The return to Bali, and to Keramas, provided some of the most sustained high performance surfing seen at any Championship Tour (CT) event in recent history. Italo Ferreira and Lakey Peterson led the charge, mixing power and progression to gain the Jeep Leader Jerseys. Elsewhere Jordy Smith and Tyler Wright showed welcome returns to form, unlike John John Florence, while rookies Caroline Marks and Griffin Colapinto continued to impress. Here we look at the bigger picture after an epic week of surfing in Bali.
Waves on Tap
It says a lot about a location when most of the competitors and surf fans don't want the competition to end. Each morning for an entire week Keramas served up a truly remarkable platform for professional surfing. "This is a wave that will suit each surfer on the CT," Joel Parkinson predicted, correctly, before the event. With waves on tap each heat provided opportunities for barrels, power turns, smooth cutbacks and massive aerial maneuvers. That meant each competitor could play to their own strengths. In warm waters and sheet glass waves Keramas gave professional surfing a fresh new level playing field that elevated the performance levels of the sport.
Italo Ferreira Lives in the Moment
"It was an unbelievable week, I'm just so happy," said the Corona Bali Protected winner Italo Ferreira. "I just try to enjoy myself and enjoy the moment." From his five freesurfs a day, to the incredible competition displays to his victory speech, where he spent the whole interview dancing to Balinese drums, the new World No. 1's sheer lust for life was infectious. His performance was one born of spontaneity and joy and none of his opponents could find a strategy to dampen the mix of spirit, power and progression. If his win at Bells was surprising, this past week has confirmed a World Title is now well within his capabilities.
Two-Way Race for the Title
"I'm doing my own thing," Lakey Peterson said early on in the event, "but I've definitely got one eye on what Steph is doing. She's the leader and I want that Jeep Leader Jersey." When Steph Gilmore lost her Quarterfinal Peterson was poised to make her move. She'd been surfing at a different speed to all her competitors and only seemed to run out of jet fuel in the back half of her Final against Tyler Wright. She still had enough however left in the tank to get over the line and grab the rating's lead from Gilmore. Those two now have opened up an 8000 point lead over Tatiana Weston-Webb in third and it seems inevitable that Peterson and Gilmore will fight in a two-way race for the World Title.
Tyler Wright and Jordy Smith Return to Form
Tyler Wright and Jordy Smith came into the Corona Bali Protected with a similar conundrum; while confident their level of surfing hadn't dropped from last year they had failed to get any type of roll going in an event in 2018. "This year has been different in terms of wins, but I'm still learning and facing new challenges so I'm loving life," said Wright. "And Bali could change everything." Eventually she came just over half a point short of a win, but moved up to World No. 4. Smith was less circumspect and just plain angry having failed to get past Round 3 this year. A heated paddling exchange with Gabriel Medina seemed to ignite the South African and he cruised to the Semifinals with a savage and smooth return to form. It took a moment of magic by Italo Ferreira to beat him, but Smith's surfing was as good as it has been at any stage in his career. With Uluwatu next, followed by his favorite event at Jeffreys Bay, we can expect the resurgence to continue.
John John Goes Down... But Aims to Go Big
"I love seeing heats come down to the end like that, what he did was pretty sick," said John John immediately after his defeat to Jesse Mendes. "I mean I don't like losing, but that's the stuff that progresses the sport and it pushes me to try to do big things in heats." It was yet another magnanimous response by the two-time World Champion, yet the loss sees the Hawaiian's chances of a historic three-peat now in tatters. Life also doesn't get much easier with his next heat up against Keramas Semifinalist, and now World No. 12, Mikey Wright at Uluwatu. Expect big things indeed.
O'Leary's Warning For Colapinto and Marks
Caroline Marks and Griffin Colapinto continued their march to the Rookie of the Year Awards, both claiming Quarterfinal finishes and posting some of the best individual heat scores of the event. The two teenagers have been a revelation with a mix of total youthful abandon and incredible maturity. Yet they'd be wise to look to last year's Rookie of the Year winner Connor O'Leary as a slight cautionary tale of how difficult it is to maintain a CT roll. The powerful goofyfooter, who finished at World No. 13 in 2017, has won two heats all year and will now spend the rest of the year fighting to maintain his CT status.