just let it all hang out and enjoy it, and if you can pull that off you’ll walk away with a win. I think all week long we’ve been the underdogs and determination got us through it. Collectively, we just held our confidence up the whole time and supported each other all the way”, said Smith.
Jordy was not a stand-alone surfer for the team and by no means did his teammates ride any form of coattails. All five surfers came to the party, performing exceptionally well under pressure. In qualifying, the World team only placed equal 3rd with Team Australia requiring a ‘surf-off’ to advance. The sudden-death matchup against Australia saw Hareb clinch the win to qualify her team for the Final that eventually opened the door for their first-place result.
“The last two days have been so surreal and it’s still sinking in. The win came from nowhere I feel like and it’s the perfect ending to such a fun week. I am so proud to represent this team alongside Jordy, Bianca, Michel, and Kanoa,” said Hareb
Team Brazil came in a tight second, a smidge ahead of USA and Australia. Brazil Team Captain, Gabriel Medina, got proceedings underway with a 9.67 ride, the highest score in the Final. Toledo, Silvana Lima, Adriano de Souza, and Taina Hinckel pushed progression to new heights with stella barrel-rides and imaginative aerial manoeuvres.
“The team vibe was great and everyone was just pushing each other to do better. I’m really happy with how we performed, even though it’s disappointing to come up short. We surfed really good as a team and it was a really fun event to show what we could do. It’s good to share this moment and have everyone talking to each other, especially with Taina [Hinckel] being so young. We’re so used to all the pressure, but it’s all new for her and we showed her a lot of support so hopefully, when she gets here in the future, she’ll be ready for this amazing atmosphere,” said Medina.
Team Brazil acquired the event’s highest single-wave scores and broke new ground at the WSL Surf Ranch. Toledo earned a Perfect 10 for his team, which also earned him the Jeep Best Ride Award for having the top-scoring wave of the contest. Toledo will drive out of Lemoore in the award’s prize, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler.
“It’s such an honor to be a part of surfing’s future and represent Brazil. Gabriel Medina, John Florence and I talked about how amazing it was to surf as teams. We were really tight together and the team had your back the whole way through supporting you. It was just an incredible experience and it’s something we will always remember,” said Toledo
In the early stages, Team USA looked unstoppable after an incredible opening day put them at the top of the standings by over 5 points. In the end, they just got muster the same amount of flair that set Team World and Brazil apart. Slater almost forced another surf-off in the final missing his target by 0.2 sending Team World through to the Final.
“I think it was a huge success. Everybody had a good time, from those who didn’t know what was going on, to the die-hard surf fans. I think it translated well to everyone and there were a lot of smiles to be had. The other teams came together a little bit better in the end maybe, we were pretty cohesive, but they had the better plan to the Finals approach. When the situation lined up on my part it was a cool thing just knowing my wave would push us into a tie with Brazil or the World Team would win — which them doing so was terrific and really represents what we were doing here as a whole,” said Slater.
John John Florence’s heroics against Medina fell short, however, he was able to claim the event’s Quiksilver Best Air Award with an electric 9.80 in his second run on Saturday. Lakey Peterson surfed consistently earning the USA’s only Final heat win after Carissa Moore fell short to Lima with an 8.77. But, Moore’s overall event experience was one of the team’s best weapons and was a clear standout all weekend.
“You really just wanted to do well for your team and we would’ve loved to win, but it was such a fun experience competing together. Slater was so close, I think all he needed to do was a turn and I’m glad he pushed it. That’s how this sport is going to get better. I’m just going to really remember being part of a team and the whole experience. To be a part of the first WSL Surf Ranch event and witness the fans here was incredible, and it’s something I’ll never forget,” said Moore
After barely missing qualification in their sudden-death surf-off against Team World, Team Australia earned a fourth-place finish. The experienced team from down under, consisting of Team Captain and six-time WSL Champion, Stephanie Gilmore, three-time WSL Champion Mick Fanning, two-time WSL Champion Tyler Wright, and Matt Wilkinson, fell short under the pressure and were subsequently eliminated before the Finals.
“It was an incredible event and even though it’s a little disappointing to not be in the Final, it was cool to be here and see how it all works. To see the fans out here and how the team aspect comes into play was really positive. This opens the floodgates into a whole new realm of arenas and events in controlled conditions. But, as long as there’s a really good balance between this and the ocean, I think the two will complement each other really well,” Gilmore said.
Team Europe struggled to find their groove, although scoring some good waves the Team just couldn’t quite hack it against the rest.
“It was really good vibes and it’s new for everyone so we were all so excited, and I really enjoyed it. I don’t feel like I left everything in the water which is really frustrating for myself, but everyone was great about cheering each other on and being supportive. It’s a bummer I couldn’t put more points on the table. There are so many things to take from, but it’s another dynamic to put a team first and the whole weekend will be in the mind of these surfers for years to come,” Defay said, Captain of Team Europe.