Say what you will about some of the changes to the World Surf League, both implemented or just announced, but the addition of Bali to the Championship Tour schedule has been one of the clear highlights of 2018.
Other alterations have not been received favorably, like the inclusion of the Surf Ranch, the exclusion of the Pipe Masters or the recent announcement that Facebook will now be the only place to stream live events. The world title process will also be completely changed next season, so we’ll have to wait to see how that impacts the fan experience.
But bringing Indonesia into the equation seemed like a can’t-miss opportunity and this event certainly hit the mark. The waves were absolutely pumping during Friday and Saturday’s final two days and it helped produce some epic confrontations and performances.
Lakey Peterson took over the yellow jersey by winning the women’s event to grab the points lead from Stephanie Gilmore. Peterson has always shown the talent to be a world champ, but her execution in the later rounds is far more evident this season. Peterson has now made three finals in 2018, winning two of them. She topped two-time defending world champ Tyler Wright to earn this victory on Saturday.
Peterson had to eliminate both Malia Manuel and then Sally Fitzgibbons on Friday to reach the final heat, so her road was both difficult and impressive. She’ll head to Uluwatu atop the leaderboard, with Gilmore in second place and Tatiana Weston-Webb in third.
It’s now three semifinals on the year for Weston-Webb, which only she and Peterson have accomplished to this point. Getting there was a challenge from the get-go. She had to go up against Courtney Conlogue in round two, who made her season debut in Bali. That’s not who anyone would hope to see that early in the draw, but Tati got the better of Conlogue this time around.
She later knocked out Gilmore in a difficult quarterfinal heat. It was one of the few times that the ocean didn’t provide multiple gems and Weston-Webb took advantage by staying active and never letting Gilmore get into a rhythm.
Tati surfed well enough to reach the final, but she came up shy in a 15.00 to 14.80 semifinal against Wright. It’s still a great result that keeps Weston-Webb in the top three and continues her inclusion in the world title picture.
Manuel’s fifth-place result came thanks to a great round three effort in a stacked three-woman lineup. Carissa Moore drew the short straw and Manuel and Fitzgibbons emerged in the top two positions, but all three put up big scores throughout the heat. It brings Manuel back into the logjam that exists from positions five through 12, but it also marks another completed event without a top-three result for Moore. The three-time world champ had made the quarters in all four contests this year but this ninth-place result is currently a throwaway on her ledger. She’ll have a chance to change all that as she heads into the quarterfinals at Uluwatu this week.
The men’s contest favored some of the usual power performers as Michel Bourez, Italo Ferreira and Jordy Smith all reached the semifinals. Ferreira was probably the best surfer from start to finish as he continues to make himself a favorite to win his first world championship.
There were some major upsets throughout as Mikey Wright again showed that he belongs with the big boys. Wright took down top seed Julian Wilson in round three, then bested Willian Cardoso before dropping to Bourez in the semifinals. It’s Wright’s best result on the CT and he may just qualify to be a full-timer on next year’s tour if he continues to get these wild card opportunities, as he should.
Jesse Mendes had his best result of his rookie campaign, eliminating John John Florence in round three to earn a ninth-place finish. Things continue to be difficult for Florence, who has still not gotten beyond round four in any event this season.
With Keramas complete, the tours won’t be going anywhere as Uluwatu now hosts the final rounds from the previously canceled Margaret River event. After those results are determined, we’ll officially be five contests into the 2018 season and story lines will be much clearer the rest of the way.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.