Under the heat of the Central California sun, Filipe Toledo and Coco Ho have won the The Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Rumble at the Ranch. Facing Kanoa Igarashi and Tatiana Weston-Webb in an unexpected Final, Toledo saved the best for last.
Lofting two alley-oops on his final right of the day, he threw down a 9.67 for the best score of the entire event. Ho, who's performance all day was rock solid, chipped in a 6.57 to give her team a 16.24 total to take the win.
"My last chance, my last wave, and I did it," said Toledo. "And I have to thank Coco, she was amazing!"
A charity event, both Toledo and Ho picked the Surfrider Foundation Los Angeles Chapter, with their One Watershed program, as their organization of choice and will have $10,000 donated in their names.
The nerves of a return to competition were visible in the first installment of the WSL Countdown Series.
Maybe it was the rust after not having competed for over six months, maybe it was the nerves, or maybe a little bit of both. Whatever it was, Toledo kicked off the day's festivities by uncharacteristically falling in the opening seconds of the first wave -- a right -- of the event. He quickly shook off the jitters and came back strong on the left with a 7.67 to help get him and Ho through the opening round.
Channeling her late uncle, 1993 World Champion Derek Ho, Coco's classic flowing Hawaiian grace on both the lefts and rights provided Toledo with the foundation he needed to find his form. In the Semifinals, she came away with a 7.03 on the left, leaving Toledo up to do what he does best -- rip the basin apart.
But after falling on his right he was forced to once again rely on his performance on the left. Tallying a dizzying 8.93 -- the highest score of the event up until this point -- he literally left Kelly Slater and Sage Erickson in his wake.
Igarashi countered with the first nine-point ride of the event thanks to a technical, barrier-pushing performance. Weston-Webb back him up with a 7.50 for her effort on the right.
Setting the pace in the early stages of the comp was 11-time World Champ Slater. Posting the highest wave score of the Quarterfinals -- an 8.23 on his opening right -- he looked right at home on the wave he helped mastermind.
"You have to maximize your strengths," said Slater of the team format. "Caroline [Marks] and Filipe are the ones to beat in this contest," he added.
On the other side of the draw, Marks and teammate and former World Champ Adriano de Souza posted the highest total heat score of the Quarterfinals, but their run was cut short by Igarashi and Weston-Webb's impressive run.
Over the last few months, all of these surfers have been in the water, training and getting ready for the time they'll be able to pull the jersey back on. And in this, the first live professional surf event since the COVID crisis, the innovative team format, the inspired performances -- most notably by Toledo and Ho -- and the friendly spirit of competition provided a welcome return to the water.