Watching the freesurfs that surround an event is a good way to gauge the mindsets of the competitors. Every morning this week, before sunrise, Lakey Peterson, Carissa Moore, Julian Wilson, and Miguel Pupo were all in the water. With coaches, trainers, family, and back-up boards on the sand, they would surf a few waves, get feedback, switch their fins, and then go out and catch a few more. We are all aware of the importance of ability, consistency, and patience, but these four surfers shared a different attribute that landed them in the Finals. Timing is the nuance that defined this week's winners. Kelly Slater has famously called it "peaking." Any one of the quarterfinalists had the ability to win the event. Filipe Toledo looked unstoppable on in the Round of 16, and Sally Fitzgibbons' quarterfinal performance was worthy of a trophy. But no athlete can perform at their highest level 100 percent of the time. It's not having strength, but electing when to use it that is the hallmark of the new champion.
For those who watched all week, the smart money would have been on Gabriel Medina. He surfed for an hour each morning, an hour midday, and then dominate his 30-minute heats. When asked about his stamina, he attributed it to "a lot of milk and tortillas." During the highest scoring heat of the event he trumped Adriano de Souza with a near-perfect 19.20 heat total. But when it mattered most, he produced his lowest heat score of the event against Julian Wilson in the semis. Gabe will learn from the loss, and the exciting (scary?) part is that he still has a lot of growing and developing to do before he reaches his prime.
Kelly Slater never really hit his stride this week. He surfed well and did what was needed to win heats, but never reached the level of divinity we witnessed in Fiji this year (or in Huntington last year). He took the quarterfinal when Dane was only able to muster a 9.84, and he defeated Stu Kennedy when Stu posted a mere 9.93 total. Obviously, Kelly can win any event in any conditions, but when he came up against Miguel Pupo in the semis, Miguel simply wanted it more. Kelly Slater exited equal third, having never actually "peaked."
Pupo often gets lumped in with "The Brazilians," which doesn't give him the unique credit he deserves. He is an incredibly consistent surfer and may have the sharpest competitive mind of all his peers. He freesurfed well all week, but never gave 100 percent until he was in a heat. Once the jersey is on, Miguel switches into a different gear. When Miguel met Kelly in the Semis, he posted three scores before Kelly posted his first. Kelly fought back, but Miguel used priority and patience to pick the right wave and sealed Kelly's fate with a lofty air reverse.
Miguel looked poised to win the event, but Julian Wilson's focus was impeccable. Throughout the event, no one wanted this win more than Julian--he just did a great job of hiding it. Even after hugely impressive heat wins, Julian never celebrated. The U.S. Open is ripe with distractions, especially for a young, ascending surf celebrity, but Julian had a game plan and he stuck to it. He'd surf early each morning, hit golf balls with his brother in the afternoon, and be in bed early. He has perfected all the maneuvers known to surfing, and incorporates them with beautiful flow. The only thing Julian ever needs to win is momentum. He found it this week, surfing incredibly and building toward a crescendo on the final day.
As the clock wound down in the final heat, Miguel stuck to tried-and-true air-reverses toward the pier. Julian, on the other hand, waited for the best waves and surfed each with unpredictable variety. After two backside turns on one of the heat's better lefts, Kelly Slater commented, "We have all the best surfers in the world here right now watching, and I don't think any one of us could have surfed that wave better." Julian earned a 9.13, and held the lead for the rest of the heat. After narrowly taking down some of the event's most dangerous surfers, including Brett Simpson, John Florence, and Gabriel Medina, Julian finally seized what he had his eye on all week.
When it comes to the hunger to win, the focus and drive of the women in the finals was as impressive as in the men’s event. In what could have been the final, past winner Malia Manuel lost to the in-form surfer of the week, Lakey Peterson. Malia would have had the heat against anyone else, but Lakey posted the highest heat score of the event, building on the momentum she carried all week. In the second semi, the rivalry continued between Sally Fitzgibbons and Carissa Moore, with Carissa getting the best of the exchange by a meager .56 points.
It seems that both Carissa and Lakey timed their peak performances in the semifinals, where they both desperately needed them. Mother Nature provided little for the women's final, and Lakey was able to use smart heat strategy to hold her lead over Carissa. Lakey finished third two years ago, second last year, and now upgraded once more to first--a position we should get used to seeing her in.--David Lee Scales
Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.53 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.76
SF 1: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 16.33 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 13.33
SF 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.70 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.37
QF 1: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.57 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 8.83
QF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.00 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 9.84
QF 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 19.20 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 16.13
QF 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 8.84 def. John John Florence (HAW) 8.17
Lakey Peterson (USA) 10.90 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 8.64
Final 2012 ASP Women’s World Tour Ratings
1. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 48,400 pts
2. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 43,400 pts
3. Carissa Moore (HAW) 40,700 pts
4. Tyler Wright (AUS) 36,700 pts
5. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 36,000 pts
6. Malia Manuel (HAW) 34,100 pts
7. Lakey Peterson (USA) 33,700 pts
8. Laura Enever (AUS) 32,800 pts
9. Coco Ho (HAW) 31,850 pts
10. Paige Hareb (NZL) 25,450 pts
11. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 22,000 pts
12. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 21,750 pts
13. Pauline Ado (FRA) 16,200 pts
13. Sage Erickson (USA) 16,200 pts
13. Sarah Mason (NZL) 16,200 pts
16. Silvana Lima (BRA) 13,950 pts
17. Justine Dupont (FRA) 12,750 pts
18. Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 10,500 pts
Men’s Pro Junior Final Result:
1 - Conner Coffin (USA) 17.10
2 - Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 12.60
3 - Cooper Chapman (AUS) 11.97
4 - Filipe Toledo (BRA) 3.03
Women’s Pro Junior Final Result:
1 - Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 14.90
2 - Leila Hurst (HAW) 12.33
3 - Quincy Davis (USA) 11.83
4 - Kaleigh Gilchrist (USA) 11.30