Adriano de Souza, 2015 World Champion
Well fucken played
Yesterday Adriano de Souza won the 2015 World Title, and shortly after that the Pipeline Masters, becoming in the process the most stok-ed man in the history of stok-edness.
He is the first Pipe Master and second world champion from Brazil. Meanwhile Gabriel Medina, Brazil's first world champ and de Souza's opponent in the final, became Brazil's first Triple Crown Winner after scuppering Fanning's title ambitions in the semis. It was a fitting end to a year in which the Brazilian contingent has been so remarkably dominant: between them they won six of the eleven events on tour, occupy three of the top five spots in the final rankings and four of the top ten, boast the two highest-placed rookies, and account for three of next year's CT intake.
What wasn't fitting was the absence of proper Pipeline waves and the consequently lacklustre finale. The 2015 season, so rich in plot and subplot, charged with more emotion than ever before, deserved a more satisfactory denouement. So did the Pipe Masters, the penultimate day of which had unfolded so enticingly and in such excellent waves. As the tagline goes, you can't script this whole surfing thing, however much the WSL has been accused of trying -- but you can organise it in such a way that maximises the chances of a decent closing spectacle, and the scheduling of the Pipe Invitational inside the waiting period of the Pipe Masters plainly does just the opposite.
Also absent from the storyline was Mick Fanning's fourth world title. Speculating yesterday on the Almighty's preferred choice of world champion, Beach Grit's Rory Parker concluded: "If history's any guide, Jesus loves white people the most." Which first made me chuckle, then made me think: hold on a second, if history's any guide, Jesus sure as shit isn't too keen on Mick Fanning. Mourning the premature death of a brother for the second time in his life, the memory of an overly curious great white still fresh in his mind, Mick probably didn't feel particularly blessed as he went into the final day at Pipe, and nor will he when he reflects on his and de Souza's respective routes through the contest. Fanning overcame Bruce Irons, Sebastian Zietz, Jamie O'Brien, John John Florence and Kelly Slater (twice), before Medina halted his advance with an air-reverse on a 2ft left. After losing in Round 1 and edging past Jack Robinson in Round 2, Adriano encountered comparably little resistance, seeing off Glen Hall, Adam Melling, Josh Kerr (twice) and finally Mason Ho to make the final. In the last thirty seconds of their quarter-final heat, Kerr stalled too aggressively and fell on a wave that would comfortably have yielded the 2.51 he needed if only he had let it.
None of which is to say de Souza's success is undeserved. The thing about Adriano is that he couldn't care less whether he won at perfect 10ft Pipe with consecutive 20-point heat totals or manufactured a series of narrow victories in waves resembling a Santa Catarina beachie; nor will he be at all concerned with who he did or didn't have to beat. The idea that feeble surf or a favourable draw could rob a result of its interest or significance would probably not occur to Adriano, whose transparent and wholehearted commitment to surfing as a competitive sport and nothing else besides is easy to criticise but difficult not to respect, impossible to elude. "Don't hate the player, hate the game," said Strider Wasilewski in the wake of de Souza's triumph, unwittingly inviting viewers to direct their scorn towards his employers, which no doubt many did. But to hate the game today would be to miss the point, and the point is this: well played Adriano, you plucky little fucker, well played.