Filipe Toledo became the smart-money pick to take the Vans US Open of Surfing the moment the Surfline surf forecast was locked in for the week. He showed why Sunday.
Toledo claimed his second Open title in commanding fashion, blazing through his last three heats Sunday showing off his wide repertoire of stunning small-wave moves. While he relied heavily on his acrobatic rotations whenever he was behind, Toledo spent plenty of time showing off his vicious rail game. He was cutting deep all day.
His victims included Michel Bourez, Kanoa Igarashi, and Aussie whiz-kid Ethan Ewing, this year's biggest surprise in Huntington Beach, (unless you've been paying attention to your WSL app).
Ewing has been on a certifiable tear for the past month. The 17-year-old Australian surfs so much like a young Andy Irons he was giving friends of the late surfer chicken skin. Indeed, Irons is the guy Ewing cites as his favorite surfer, along with Mick Fanning, and it shows.
That said, Ewing might not be as confident as Andy Irons in the big stuff, which - speculating here - might be why he came into the US Open of Surfing saying he had no intention of surfing the CT next year if he qualifies.
That all sounded great early on. But as the choice became more and more real with each passing heat he advanced through he continued to get the question, "Seriously? You wouldn't do it?"
By the weekend his position on the matter was evolving, because his emphatic "No," was suddenly, "No comment."
We're quite sure we'll be seeing a lot more of Ewing and Toledo in the years to come, as well as Kanoa Igarashi, who finished with another third place result at his home break.
Igarashi isn't much older than Ewing. The Huntington Beach local is the youngest surfer on the Championship Tour. Several critics had serious doubts about his CT chances coming into his rookie season. But Igarashi has changed a lot of hearts and minds this year, showing everyone how quickly he's matured. His surfing is solid, even in the meaty stuff and he's not bad at his home break either.
The other guy who wasn't so bad was Adriano de Souza. In fact, right up until he ran into Ethan Ewing in the Semifinal he looked like the best hedge against Filipe.
One of the most heartwarming parts of the week was seeing De Souza getting the warm ovations he rightly deserves as the reigning world champ. While he surfed with his usual dose of gritty determination, he was also smiling endlessly all week. He didn't need to be here. His motivation was purely keeping his legs fresh, and pressing a little flesh.
Of course, Toledo didn't really need to be here either. His early-season injury is in the rear view mirror and he's climbing his way back up the CT ladder. But Filipe arrived with fire in his belly. He wanted to right his wrong from last year, when he fell short of the final by less than a tenth of a point. After winning in 2014, that loss was tough to handle.
Well make good he did. And in the process, Toledo cemented his place as the best small-wave surfer in the world. It's a fine honor, no doubt, but not one he'll be satisfied with for long. Toledo wants to remove all the qualifiers. And there's a great chance he's going to get there.