Filipe Toledo silenced any doubt that he was the star of Jeffreys Bay this week by winning the 2017 Corona Open J-Bay Final against rookie Frederico Morais on Thursday morning.
“I can’t believe it,” Filipe said. “J-Bay is always a contest that’s been my dream to win. To surf perfect waves like this that we did the entire contest, I’ve got to thank god for the amazing week that we’ve had. I’ve got my entire family here and supporting me. It’s unbelievable and I’m speechless. I think I might leave my hair like this for the rest of the year.”
Toledo began his Finals day against arguably the field’s most daunting draw in local favorite Jordy Smith. The Brazilian made shockingly quick work of Smith, though, combo’ing him in a matter of minutes. The same scene unfolded in Toledo’s Semifinal heat against Julian Wilson, who was eventually combo’d and couldn’t keep pace with the Brazilian’s controlled series of turns and forehand wraps on big, offshore walls.
“I think there’s been a big change,” said Shaun Tomson about Toledo’s overall performance at Jeffreys. “Pure carving has always been the best way to ride [J-Bay]. But Filipe Toledo has brought an acceleration, like he’s on a superbike. He’s got a burst of speed off the bottom turn and a carve off the top that’s really unique. And then his aerial maneuvers: I never thought I’d see two 10-point aerials for one wave. He could have gotten a 20 yesterday.”
Portuguese rookie Frederico Morais, who bested John Florence and Gabriel Medina to reach the Finals, was the last competitor standing between Toledo and the J-Bay title. Morais would score the heat’s highest single-wave total (9.40), but Toledo decisively answered back, as he mixed in sharp turns, hacks, and floaters, staying light on his toes and keeping the judges on theirs. With three minutes on the clock, Filipe wisely held priority to block Morais on his last wave to win the fourth ‘CT victory of his career.
After missing the Fiji contest, and in danger of falling out of the ‘CT title conversation, Toledo climbed back to No. 7 in the rankings with his win at J-Bay. Aside from the electric unpredictability of Toledo’s moves, the dominant concentration he brought to his heats seems to mark a personal turning point in his season, not to mention a renewed definition of what it takes to win at J-Bay: a little of everything, and then some.
“I think he…has the strategic competitive focus,” says Tomson. “I’ve seen Filipe in the water once since I’ve been here. I talked to Michael Ginsberg, a friend of mine here, who said that he was watching Filipe surfing down at the point. He doesn’t want to let anyone see what he’s got. He wants to contain and conserve that energy. Over the last few days, he’s just been unleashing.”
[Featured Image: Filipe Toledo. Photo by van Gysen]