Toledo Inches Forward
If you'd offered Filipe Toledo a Semifinal finish and a firmer grasp of the Jeep Leader Jersey before the Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o, the Brazilian would have bitten your hand off.
The last three weeks has seen a clear mental shift in his approach to the wave which has been rewarded with his best ever result in Tahiti. Critics may say that the small waves that featured over the competition however still leave a question mark over his ability in slabbing lefts.
They have a point, although it is telling that the three other Semifinalists, Medina, Flores and Wright, are all gold-plated Teahupo'o performers.
Big or small it is positioning on the reef, which comes down to inches rather than yards, that wins heats at Teahupo'o. In this competition Toledo has made huge strides in that regard.
With 90 seconds remaining of the Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o Gabriel Medina was facing another CT Final loss. If his opponent had chosen the second, rather than the first, wave of the last set the Brazilian would have finished with nine wins out of the 18 Finals he had contested.
That 50 per cent ratio would have compared unfavorably to World Champions like Andy Irons (74%) Kelly Slater (69%) and Mick Fanning (65%) and Toledo's remarkable seven wins from seven.
However by winning the Final, the 2014 World Champion not only improved his Finals win ratio by five percentage points and moved into double figures in CT wins, but sharked up to No. 2 in the World.
Right Foot Backward
The smaller conditions over the waiting period gave the goofyfooters in the field a rare advantage, with which the top ranked goofys Gabriel Medina, Owen Wright and Italo Ferreira exploited.
Yet at the wrong end of the ratings a slew of talented goofys, and 2017 standouts, failed to capitalize and further wedged themselves in the relegation zone.
Matt Wilkinson, who was wearing the Jeep Leader Jersey this time last year, suffered his fourth Round 2 loss of the year. "I've a few good heats, but have been unlucky," he said after his loss, his voice wavering with emotion. "I'll do the Surf Ranch and then go to Europe and try to get some results and then get barreled at Pipe. There's enough events left."
Joan Duru, a breakout rookie performer from last year, also failed to win a heat for the sixth time out of seven events. To those we can add the Brazilian trio of Miguel Pupo, Ian Gouveia and Jesse Mendes as goofyfooters who performances at Teahupo'o continued a poor return for the right foot forwards.
After The Storm
The Brazilian Storm was term coined at least five years ago to explain the oncoming emergence of a vast army of young, hungry and talented Brazilian surfers who had the potential to wreak havoc.
When Gabriel Medina ensured that six of the seven CT events in 2018 have been won by a Brazilian, we can now say that that term is officially obsolete.
That storm was a fresh and vibrant disruption of professional surfing's established order. The storm has long since passed and in the aftermath those young Brazilians are now the elite. Apart from the CT wins this year, the country has three surfers ranked in the top five, four in the top 10 and six in the top 20. On the QS almost half of the first 20 surfers are also Brazilian.
The storm has passed and the surfing landscape might never be the same again.
Carmichael Hold His Line
Wade Carmichael's first trip to Teahupo'o will be a memorable one. The man known as the Central Coast Jesus yet again quietly and confidently secured another Quarterfinal finish and moved up to the World No. 5.
While other rookies like Griffin Colapinto, Willian Cardoso and Michael Rodrigues have flared impressively at different stages, it is Carmichael's consistency that sees him leading the Rookie of the Year race. Many surfers use the cliche of taking their year and career heat-by-heat, but few adhere to that philosophy as closely as the unhurried Australian.
"This result doesn't change my goals or my approach," Carmichael said. "I want to get barreled, have fun and stay on the CT. I'll just keep working hard towards that." As the results keep piling up, none of those aspirations seem in any danger.