The summer solstice has come and gone in the northern hemisphere, which means summer has officially started and 2018 is halfway over. As the days begin to shorten and the south swells continue to pump, let’s look back at some of the most exciting moments from the first half of 2018.
Koa Smith’s Game Changer in Namibia
This one is pretty fresh, as it only happened a week or two ago. On his way to South Africa to compete in a series of QS events, Koa Smith stopped off in his favourite stomping grounds to chase the world’s best lefthand sandbar. See the rundown from that insane session HERE.
The sand at Skeleton Bay had been groomed by a small pulse a few weeks before and the wind and swell conditions aligned to produce some of the best Namibia we’ve seen in years.
Koa didn’t mind that only a handful of guys showed up, as that simply meant more slabbed-out sand-spitters for him. Somewhere in the middle of his session, Smith managed to snag what he says was the best wave of his life, and what many are calling the best wave ever filmed (from two angles, actually, since Koa was running GoPro while a drone watched him from above). A two-minute, well-overhead, below-sea level drainer that swallowed and regurgitated Koa eight times? If you ask me, that sounds like just about anyone’s best wave of their life.
Ramon Navarro’s Unbelievable Tube in Fiji
A few weeks before Koa Smith redefined overhead perfection in Africa, Ramon Navarro did the same for the big wave realm in the south Pacific. Everyone saw this swell coming a week away, and the hype building up to it was almost as big as the waves themselves.
It was the biggest swell for Fiji in a couple of years—possibly the biggest ever—but with a wind problem that could have potentially made it unpaddleable. Half the big wave contingent showed up, as did Kelly Slater, who bailed on the world tour event at Keramas for the chance at a Cloudbreak bomb. See the full feature by clicking HERE.
Want to know when Cloudbreak's gonna be pumping? Hit up the forecast page.
The swell and wind forecast both ended up being pretty accurate—it was pretty much as big as Cloudbreak has ever been, and the tricky wind conditions meant only a handful of gems were paddled. The tow brigade ruled the day, but it was Ramon Navarro’s wave that ended up breaking the Internet—the biggest ever surfed at Cloudbreak, and one of the greatest tow-in rides of all time.
The Founders' Cup
The first public surf contest at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California—about as far away as you can get from Cloudbreak and Skeleton Bay, both literally and figuratively—was always going to be big news. It was quite possibly the most-hyped event in the history of the WSL, and the first chance for the public to gain access to the ranch and get a look at it for themselves, so when the gates opened, the whole world tuned in to watch.
See how to improve the Wave Ranch event, HERE.
Many of those viewers logged off shortly thereafter, complaining about a boring, repetitive format that wasn’t conducive to cutting-edge performances, but that only served to fuel the hype further, with dozens of articles debating the virtues of the event for weeks after the event finished. Lost somewhere beneath the hubbub was the fact that Team World managed to upset Brazil, Australia, and the US—the three teams that would have to be considered favourites going into the Olympics.
Nazare Challenge Underwhelms
With three weeks left in the Big Wave Tour season, it looked like Kai Lenny was a lock for his first world title. Only two events had run (at Puerto Escondido and Jaws), with Mavs relatively dormant this past winter, and a handful of opportunities missed at Nazare due to the holidays.
The forecast for northern California was absolute doldrums, and Nazare only had one potentially contestable swell on the horizon—a big, windy beast of a day that no one wanted anything to do with. When the WSL called the event on, there was a lot of grumbling that it was the wrong call, but the boys suited up and paddled out anyway—until the event was called off an hour later due to dangerous, uncontestable conditions.
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The obvious thing to do was call the event off, but Portugal loves big wave surfing, and the city of Nazare is heavily invested in the Big Wave tour, so the decision was made to complete the event the next day—in waves that measured in at around 15-20 feet on the face. It was quite possibly the most underwhelming big wave event in history, but one with heavy repercussions—Natxo Gonzalez and Lucas Chumbo qualified for the 2018 tour (the latter winning the event), and Billy Kemper snatched the world title from Kai Lenny at the last second.
A week later, still well before the official closing date of the Big Wave Tour’s waiting period, Nazare went XXL and light offshore....
John John’s Winning Streak Comes to an End
After what can only be described as one of the most hottest two-year streaks in competitive surfing history—including numerous world tour event wins, two world titles, and a victory at the Eddie—the wheels finally fell off of the John John Florence juggernaut.
Recap on double J's inaugural title by hitting the jump.
Five events into the year, the North Shore’s favourite son has failed to make it past the fourth round, and has only made it that far once. Currently ranked 22nd, John John is currently more concerned about requalification than he is the world title race. To add insult to injury, Florence recently injured his knee during a free surf in Bali, and is rumoured to be out for the rest of the year. While he will almost certainly be back on tour next year with an injury wildcard, it appears that we may have to contest the rest of the 2018 season without the defending champ.