After a long, pressure-filled three days Johanne Defay and Filipe Toledo have won the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe. Part marathon, part sprint, both surfers have felt the sting of finishing runner-up in the past at this event, but when it counted most they rose to the occasion, dug deep and found a way to take their respective performances to the next level.
"I feel like my surfing was a bit more strong this year," said Defay, who finished runner-up at the 2019 Freshwater Pro. This is her first victory of the 2021 season and catapults her up to number two on the WSL Leaderboard.
For Toledo, the win was a long time coming. After being relegated to second by Gabriel Medina in 2018 and his win at the Rumble at the Ranch, finally Toledo was able to claw his way to the top of the podium.
"It feels amazing, especially being in a final against Gabriel," beamed Toledo, who claimed his second win of 2021. "I thank God for the opportunity to be here with my family and my kids."
The Path To Victory
Carissa Moore opened the Final with a bang, dropping an 8-point ride on her opening right, but Defay, as she's done throughout the event, leaned into her powerfully consistent approach. She tallied a strong 8.70 on her opening left, which would prove to be the pivotal moment of the women's Final.
Defay added a 7.93 on her last right, which was enough to overtake Moore. Her last left was a short victory lap as her body gave out on her.
"My legs, I don't think I could have ridden another wave," Defay smiled back on dry land.
"Everyone wants to be in the top five and get a chance for the title," she continued. "It is definitely putting a lot of excitement into surfing and in crowning a World Champion."
For Toledo, who was an early favorite, he saved his best for last. Understanding the importance of pacing himself throughout the event, his two final waves were his two highest scoring waves of the day. Tearing apart the right with the speed, precision and air game he's renowned for, the judges tossed him a 9.67. He backed it up with an 8.27 on the left. And for one of the few times this season, Medina was left without an answer.
"To win on Father's Day, my family's here, my father's here, it's so special," Toledo said.
Two Tickets To Rip Curl WSL Finals Paradise
Now, with two events remaining in the 2021 Championship Tour season before the Rip Curl WSL Finals this September, there is starting to be some clarity to the WSL Final 5 picture as Moore and Medina have both clinched their spots in the World Title showdown.
For Moore, it means the opportunity to defend her 2019 Title. Chasing history, it would also means she has the potential claim her fifth Title.
"That feels great, that was a big goal for the start of the year, to make the top five and be in the finals day, I am really excited about it," Moore said. "It feels great to know that I am qualified, but there is so much work to be done if I want to be World Champ."
Medina, who clinched earlier in the event "can't wait" to get to Lowers. The way he's been surfing this season, it would make sense that he's a front-runner to capture his third Title.
"This year's been an amazing journey, I'm enjoying every moment of it, and I'm so ready for the finals. It was my goal this year, so I'm glad I got it," Medina said after getting the news.
Semifinal Pressure Cooker
Trailing in the Semifinals going into her last ride, Moore put in perhaps the most clutch performance of the event. With nemesis Tatiana Weston-Webb looming above her on the leaderboard, Moore Hammered the left for an 8.50. The wave not only pushed her up the leaderboard, it clinched her spot in the WSL Final 5, where she will vie for her fifth World Title in the Rip Curl WSL Finals at Lower Trestles this September.
For the men, it was the Yago Dora show … until it wasn't Logging a 9.50 on the left in the morning's bonus round, he went bananas in the Semis. Hucking three airs, styling through full-rail power gouges, he kicked out with a bow and a 9.73 in his back pocket.
"Yago set a whole new level," touted Kelly Slater, who made the Semis in his return to CT competition.
Then, Medina and Toledo did what they do at the basin and took over. Since professional surfing came to the Surf Ranch the two are, as they proved yet again, the most dominant here. They both locked into the zone, formed out and blew away everyone else in the end.
Day Two Coverage
Here comes Brazil. On moving day at the Surf Ranch Pro, after two complete rounds, the South American contingent came strong and now occupies five of the eight spots on the men's leaderboard.
World No. 1 Gabe Medina took to the water for the first time today and quickly reminded everyone why he's undefeated in Lemoore. Putting all would-be comers on notice, his performance was rock solid, but more importantly, it afforded him the opportunity to clinch the first spot in the World Title-deciding Rip Curl WSL Finals this September.
For the women, there was all kinds of movement on the leaderboard as Johanne Defay powered her way to the top, and Carissa Moore's trademark grace and power served her well as she's right on Defay's heels.
After a long day in the hot Central California sun, Finals day is set to cook. Here's how we got there:
Medina A Step Closer To A Third World Title
Carrying on with the theme of the 2021 Championship Tour season, Gabriel Medina came out, dropped some hammers and left the rest of field to react and try to play catch-up. That was largely the case throughout the four-stop Australian leg, and after day two at the Surf Ranch, it was also the case in Lemoore.
Medina hardly had to get his hair wet. Pouncing on his first two waves, he soared into second on the leaderboard straight out of the gates. He then improved his standing on his next right and now sits less than a point behind Toledo. As Medina exited the Basin he got some good news when it was confirmed that he was the first surfer to clinch a spot in the Rip WSL Finals, which will ultimately decide the 2021 World Champion in a one-day, winner-take-all surf-off at Lower Trestles.
"It's been an amazing journey, I've enjoyed every moment," Medina said after his runs. "I'm ready for the Finals … see you soon Trestles."
Defay Takes Over Leaderboard
Defay's prowess in the Basin is no secret. She's scored one of the best barrels ever ridden in competition there and finished runner-up back in 2019. Picking up where she left off in Australia, Defay's power and comfort in the tube were well rewarded as she logged a pair of eights on her last two rides.
"It feels good to get those first ones out of the way and relax a little," smiled Defay afterwards. "It's just a different mindset."
Brazil Charges Up The Leaderboard
The fact that five of the top eight men on the leaderboard hail from Brazil, and three out of four of those occupy the very top spots, is huge validation for this determined pack of compatriots. At the Tour's most pressure-packed environment, Medina, Toledo -- who have been going blow-for-blow here for years -- will be joined by Yago Dora,Italo Ferreira, Jadson Andre and the legend Adriano de Souza on Finals day. Remarkably, the only surfers to earn themselves a spot on the leaderboard on Saturday were from Brazil.
Meanwhile, Tatiana Weston-Webb, who got to take the day off, is representing for the women and currently sits fourth on the leaderboard.
In a tribute to De Souza's illustrious, World Title-winning career, all of the Brazilian surfers have had his name emblazoned on the backs of their jerseys.
Moore In The Tank
Moore played her 2021 debut at the Basin perfectly. Playing it safe on her opening waves, she laid down a solid foundation. In her second set of waves, Moore elevated her performance, posted a pair of solid seven-point rides and cruise up into the second position on the leaderboard. Her day was highlighted by a crazy, mid-face layback jam into a barrel ride, but one gets the sense that she has a lot more left in the tank. She didn't attempt any maneuvers above the lip, but as we saw in Australia a couple months ago, she's certainly capable of taking to the air. Plainly put, she's going to be extremely dangerous come Finals day.
Nothing In The Nines Yet
With two full days in the books, nobody's scored a nine-point ride or higher. Toledo was a whisker away with his 8.93, but that's as close as anybody has come thus far. This leaves plenty of room for the surfers -- and the judges -- to make things really interesting as we barrel into Finals day. Remember, nobody has ever scored a 10 at the Ranch. Could now be the time?
Who Maximized The Bonus Round?
To make things a little more interesting, at the end of the day, the first of the bonus waves were doled out for the men and women. Granted one more left and right to try and boost their status on the leaderboard, the pressure was clearly on as some surfers were able to capitalize on the opportunity, while others crumbled.
When everyone thought the Top 8 was set for Finals Day, Griffin Colapinto and Ethan Ewing shook up the leaderboard and pushed 11x World Champion Kelly Slater, and 2019 World Champ Italo Ferreira below of the cutline. Slater and Ferreira still have a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow morning during their bonus runs at the basin, but things just got a bit more interesting.
Keep it locked here for Finals Day kicking off Sunday, June 20th at 9:20 am PT.
Day One Coverage
High pressure, high stakes, crazy heat and no room for errors. That was the name of the game on the opening day of the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe. Making a strong return to competition after being hampered by injury for the last six months was 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater, who looked as spry and strong as ever.
Setting the bar on the leaderboard was Brazil's Filipe Toledo and Tatiana Weston-Webb, who both posted rides in the excellent range on their Sharp Eye blades to establish themselves as the surfers to beat in the basin.
Of course, there were other huge performances and a few heartbreaks. Cranking out a perfect wave every four minutes, the action was literally non-stop as the sun beat down all day long. Here are the moments that mattered:
The GOAT Is Back
Slater has remained relatively quiet over the last few months as he battled to get his 49-year-old body CT ready. After sitting out the entire Australian leg, there was definitely a question about how he'd fare jumping back into the fray.
His first couple waves were nothing to write home about, but the GOAT found his flow in his second series, posting a convincing 7.43 on the right and 6.27 on the left. At the end of the day, it was good enough to put him in sixth on the leaderboard.
Riding a Dan Mann-shaped epoxy quad, he clearly has an affinity for the wave he helped create. And he looked fit, healthy and ready to go. He'll have to keep pace with a hungry pack of "kids" who are 20 years his junior if he wants to have a shot come Sunday, but overall, it was a solid start for Slater.
Team Brazil Throws Down The Crazy Eights
If there was any question about what Filipe Toledo's intentions were today he put them all to rest with a sizzling performance under the midday sun. Hammering an 8.83 on his opening right and an 8.93 on his last left, he now stands as the man to beat. Coming off a win at the Rumble at the Ranch during the pandemic, he seems in perfect rhythm with the wave. And the man's bag of tricks runs deep.
Backing up Toledo's charge was Brazil's Yago Dora and Tatiana Weston-Webb. Dora posted the event's first 8-point ride and is hanging at third on the leaderboard at the moment. Weston-Webb dropped an 8-pointer of her own and is now fronting the women's leaderboard.
"Just read the wave and surf like I know how to," was the advice Weston-Webb got from her coach Ross Williams.
Igarashi Sets The Pace Early
Somebody had to come out and set a baseline. And that person was Kanoa Igarashi. Dropping a pair of mid-range sevens, it wasn't the kind of performance that will win at the Surf Ranch, but it definitely was the performance by with all others would be judged.
Dora and Owen Wright are both within a point of him, and there are a bunch of other surfers knotted up on the leaderboard right under them.
Igarashi's heat score came in at 15.33, and at the end of Day 1 the cutoff is at 13 points. That will obviously change tomorrow as things continue to get ratcheted up tomorrow, but like Slater, it was a good day's work.
For The Love Of ADS
In true team spirit, opening day saw the entire Brazilian contingent came together to celebrate their champion Adriano de Souza. All of the Brazilian men donned De Souza's name across the back of their jerseys in their heats.
"He's our hero, he's done so much for us all," said Miguel Pupo, who ripped in the first heat of the day.
As for De Souza's performance, true to form, he hammered his waves -- scoring a 7.60 on his opening right. A regular rival of Slater's during the hayday of their respective careers, he's now one spot above the GOAT on the leaderboard.
"I saw them all this morning and I was almost crying," De Souza smiled afterwards.
Somebody Give Griffin A Bar Of Wax
Griffin Colapinto is no stranger to the pressure that competing at the Surf Ranch presents. Before his heat, seated in a lotus position, headphones bumping, he did his best settle his nerves.
Coming out swinging on the right, he was until fine form -- until he wasn't.
"I had it, my foot just slipped," Colapinto reckoned to his coach Tommy Whitaker.
It wasn't all for not. Griff got his head back in the game and finished with a 5.33 and a 7.10 on his last right and left, respectively.