SKY HIGH: Coolangatta's Jack Freestone ... had D’bah in mind as he made his way to second place in Rio.
SKY HIGH: Coolangatta's Jack Freestone ... had D’bah in mind as he made his way to second place in Rio. WSL/Masurel

Walking on air: Cooly pro notches up best Tour result

SURF SCENE:

WHILE Australia’s unlikely world title aspirant Matt Wilkinson continues to lead the men’s world title race despite a 25th place in Rio, suddenly the odds have shortened.

Hawaii’s John John Florence won the fourth WCT event in the Brazilian beachbreaks.

The mild-mannered, softly spoken Hawaiian, who grew up surfing the North Shore of Oahu in his nappies, was totally at home in the Postinho beachbreaks, similar to the on-shore close-outs at Ehukai Beach Park next to Pipeline where he lives.

John John is surfing’s latest enigma – following in the explosive form of a MP, Tom Curren or Kelly Slater – a freak of nature who by winning at Rio is now third on the ratings with a fighting chance of taking this year’s WSL world title.

Florence represents the new vanguard of youth on the World Surf League tour. His no compromising, no chest thumping, easy smiling demeanour has attracted a huge fan base. Even the Brazilians who are so passionate for their own world champs Adriano de Souza and Gabriel Medina, who both crashed out in the semis, are just as stoked to see John John win again in Rio having won there twice previously.

“I love coming back here to Rio,” Florence said. “This is where I won my first world championship tour event. The waves are really similar to Hawaii with their power. Everyone here in Brazil has been so supportive. If it was not for everyone’s support on the beach cheering us on every wave, I do not know if I would have been as stoked.”

For Jack Freestone this was his best WSL result to date. The D’bah boardrider, who was injured after the Quiksilver Pro and missed both Bells and Margaret River, has bounced back big time with a runner-up position to Florence.

Rio Pro champion John John Florence, of Hawaii, and runner-up, Coolangatta’s Jack Freestone.
Rio Pro champion John John Florence, of Hawaii, and runner-up, Coolangatta’s Jack Freestone. Daniel Smorigo/WSL

Freestone had a tougher route to the final where he disposed of Gabriel Medina in the semis. Gabs had notched up two perfect 10s in the earlier rounds, one of which was for a 360 somersault flip never performed before in a pro surfing competition.

Florence’s familiarity with the pounding Brazilian beach breaks was akin to Freestone’s D’bah beach-break background. Both had a local break in the back of their minds to rely on. And Jack has an air game to match, a necessity for any aspiring pro surfer especially in beachbreaks where it counts.

“I am very happy,” Freestone said. “It was a long week and I just had to take it heat by heat. To come back from an injury and get second place is amazing, and I am over the moon.

“I would just like to thank everyone here in Brazil for all of their support. I would like to congratulate John on a crazy win. It was a great time here in Rio.”

The men’s world title race is lining up as the year of the underdog, but the same can’t be said for the women. The tenacious Tyler Wright has hit the front running with three wins from four events.

Tyler is on a tear, using her power style to devastating advantage. Previous front runner, Courtney Conlogue let go of the reins in Brazil and has recalled Gold Coast coach Mark Richardson to pack his bags for Fiji to help her back into the winning frame of mind.

Meanwhile former six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore is sitting in sixth place and in her own words is “having a love affair with the quarter finals” having reached the round for the fourth consecutive time.

If it’s any comfort, former three-time world champ Carissa Moore has had four semis placings. It’s not a race but a marathon, but Tyler, who was runner-up to Steph in 2014 will be hard to beat.

Next up: the Fiji Pro from June 5 to 17.

Latest ratings heading into Fiji Pro:

MENS:

  • 1) Matt Wilkinson
  • 2) Italo Ferreira
  • 3) John Florence
  • 4) Sebastion Zietz
  • 5) Caio Ibelli
  • 6) Adrianno de Souza

WOMENS:

  • 1) Tyler Wight
  • 2) Courtney Conlogue
  • 3) Carissa Moore
  • 4) Tatiana Weston-Webb
  • 5) Sally Fitzgibbons
  • 6) Steph Gilmore


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