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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Mon, 7 May 2018

What drama! As wave after perfect three foot wave poured through in rural California, the world won the first WSL Founders’ Cup of Surfing. Spike edits the press release a bit.

crowd hinckleT2435founderscup18cestari_mm

CROWD FUNDING: About 5,000 people paid for the privilege of this perfection. Photo WSL / Cestari

This was the first official event at the WSL Surf Ranch, in front of a sellout crowd of 5,000 people - some of whom will today be enjoying the cherry on the cake to their R120,000 VIP weekend: a one-hour session in the fabled fresh water waves. They'll also be getting personal coaching (about how to contort yourself into a little human foamball to get in the barrel), a videographer, their own locker (bonus!), and free stuff.

We may only have two Saffas on the world tour these days, but this was quite a turnup for the books. The world team (in case you didn't know after all the hype) comprised Jordy Smith (Captain) and Bianca Buitendag, who were backed up by Michel Bourez (Tahiti), Paige Hareb (New Zealand), and Kanoa Igarashi (Japan).

It was very tight, but they pulled it off ahead of small-wave, shark-avoiding Brazil in 2nd. Crowd favourite the USA - despite all the arm waving encouragement to the crowd from King Kelly in his home-made domain - took 3rd, while Australia took 4th and Europe in 5th.


OUT IN THE DAY: Bianca Buitendag stays in the mix with the top echelon. Photo WSL / Cestari

Heading into the last heat of the final, Brazil held the lead and the World Team needed Smith to smash something unique on his last wave against USA Team Captain Kelly Slater and Filipe Toledo of Brazil. Under pressure, Smith delivered a phenomenal final ride to clinch his Team's victory at the Founders’ Cup of Surfing (presented by Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold).

“It’s an incredible feeling to win as a team,” said Smith. “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.”

The victory saw all five surfers perform amazing feats in the final against the star-studded USA and Brazil teams. In the qualifying rounds, the World Team finished equal 3rd with Australia, which forced a sudden-death matchup against Australia for a finals berth. Hareb was the hero here. She clinched the win that got her team into the final.


AEROSMITH: Jordy pulls off a little air on their way to the win. Photo WSL / Cestari

“The last two days have been so surreal and it’s still sinking in,” Hareb said. “The win came from nowhere ... 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."

Brazil were fractionally ahead of USA and Australia. Captain Gabriel Medina opened their final with a crazy 9.67 ride, the highest score in the final. Toledo, Silvana Lima, Adriano de Souza, and Taina Hinckel pushed progression to new heights with mad tube-rides and big airs.

Brazil acquired the event’s highest single-wave scores while Toledo earned the first ever Perfect 10 for his team, which also earned him the Jeep Best Ride Award for the top-scoring wave of the contest. Toledo drives out of Lemoore in a new 2018 Jeep Wrangler.

“It’s such an honor to be a part of surfing’s future and represent Brazil,” Toledo said. “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.”

Toledo air

AIRBORNE: Filipe Toledo was one of several who launched the future of surfing. Photo WSL / Cestari

USA Team - riding a wave of nationalistic pride - looked unstoppable after the opening day had them first by more than five points, but their performance in the finals lacked the flair of the other teams. Team Captain Slater went within 0.2 points to force a surf-off against the World Team on his final wave. He needed 9.27 ride to draw level with World Team, but despite an amazing ride, he fell short.

“I think it was a huge success,” Slater said. “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 -- which them doing so was terrific. (It) really represents what we were doing here as a whole.”

John John Florence’s desperate attempts to defeat Medina in the final fell short, but the two-time WSL Champion still claimed the event’s Quiksilver Best Air Award with his brilliant 9.80 in his second run on Saturday. Lakey Peterson’s consistent surfing helped earn 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.

Team World

WORLD FIRST: Kanoa Igarashi, Paige Hareb, Jordy, Bianca, and Michel Bourez Photo WSL / Cestari

“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,” Moore said. “Kelly (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.”

Australia Team earned fourth after barely missing qualification in their sudden-death surf-off against the World Team. Unfortunately the experienced team, 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 was eliminated ahead of 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,” Gilmore said. “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.”


ROCKET SKIP: Gabriel Medina almost pulled off his promise as A favourite. Photo WSL / Cestari

Earlier, Europe Team’s Run 3 did not help them improve the needed scores to receive a finals spot and saw them finish in fifth on the Jeep Leaderboard. Team Captain Johanne Defay scored two 7-point rides alongside Portugal’s Frederico Morais. Jeremy Flores and Leonardo Fioravanti had standout barrel rides but did not have the opportunity in the final. Frankie Harrer struggled to keep pace but is excited to return to the WSL Surf Ranch to continue to gain more experience.

“It was really good vibes and it’s new for everyone so we were all so excited, and I really enjoyed it,” Defay said. “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."

Jeep Leaderboad
1 - World Team
2 - Brazil Team
3 - USA Team
4 - Australia Team
5 - Europe Team

Final results: https://www.wslfounderscup.com/results

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