"I've been aiming for the bigger waves to do two strong maneuvers," said Filipe Toledo. He had just defeated defending Margaret River champion Sebastian Zietz in Round Five. "The judges want to see a first big turn with lots of spray, so that's what I'll be focusing on."
Of all the Quarterfinalists left in the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, Toledo's performances in the huge surf in the earlier rounds were perhaps the most surprising. The Brazilian is, rightly, known as one of the most electrifying performance surfers on the planet. His pure speed, matched with aerial ability, is mind-boggling.
As such, so far his career-best results have come at the Championship Tour (CT) locations that best showcase those strengths. Last year he netted his only two Semifinals at Snapper and Trestles. In 2015 he won three Finals at Snapper, Rio and Portugal to finish at World No. 4.
Aerial ability and fast-twitch fibers, however, don't really come into play when you are surfing 15-foot Main Break, as happened over the weekend. Toledo's performances in defeating Joan Duru, Connor O'Leary and Seabass showed that he is growing as a surfer and is absolutely determined to become a player at every stop on the CT schedule.
After Toledo defeated O'Leary, in his post-heat interview Barton Lynch inquired about this particular hurdle. "You are famous for your small-wave performances. Is it important to prove that you have everything that it takes to win a World Title and to succeed at places like Margaret River?"
"For sure," Toledo said. "It's been great to try to prove something here. To surf on bigger boards, in bigger conditions and in tubes too. I'm always aiming to improve."
It's worth remembering that Toledo is only 21 and has plenty of room for growth. "He is really starting to fill out," said Martin Potter, former World Champ and WSL commentator. "He's not that skinny little kid anymore." So far in Western Australia, Filipe has proven that he is developing the technical skills, physical fitness and mental strength to be a more dangerous opponent in waves of consequence.
He will need all that and more to defeat Adriano de Souza in his Quarterfinal, but whatever happens, Toledo has proven some points in the West. You never know, it might even be a turning point in his career.