Déjà vu is a French term that directly translates to “already seen,” and often refers to the feeling that what is currently happening has been experienced before. Maybe it's the fact that we have spent the past two weeks in the linguistic home of déjà vu, but in many ways, the world tour is starting to feel like a bit of a broken record. Which is to say that not a lot has changed in the past two months.
Now it’s true that the past three events have seen wildly varying conditions. Teahupoo ran in arguably the best and heaviest waves of the past decade — 8-10ft perfection (if heaving death barrels are your idea of perfection). Trestles, on the other hand, ran in softish, mixed-up head high cobblestone peaks, while France saw beach break conditions ranging from uninspiring to borderline unsurfable. But despite the differences in venue and conditions, there have been a handful of constants throughout the past three events — the most prominent of which has been John John Florence.
Forget about title races, ASP rankings, competitive records and anything else that is quantifiable by pure mathematics. All of that aside, it would be pretty hard to argue the fact that John John has been the form surfer of the back half of the year. He has consistently put in the best performances, wowed the most people, and (for those of you who still think that numbers make the man) surfed the definitive heats of each event — and by definitive we mean those in which he threw away more excellent scores than you can shake a croissant at.
It would be pretty hard to argue the fact that John John has been the form surfer of the back half of the year. He has consistently put in the best performances, wowed the most people, and surfed the definitive heats of each event — and by definitive we mean those in which he threw away more excellent scores than you can shake a croissant at.John John’s semi-final performance against Kelly Slater at Teahupoo was the performance of the event (by the form surfer of the day, in the best heat of all time), and he was only beaten in count-back by Kelly’s 10, which, practically speaking, wasn’t any better than John John’s 9.9. In his round 4 heat at Trestles, John John scored five waves over 9.0, with his two counting scores a 9.93 and 9.8. Yesterday, in his round 5 heat in unruly double overhead French barrels, John John rode seven waves, none of them scoring below a 7.0 — and his keepers were a 9.9 and a 10. At each of these performances, the online world collectively stood up and declared JJ the best surfer of the event — perhaps the best surfer in existence — except for the fact that Mr. Florence seemingly can’t seal the deal and score the win. He lost the closest of semi-finals at Teahupoo and peaked too early at Trestles (where he lost the final to Jordy Smith). By the time he made the finals in France today, that déjà vu feeling was starting to kick in again — form surfer of the event, possibly the best surfer in the world, throwing down history-making performances on the regular, and about to choke and lose another fancy trophy. But then, finally, John John took fate into his own hands and dismantled Jadson Andre (yes, that Jadson Andre) 16.00 to 4.57 (yes, 16.00 to 4.57), posting his first win since Brazil in 2012.
John John isn’t the only person feeling déjà vu at the moment. For the past three events, Kelly Slater has needed to do something, anything, to close the gap between him and Gabriel Medina, and tighten up the title race heading into his pet event at Pipeline. But wait, isn’t every event Slater’s pet? He’s dominated Teahupoo over the years, won Trestles more than everyone else combined, and is no slouch at his former sponsor’s event in France either. All he needs is opportunity — and the ability to capitalise on it. The first half of the equation has been there, but the second has been conspicuously lacking. At Teahupoo, Slater had the chance to reassert himself as the tour favourite, surfing against rival Medina in a final that was tailor-made for a Slater victory… and he lost.
For the past three events, Kelly Slater has needed to do something, anything, to close the gap between him and Gabriel Medina, and tighten up the title race heading into his pet event at Pipeline.At Trestles, Medina faltered in the quarterfinals, opening the door for Kelly to gain ground in an event that is — big based on his six previous wins there — tailor-made for a Slater victory… and he lost in the semis. Then, in France, Medina slipped up again, losing in the quarters and leaving that door open just a crack, setting up a come-from-behind story tailor-made for Slater’s elusive 12th world title — and again, Kelly failed to capitalise on the opportunity, losing to Jordy Smith in the quarterfinals. For Kelly it was yet another “keeper” in a year full of keepers, but (critically) without any wins. With Medina and Slater both finishing equal 5th in France, the title situation hasn’t changed a whit, except for the fact that Kelly now has only two events (Portugal and Pipe) in which to perform some kind of miracle.
Lest you think that everyone is stuck in the déjà vu cycle, let’s talk for a moment about Jordy Smith, a man who has been performing way below his talent level this year. Some have asserted that his mojo has been drained by wife/model Lyndall Jarvis, but with an event win at Trestles and a now semi-final finish in France, Jordy has brought back that winning feeling, and suddenly finds himself in the top 10, right where he belongs. Also, did we mention that he celebrates his rediscovered success over a glass of French red with wife/model Lyndall Jarvis?
Jadson Andre has also escaped the déjà vu curse. Along with Aritz Aranburu, Jeremy Flores, and Raoni Monteiro, Jadson had failed to make it past round 3 in the first eight events of the year. But today the world’s biggest proponent of air reverses (he’ll never live that down, will he?) blasted his way to the finals in France, utilising his rail as much as his air game. And don’t be misled by the spanking that John John gave him, Jadson beat Parko, Jordy, Bede and progressive Brazilians, Felipe Toledo and Miguel Pupo en route to his best result in five years, and now sits within the requalification bubble going into Portugal, where a familiarity with the local language should be a nice change of pace.
Finally, the ladies completed their penultimate event in Cascais today, with Steph Gilmore taking out Sally Fitzgibbons in the final and snatching the yellow jersey from her slender shoulders. Tyler Wright made the semis and remains in contention for the title, while Carissa Moore was upset in the quarters and dropped out of the title race. Three women will fight it out at the decider in Hawaii, but Steph is now poised to win her sixth world title — if that isn’t déjà vu, I don't know what is.