Sean Doherty On: Scripting The Unscripted

12 Dec 2015 4

Sean Doherty

Senior Writer

When you’re walking through hell, keep walking they say. Don’t stop for a photo.

Phil Toledo’s hellfire moment came early this morning. After having a full night to sweat on it, after sweating on it already for six weeks, he found himself on the shoreline at Pipe about to paddle out for a sudden death world title mano-o-mano heat.

Against Bruce Irons. Nasty draw that.

The dice were loaded against Filipe. Sentimentality, experience, the crowd, Pipeline form, Pipe itself, they all belonged to Bruce. That didn’t leave much to work with.

What he had was Brazilian resourcefulness and the Big Sky Guy and his dad’s shrill whistle, which seemed to be coming from seven houses at once.

On a dropping swell there were two ways to approach today; sit and wait, or stick and move. Bruce and the established Pipe guys would wait. That’s what they do. They don’t hurry. That left only one strategy for Filipe and it proved to be the right one. The worst thing the young Brazilian could have done was paddle out and sit there like an Easter Island statue and wait for a wave that might never come. Too much thinking time. He needed to hustle and catch anything with a pulse and just hope that Bruce couldn’t find a hog.

And it worked.

SEE ALSO: Pipe Masters Day 1, Feeling Different

Lefts, rights and wash throughs, Toledo went for everything, Photo by Masurel / WLS

Lefts, rights and wash throughs, Toledo went for everything, Photo by Masurel / WLS

The more Filipe moved the better he looked and the less jumpy his demeanour. He hardly sat still for the whole heat, and had the good sense to do his own thing and not hassle Bruce. That would be a poor PR and a poor life choice here on a small island. He caught lefts, rights, and at one stage got washed down to Beach Park and I swear he was even eyeing off a sandbar right to perform some kinda forehand cheese whiz. Bruce, meanwhile, couldn’t buy a wave, and suddenly that was it.

Not only had Filipe just beaten Bruce Irons – at good Pipeline mind you – he’d grown a foot taller, overtaken Mick Fanning in the ratings, but even better than that, he’d handed Mick a shit sandwich by drawing him against Jamie O’Brien in the next round. A win for Jamie almost certainly hands the title to Brazil. Strange that. A few years ago large sections of the Brazilian online populace wanted Jamie’s blood, now they’ll be cheering for Jaminho with an almighty roar.

The games had begun.

SEE ALSO: Pipe Masters Trials, The Foxes In The Hen House

Adriano De Souza’s win over Jack Robinson soon after wasn’t quite so noble. Also surfing for his skin in a sudden death heat, Adriano shadowed the kid big time. He shadowed the other heat in the water as well, with Taj Burrow getting tangled in his leash, the three of them shoulder-to-shoulder. Adriano even started blowing up over an imaginary interference call. It wasn’t elegant, but it was effective. The kid has been on a tear out here and given room could’ve run riot. Jack had one final shot but fell half a point short, and Adriano was through to round three.

When world title longshot Julian Wilson breezed through his heat we dispensed with the world title nonsense and got down to the real business of… well, I’m still not quite sure what the real business of round two ever is. I know it’s wedged between the equally pointless round one, and the more consequential round three, but beyond that it’s only purpose seems to be exhausting the events swell window and ensuring the finals run out of waves.

We shouldn’t be so cruel. Some careers hit the skids out there today. Others were left hanging on by a thread, there were pockets of drama, but there just isn’t quite the same romance in relegation battles as there is up the top end of town. The one performance of note I suppose was Kelly finally getting moving and hinting – just hinting – that he’s going to have the last word somewhere in all this world title malarkey.

When the dust settled and the apathy cleared the draw for round three provided clarity about where this is all heading. The Brazilian guys did well. The God of Seeding – Al Hunt in a toga – drew Adriano against Micro Hall in what will surely be collectively the shortest heat ever held on tour with a combined height of 4’6”. Filipe got Mason Ho, a quirkier proposition on home court, but as a draw it could’ve been worse. Gabe Medina meanwhile got Jordy, and that draw might become a lot trickier if it’s a predominately Backdoor when we resume on Tuesday… and if Jordy keeps dropping turns like he did today. As this column wraps up spray is still falling.

SEE ALSO: Wave Of The Week, It's Definitely A 10

Is Slater going to have the last word on the title? Photo by Masurel / WSL

Is Slater going to have the last word on the title? Photo by Masurel / WSL

The draw was a little nastier for Mick, who at the start of the day the bookies had at $1.50 for the title, the closest guy to him at $6.

Not only does Mick get Jamie in the next round, but he ends up in the same quarter of the draw as Jamie, John John and Kelly. If he’s going to win this fourth world title, man, he’ll well and truly have earned it. After the year he’s had, Mick has come out and said this title will be fuelled by emotion, and not his usual ensemble of world title emotions – steely, steely, steely… elation! There’ll be emotion here, but it will surely oscillate to all points of the compass. He’s gonna have to draw deep.

We talked yesterday about Mick’s imperious control over all the elements of his life. He’s spinning a lot of plates without ever seemingly breaking a sweat. The draw, however, he has no control over… or at least in theory. Maybe this unholy seeding is a Pipeline square-up for 2013, when he dropped in on John John in the dying seconds of their round four heat, ensuring he wouldn’t meet John John again until he’d already won the title. This place has a long memory.

The only thing that could have made Mick’s draw harder is if he’d also drawn Carissa Moore. After the men’s was called off the girls paddled out for their exhibition heat and Carissa went loony. Actually, loony doesn’t capture it. She was as laconic as John John, steazy as Machado, bankable as Kelly… but she was none of them. She was Carissa, one of the world’s best surfers – full stop – and the petition for her to surf in next year’s men’s Pipe Masters starts right here.

Tags: sean , doherty , world , surf , league , banzai , pipe , pipeline , masters , hawaii , title , video (create Alert from these tags)

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