Filipe Toledo of Brazil is eliminated from the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters with an equal 17th finish after placing second in Heat 5 of Round 3 at Pipeline on December 11, 2019 in Oahu, United States. (Photo by Ed Sloane/WSL via Getty Images)
The Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons has kicked off with a bang, the final stop on the 2019 World Surf League Men’s Championship and the third gem of the Van Triple Crown witnessed an intense day of matchups in the Round of 32 as the worlds best battled it out in 8 to 10-foot conditions.
With so much on the line in the competition, each heat was a mini-drama series as World Title hopeful Toledo became the first casualty at the hands of New Zealand’s Christie, 11.04 to 9.84. Christie and Toledo went into Heat 5 with opposite mindsets, Christie with a casual approach and Toledo with everything to lose.
“I made some priority mistakes in the heat,” said Toledo. “Paddled for some waves that I should have kept priority and waited for a better wave. I’m just tired. It’s tough. You’re trying not to prove to anyone what you can do but at the same time in the back of your mind, you’re actually trying to. So I just had to put pressure on myself.”
After a win at the Oi Rio Pro and two runner-up finishes (Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and Freshwater Pro) this season, Toledo was in title contention for the second consecutive year and came into the Billabong Pipe Masters in the No. 4 position. Meanwhile, Christie was simply out to get some of the best waves of his life since he was out of requalification contention for 2020.
“I wasn’t really thinking about that, to be honest (playing World Title spoiler),” said Christie. “I just wanted to get some good waves. I had Filipe yesterday and he got me then and I got cut so I just wanted to redeem myself and get a good wave. I got a pretty sick one I’m stoked on.”
Jordy Smith taken out by Jesse Mendes in at Pipe Masters
After surfing well in his opening round heat and advancing straight into the Round of 32, World No. 3 Jordy Smith came up against the 2018 Vans Triple Crown champion Jesse Mendes (BRA). With deteriorating conditions during his heat, the lineup went from dreamy to blown out in a matter of minutes creating challenging conditions for the surfers. With ten minutes remaining, Mendes secured a score for the lead while Smith got caught inside as time winded down. Forced to return to the beach to retrieve his back-up board, the South African ran out of time to get the required result and was eliminated in Equal 17th place.
“I just feel like I didn’t make a conscious decision to catch the actual wave,” said Smith. “I had a small glance at him and then I decided I was going to have a look at it and I didn’t really want it and I guess they deemed that it looked like I did. It just really hurts because at the bottom of my heart… I really didn’t want the wave and we could all see that the wave wasn’t anything special. Obviously, the wind came up, and on the very next wave he got a five and he went to the lead.”
Despite the loss, Smith has had an incredibly consistent season with only four losses before the Quarterfinals. This was also Smith’s fifth time falling short in the World Title race (2nd in 2010, 4th in 2013, 2nd in 2016, 4th in 2017, 3rd in 2019). The 31-year-old will now look ahead to 2020, where he will once again battle for a maiden World Title and also represent South Africa after his provisional qualification for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“It’s a hard one to swallow at the end of a big year,” continued Smith. “Way to break your board and to just kind of end that way just doesn’t seem that good. I think the highlight is probably the consistency, every year I just try and kind of pick up that consistency. Those other guys surfed really well the whole year, they got a couple of victories and that really put them ahead. It’s a tough one to swallow. You wake up in the morning and you just kind of give it your all. The last three weeks have been pretty tough. But you just fight every day for what it is and come back stronger and that’s it. Just try and make yourself proud I guess.”
Source: World Surf League Feature Image: (Photo by Ed Sloane/WSL via Getty Images)