Good Start for Jordy

Thursday 9 March 2023 Jordy Smith got his 2023 campaign off to a cracking start with a quarter-final finish at the Billabong Pro Pipeline, won by Carissa Moore (HAW) and Jack Robinson (AUS) earlier today.

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PIPING HOT: Jack Robinson and Carissa Moore celebrate victory at Pipeline. Photo WSL / Heff

Losing finalist Leonardo Fioravanti was the spoiler for Jordy in the first stop on the World Surf League (WSL) 2023 Championship Tour (CT) with a narrow Quarterfinal win despite the latter controlling most of the heat. However, with less than 10 minutes left, Fioravanti tracked down two impressive Backdoor barrels. His final score of 6.67 was just enough to take the heat win from Smith. Fioravanti took down Caio Ibelli (BRA) in the Semifinal to face up against third-year competitor Robinson in the final, where he fell short.

Five-time World Champion Moore defeated two-time World Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) in the Final. With the first event of the season complete, competitors will now prepare for the second event of the season just down the road at Sunset Beach. Moore and Robinson will wear the coveted yellow Leader jersey, taking the rankings’ lead from eight-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and 2022 World Champion Filipe Toledo (BRA), respectively.

Moore has been runner-up at Pipeline for the past two years and finally achieved her breakthrough victory today. In a rematch of their 2020 Final, Moore and Wright once again faced each other in the 11th Final matchup between them.

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BACKDOOR WOMAN: Carissa wins after two consecutive losing finalist berths. Photo WSL / Bielmann

“I’m so happy, and there are just so many emotions just to get this win,” said Moore. “For the women, it’s been so many years in the making, and having us out at a crazy wave like Pipeline and just trying to spend more time has been such a process. After finishing the season like I did last year, it’s nice to come away with a win and wipe that slate clean. To win an event that’s in honor of Andy Irons is so special. He’s one of my favorite surfers of all time, and I always appreciated the time he took for me.”

Robinson's day started with an epic matchup against two-time World Champion and former event winner John John Florence (HAW). Both demonstrated expert barrel riding skills, making critical drops and finding near-impossible exits in their back-and-forth exchange. With just under three minutes left, Robinson found the score he needed, a 6.67, to overtake the two-time World Champion.

Robinson then met Brazilian star Joao Chianca in the Semifinals. Chianca came into the match with plenty of confidence after having just taken out current World Champion Toledo. After a slow start to the match, things heated up in the final 5 minutes. Chianca turned the heat on Robinson, finding a Backdoor barrel and finishing the wave with a fins-free maneuver. But Robinson instantly took the lead back, threading a long Backdoor barrel and slashing the end section.

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THROUGH THE DOOR: It was a tubefest with multiple barrels ridden. Photo WSL / Bielmann

This is Robinson's first Billabong Pro Pipeline win and the fourth CT win of his career: “I’ve dreamed of this for a long time, and Andy [Irons] was one of my favorite surfers ever, and it’s just an honor,” said Robinson. “To feel everything, all the emotions at the start of the year, you don’t know how you’re going to come back. I was feeling good, but you never know with this beast, with Pipeline. This one’s the most special. I’m super grateful for this start here in Hawaii, and I’m just getting myself ready to run that road. It was a low one last year, but I also learned a lot, and there’s no price on that.”

Moore’s day began with a matchup against tour newcomer, fellow Oahu competitor, 17-year-old Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW). Although a slow heat, Moore managed to find a Backdoor wave barrel and earn an excellent 8.0. Sakura Johnson put up a valiant effort, but it wasn’t enough to take down the experienced World Champion. The five-time WSL Champion now returns to No. 1 after falling just short of her sixth World Title in 2022.

Losing finalist, two-time World Champion, Wright, started her Finals Day campaign with a narrow win over Lakey Peterson (USA) in the women’s Semifinal, Heat 1. Wright came flying out of the gates with a backdoor barrel and solid finishing maneuver, notching an excellent 8.00 in the opening minutes. Peterson responded with a Backdoor barrel of her own to earn a 7.00. The two traded off leading the heat, but it was ultimately Wright who emerged victorious by just .10 of a point.

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STILL GOT IT: If anyone thinks Jordy has become jaded, can think again. Photo WSL / Bielmann

This marks Wright’s second Final at the renowned Banzai Pipeline. She previously won here in 2020 after the women’s event was moved from Maui. Her runner-up finish will jumpstart her 2023 season toward the mid-season cut and road to the Final 5.

“The women deserve to be at Pipe, and you can see how much comfortable women have got here just knowing the event is going to be on tour from now on," said Wright. "Massive shoutout to the WSL for supporting women's surfing and seeing how it can grow. Honestly, we had a really nice offseason, and a lot of work went into performance and a lot of work went into building my body back. I’ve been working with Surfing Australia, and they’ve been amazing for me, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Actually, it’s a really enjoyable process for me, and I just want to say thank you to those guys."

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LOOKING GLASS: Italy's best surfer Fioravanti looks in scintillating form. Photo WSL / Bielmann

Women's Final Results
1 - Carissa Moore (HAW) 11.00
2 - Tyler Wright (AUS) 10.00

Men's Final Results
1 - Jack Robinson (AUS) 9.17
2 - Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 7.47

Women's Semifinal Results
HEAT 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.43 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 13.33
HEAT 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.17 DEF. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 6.67

Men's Semifinal Results
HEAT 1: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 12.00 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 7.57
HEAT 2: Jack Robinson (AUS) 11.67 DEF. Joao Chianca (BRA) 9.93

Men's Quarterfinal Results
HEAT 1: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 11.00 DEF. Jordy Smith (RSA) 10.76
HEAT 2: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 15.83 DEF. Liam O'Brien (AUS) 7.70
HEAT 3: Joao Chianca (BRA) 12.00 DEF. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.40
HEAT 4: Jack Robinson (AUS) 13.84 DEF. John John Florence (HAW) 12.87