Who doesn't love an underdog, right? I mean there is a reason why there are seven Rocky movies. Throughout the 2021 surfing year there was plenty of occasions when the unfancied took out the unprepared, wonder kids worked over World Champions and rookies ruled the roost. Here are six of the best.
Pipeline Sets The Upset Ball Rolling
With the CT starting at the Pipe Masters, the potential for upsets was sown into the fertile, volcanic, Hawaiian soil from the get go. And in the first Elimination Round of 32, a clutch of underdogs bit early.
Filipe Toledo was the biggest scalp, being taken down by Leonardo Fioravanti. Then the rookies took over with Matthew McGillivray defeating Pipe specialist Seth Moniz and Jack Robinson overcoming former Pipe Master Julian Wilson.
Isabella Nichols Makes An Appearance
That earned the Australian a Quarterfinal matchup with her friend, mentor and 7X World Champion Stephanie Gilmore. Nichols started strong and never relinquished control as she powered to the biggest victory of her career.
Cibilic 1 Florence 0
An injured ankle had kept the rookie Morgan Cibilic out of the water for days, and until the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup presented by Corona event was called on, it was unclear if he'd even be able to compete at his homebreak.
But despite surfing at less then full fitness, he defeated John John Florence in a heat almost everyone expected him to lose
"After ten minutes, I was like, I could maybe win this… I'm winning at the moment and I just need to play my cards right," Cibilic said afterward.
"I lost priority at the end, stupidly, and I was like, I'm done here, and then he went a wobbly one and then the one after was an absolute bomb. For the last few minutes, I just couldn't stop smiling."
Cibilic 2 Florence 0
Lightning doesn't strike twice. Till it does. In the next event, the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic presented by Corona, Cibilic again drew Florence.
Most fans expected Florence to take revenge and shut down the rookie's fairytale run. Instead, Cibilic cracked the biggest turns of the event and for the 30-minute window, was the better surfer. To beat Florence once was maybe lucky, to do it twice proved that he was no flash-in-the-pan.
As surfing made its debut at the Olympic Games, many thought that surfing's CT stars would make a beeline for the podium. However in the Women's draw, except for Gold Medalist Carissa Moore, there were upsets galore.
Eventual silver medalist Bianca Buitendag took down Stephanie Gilmore, France's Johanne Defay, another medal favorite, was defeated by Portugal's Yolanda Hopkins, and Tatiana Weston-Webb, another top seed, was eliminated by Japan's Amuro Tsuzuki.
Silva Seals The Deal
Deivid Silva's run in the Corona Mexico Pro was one long series of underdog performances. While victories over the soon-to-be-retired Adriano de Souza and a recently-back-from-injury Koloho Andino were more eyebrow rising than jaw dropping, it was the manner of his defeat of Gabriel Medina in the Quarters that was the biggest upset of the event.
Silva went toe-to-toe, or more appropriately heel-to-heel, with his fellow Brazilian goofyfooter at the righthand point and came out with a decisive victory.
It was this win that set him up for an eventual Final finish and secured his CT place for 2022.