"To see what he did to a wave that I thought I knew well has blown my mind," said 1977 World Champion Shaun Tomson just minutes after Filipe Toledo had won the 2017 J-Bay Open. "It's another performance shift. He's taken it to the next level."
The other performance shift Tomson was referring to was John John Florence's exhibition earlier in the year at the Margaret River Pro. Florence had a put in such a phenomenal display of rail surfing at Main Break that it was considered a significant leap forward in what was possible on a surfboard.
And yet while Florence's surfing was mind blowing, in some ways it had been anticipated. Florence's strength in those type of waves was well established. His performance was the realization of his potential, just delivered in a series of 30-minute heats.
Toledo's performance in J-Bay however had a whole added layer of shock value. For one, he'd never had a good result at the wave in his career. Secondly, the mechanics of J-Bay and its down-the-line power and perfection wasn't thought to be a good fit for the Brazilian's mix of hyper progression. And let's not forget the conditions for this event were about as powerful and perfect as J-Bay gets.
As early as Round 2 though, Toledo set about dismantling J-Bay and those assumptions. He scored his first 10 against Kanoa Igarashi and backed it up with a 9.67. A walk through against an injured Kelly was fortunate, but following heat totals of 19.00 18.70, 16.63 and 18.00 showed his dominance.
In that run he defeated Jordy Smith, Julian Wilson and Frederico Morais. He also logged another 10 in his Round 4 heat. That wave featured two huge alley-oops and showed a surfer who was operating not just a different level to his peers, but at a level that had never been witnessed before.
The key to that dominance was his ability to add progressive surfing to the highest level of traditional rail surfing and tube riding. No other surfer had ever brought that mix to J-Bay before. He'd redefined what was possible at the world's best wave and set a new benchmark.