Who could forget where they were back in August, 2015, when they heard the news of the summer? Remember? Filipe Toledo managed to "earn" a 0.00 heat score at Teahupoo against Italo Ferreira, much beloved now, but then known mostly for wearing comically large sunglasses. Toledo's was the only 0.00 ever earned in tour history, I think, anyway. A marvel, really. It was a moment of delicious vindication for his haters: "See!" the haters yelled in bars throughout Orange County. "Filipe can't surf real waves! He's a tiny wave wizard," they said, nodding to themselves. "Unfit to wear the crown of a champion."
Or so I assume the haters said.
In the past few years, Toledo's done little to wriggle free from the shackles of that line of critique. Yet he's improved, somehow, every other part of his act, pouring straight nitrous into his already high octane performance engine. Only a fool or a blind man or both would suggest Toledo isn't the best surfer on earth in waves eight feet and under.
For a world champion aspirant, though, that presents a bit of a problem. The tour stubbornly includes waves like Chopes and Pipe and Margaret River (occasionally). Waves with teeth and size, unsuited for the faint of heart.
So the heart warmed this weekend when Toledo went to Teahupoo and shocked the world, again. This time though the shock came from Toledo packing a very large, very round, very scary Chopes tube. The sort of wave he did not catch back in 2015.
With the U.S. Open starting this week, that means Toledo made it a priority to not much around in dismal beachbreak surf, but to power over to Tahiti to get some heavy wave practice in well in advance of the Teahupoo stop. The heart flutters.
Very, very dire news for Julian Wilson and Gabs Medina, numbers two and three on the rankings list, respectively. Wilson and Medina are plenty comfy in warehouse-sized turquoise spinners rifling mere inches above razor sharp Tahitian coral, so presumably, until recently, they've felt pretty good about overtaking the high-flying Toledo in the heavywave leg of the tour.
But Toledo's stealth practice mission done changed the game. Look at that wave up at the top of this post. Look at the poise. The positioning. The confidence. The damned authority.
Somebody wants to win a title really damn bad. Go get one Filipe.