Italo Ferreira just ruined everyone’s day. The crowd on the beach. All of the fans watching online. Every surf writer in the history of the sport. Especially that last group, because there isn’t a scribe among us who wasn’t salivating at the thought of Mick Fanning winning this thing.
Australia’s comeback kid and three-time world champ, retiring on his own terms at an iconic break, with the yellow ratings leader’s jersey in one hand and a record-setting fifth bell in the other—that’s the easiest story in the world to write. And for a second there, it looked like it was actually going to happen. But then Italo Ferreira had to go and ruin everything.
For everyone except Kelly Slater, of course. He might be the only happy camper in Torquay tonight. Last week, when Kelly was asked what he thought Mick’s chances were to win his last event, he quipped, “Well, I hope Mick gets second.”
You see, Mick and Kelly (and Mark Richards) are tied at four wins apiece at Bells Beach, the longest-running contest in surfing. There’s a lot of history there, and with all of the changes happening on the world tour, and rumors circulating about venues being added and dropped, this could very well be the last chance any of those three have to claim the record as his own.
Mark Richards is long retired, Kelly might as well be (he’s nearly 50 and has been sidelined with a broken foot for almost a year), and this event was Mick’s swansong—so if that record were going to be broken, this was the time. We all know how much Kelly loves holding records—hell, he basically owns them all—so as much as he might like and respect Mick, you can guarantee that Slater had his voodoo doll out this afternoon.
But the reality is, that voodoo doll was never really needed. While Mick’s road to the finals was the obvious story of the event, Italo Ferreira was the form surfer from the very beginning.
Hell, he might as well have been the competitor to show up. Where most guys were struggling to coax fives out of the judges’ much-hyped “new scale,” Italo was dropping 8s and 9s and putting together the highest heat scores of every round.
His surfing was fast, precise, and radical—while everyone else looked as sleepy as the fat, archaic wall that is Bells—so if anyone were going to upset the greatest retirement story in the history of sport, it was Italo.
And do you think Italo cares that he spoiled all the fun? Hardly. He’s the most in-form surfer on tour right now, he’s rated number one in the world, and his main competition for the title are injured and very freshly retired, in that order.
Sure, it’s still early days in the race for the cup, but with Mick’s retirement narrative blown to pieces and all of the typical suspects carrying a pair of throwaways, I’m gonna need a new story to latch onto—and Italo putting together his first world title campaign is as good as anything else we have right now. So #cheersmick, and #goitalo. As boring as Bells typically is to watch, today the two of you made it worth watching—even if you ruined my day.