Sean Doherty: Jeremy Flores and Carissa Moore Win France
COASTALWATCH | SEAN DOHERTY
2019 Quiksilver and Roxy Pro France, Finals Day
Never trust a skinny French chef they say, and I’m still not quite sold on skinny Jordy.
The Big Guy has dropped pounds this year and at times has looked great as a result… but for the most part in small, beach break, decaf surf. J-Bay proved the theory. Tahiti was the exception. Today however was a double-shot beachie, six foot and slamming out on the back bank. The European leg, swimming in butter, is a weight gain trap for the travelling pro but Jordy has kept things disciplined. In the end it didn’t matter… Jeremy Flores sniffed out the truffles and took Jordy out. At that point it appeared Jordy’s title chances were gone, another world title slipping away at the business end of the season. As my good friend Mike Jennings puts it adroitly, Jordy is “not very good at being one of the best surfers in the world".
The Comishette, Jessie Miley-Dyer made the bold call early that this would be finals day. It was roping but a bold call. This is France after all and there was eight hours of tide to deal with.
The last bold call she made saw the men surf a truly awful shorey and Kelly Slater lose to Leo Fioravanti and storm off bashing his board. This is not Miley-Dyer’s first rodeo however. One of the pre-requisite skills of a contest director at a French event is when it turns to shit and Kelly loses, you need to be able to seamlessly camouflage yourself in the surfers’ area behind a pot plant or a drinks fridge until it’s all blown over. The loss jeopardised Kelly’s Olympic dreams. He’s not only neck and neck with Seth Moniz… he still hasn’t overtaken John John, who hasn’t surfed since May. Kelly’s still six-thousand-odd points behind John with just two events to go, and he’ll lose his throwaways on top of that. One of those events is Pipe and he is Kelly, but a quarter finish is still only 4750 points.
And then there’s John, who is on track to return at Pipe. Kelly versus John in the Pipe final for the Olympic spot?
By now the back bank at La Nord was on the cook.
The tide had drained and it was rifling. Callinan, who made the final last year as a wildcard, got through on a deadly backhand. Carmichael – Avoca Jesus – meanwhile found a perfect one. It looked like one of those photos of Maurice Cole surfing alone out there 30 years ago. Carmichael however made the mistake of letting the wave be perfect all around him. Tube, cuttie, closeout slash. He only needed a 4.75… and they handed him a shit sandwich 4.50. “Are you fucking kidding me!” He Grugged. The judges gave it to local wildcard Marc Lacomare, maybe as ancient payback for torching him royally during Parko’s world title year.
The roving camera followed Medina running down the beach, zoomed tight on his arse. Kardashian in proportion, it appeared like a pair of mastiffs fighting inside a Rip Curl Flashbomb. His arse had world title written all over it.
I flashed back a few days to Medina’s round one heat, when he pulled two split-second club sandwich turns. He hadn’t done one all year but threw them in an inconsequential round one heat. It seemed odd he’d show it to the judges at that point. That was a final day turn.
Today was finals day and there’d be no club sandwiches.
Today was out the back and classic and offshore and Gabe was on his backhand. No one will beat Medina in his current mood, but Medina was still capable of beating himself in a big, shifty lineup… like the one we had today. Right now nobody will outsurf him, but he’s vulnerable in a wave catching contest against a smart competitor.
Against Ace Buchan he deployed hydraulic ass-stall on his opener but never came out. He then got lost out there. He waited 35 minutes sitting on just a five. Gabby’s pathological need to be the deepest guy caught him out. He took off too deep. The clock ticked. Ace Buchan sat there ice cool on a seven.
Gabby only needed a 4.8 and with three minutes left got his wave. After Avoca Jesus’ earlier 4.5 though they were never giving him the score. Medina and his ass-dogs were out of the event and the world title was suddenly there to be won again. Medina had momentum but didn’t have an insurmountable lead. Back in the main street in Hossegor, Jordy was halfway through despair-eating a chocolate éclair when the news broke. He put the pastry down in disgust and Drake-meme denied it, palms out. He wasn’t done yet! Via Portugal!
The other guy now back in the game was Brother.
Kolohe Andino was now the highest rated guy left in the field and surfed like he knew it. He won’t win the world title without winning an event and he’d never have a better chance than today. Against Yago Dora it came down to a priority call in the final minute. Kolohe had priority, paddled and pulled back but priority judge Ratso didn’t call it. Yago caught the next one to force the issue and got pinged. Brother into the quarters.
I make little secret of the fact that Jeremy Flores keeps me in the game of pro surfing. Having matured from the tour’s enfant terrible, the old tantrums are fewer but more refined. His interview at Lemoore where he flat out said he couldn’t take the pool contest seriously pretty much summed up the mood of the viewing public. And while Griff Colapinto’s poopie revelation was a little too much truth, Jezza’s good natured dismissiveness of the whole show in interviews puts pro surfing in a corner where it belongs. He’s a true barometer of pro surfing’s place in a bigger world. The post-heats in France have been like chewing through week-old dry baguettes, and your correspondent more than once fondly remembered the days when the French tour meant no sleep, no drug tests… and no behavioural filters.
Jezza’s place in the La Nord lineup was never in doubt today. Dude got on an unholy roll in his quarter, taking out Callinan. At the time I hoped Jezza wasn’t surfing his final. I’d like him to win at home if only for the speech.
At the start of the year I called either Ryan Callinan or Jack Freestone would win an event this year. It wouldn’t be Callinan today, but Freestone looked ice cool in the quarters. It took him until his final wave to get over Lacomare on a Pyzel stockie he pulled off the racks. He needed big points to stay on tour but couldn’t tell you how many.
Italo and Brother. The remaining two top-five guys drew each other in the last quarter, meaning only one of them could seriously dent Gabby’s title lead. The long rights hadn’t disadvantaged the screwfoots, and as the tide filled in and the tubes disappeared they almost had an advantage. Italo just went wack-wack while Brother waited for a tube that never came. Italo’s backhand wack-wack happens so quickly I’m not entirely sure the judges truly comprehend it. I’m not sure they get how deep his deep turns are, but conversely he gets away with some windscreen wipers. Anyhoo… Italo into the semis.
Oh the irony. The girls finally get to call the shots, and the women’s semis get thrown out just as the tide kills the bank. It was always going to shift at some point in the day, and it happened literally in the first minute of Carissa and Lakey’s semi. It hadn’t just stopped barrelling… it had stopped breaking. It took 25 minutes, but Carissa finally found one and tasered it. Lakey, meanwhile, as Rosy diplomatically put it, was, “out of rhythm with the ocean”… code for, “It’s stopped fucking breaking, Karen.” At this point Contest Commissionette JMD was shuffling sideways behind a pot plant. Lakey caught one after 35 minutes and you could see the tension manifesting in clenched fists. It was a two. That was it. You sensed there might be one of those classic gold-washed sunset shorebreak shootouts coming up… but that was hours away and little consolation for Lakey.
The girls in the second semi went straight to the shorey, but the tide was still too low and it was a turgid, boiling mess. One turn onto dry sand. They could have just put it on hold for an hour but seemed they were really racing to get this thing finished. Then it jerried… they want to start Portugal two days early on a new swell. Caroline Marks jagged two sixes for two single turns and that was more than enough. It was a shame for Johanne Defay, who has out-tube-rode everybody – men and women – between Lemoore and La Graviere but couldn’t find one.
Jeremy had no problems.
He barged his way into a crumbling left that hollowed out and delivered him at the feet of the French partisans on the beach. The beach lost it. The booth lost it. “He came out with English on him!” riddled Strider, in English.
Italo looked like he’d be joining Florence and Toledo with injuries after limping from the water in the opening minutes of the second semi against Leo. It’s remarkable that he does what he does – lands hard, lands often – without the slightest of twinges… let alone a full blown shredded knee or ankle. One ankle injury over five years is a lucky return. He’s like some kind of indestructible plastic action figure. Hobbling up the beach he looked cooked, but simply grabbed another board, paddled back out and won, landing hard in the shorebreak on each wave.
France has been good to the women. Back bank or shorebreak they’ve gone hard at it. Conlogue and Defay have led, but neither made the final. Instead it was left to Carissa to bring it home in the final. The tide had cleaned the La Grav shorey up by this point and Carissa duly plucked a clean left and a clean right and was never challenged by Baby Occ, Caroline Marks. The win sets her up nicely to win her first title in… four years? That’s been a while, huh.
Been too long.
Still hard to believe that the CEO of Quiksilver went squid jigging in his boat one morning last year out of Capbreton Harbour and never came back. Whatever your take on the fate of the surf industry, Pierre Agnes was talismanic to Quiksilver and amongst all the corporate bullshit kept it real, particularly for those who surfed with him at home in France. Jeremy read the eulogy at his service. He was just a kid from the colonies when he moved here from Reunion and Agnes took him under his wing. Don’t think Jeremy hasn’t been thinking about winning this contest… if for no other reason to be able to dedicate it.
Jeremy took the oxygen out of the final in the opening minutes, getting shot out of the best wave ridden all day. Biscay green and backlit. The thing just came to him. He had to wait another 25 minutes for something to back it up, but he sat waiting patiently knowing it’d come. For Jezza the day, from the very first wave of the first heat, had fallen his way. He just sat their serene as the final minute ticked down, didn’t move, didn’t even look as Italo tried to land the nine he needed, almost breaking both ankles in the process. No, Jeremy just sat there splashing the water and soaking up the moment.
Jezza doesn’t win often, but when he does they’re good ones.
“It's been a pretty strange start to the year, that’s for sure.”
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