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The Title

Who’ll take the 2012 world title? Stab asked four opinion-leaders and received mixed results.

Shaun Tomson, 1977 world surfing champ: As a huge fan of pro surfing, the first event of the year is a favourite – there’s as much pressure on each competitor as if it were the end of the year with the world title on the line and it is good to see who has stepped up their game in the off-season. How the top guys perform out of the gate tells a lot about who will be on top at the end of the season. Generally the winner of the tour will come from the four who make the semis – Adriano, Josh, Jordy and Taj – so I’m going to make my selection from that quartet plus Kelly and Joel. A great start usually translates into a great finish as confidence is like a snowball rolling down the mountain, building in power.

So who to pick here? Kelly had a concentration lapse and didn’t make the semi but his surfing is as fast, creative and lethal as ever – sharp, focused and tight with an overwhelming mental advantage. His complex tuberides in the first round and blazing, technically-perfect cutbacks were almost beyond mortal comprehension. A win at Bells would most probably give him the enthusiasm to have a full go at the title, but at the moment his motivation is a question mark.

Joel had a horrific pressure melt down against Jordy – he peaked early against Julian and in that heat his surfing was sublime – he has elevated his game and got his air mojo going but he still makes it look all too effortless. His surfing on a big wall can give you chicken skin and his level of perfection has and always will be underscored but here’s hoping he never changes his fundamental approach of beautiful technical precision.

Adriano could have easily won the event on his final wave but the judges decided that Taj was the better surfer – maybe not as explosive, but stylistically superior. Adriano has made a quantum leap in his creative air attack but I think he’s still millimetres behind in flow and style so he’ll be just out of reach.

Josh has a few too many catchy rail changes. His manoeuvres are amazing and exciting but sometimes the whole wave face seems just a speedy transition for the ramp down the line.

Taj has lifted his game and at 33 is laying down some of his most innovative manoeuvres ever and longer, more area-covering carves. He is getting way more thrust off that low, searing bottom turn. His heat against Dane was as good as the Dane/Parko heat of a few years back and definitely the heat of the event. However, the spectre of expectation hangs darkly over Taj and its shadow will deepen as the season continues and the pressure mounts. I would love to see him take the title and hope he can maintain his confidence and keep his eyes on the next ride and not the destination.

I think an outsider will win this year. There is one currently flying stealth and deadly, way below the media radar and the pressure of great expectations.

Three years ago I chatted to Jordy Smith and wrote an article about him called “Man on Fire” when he was the hottest commodity in the world – things sure have changed and during the Quik Pro he wasn’t even mentioned as a contender in any of the media or even touted highly in his heats. In fact he has gone from Man on Fire to the invisible man in six months. Back then I wrote:

I really believe he is approaching his surfing differently to anyone else on the tour – his reserves of power are greater than anyone else in the world and he uses his weight to free up the concave under his front foot in effortless surges of speed. His flat-footed distribution of power is a refreshing contrast to the power and release approach and the back heel up style of his competitors. He is full power, all the time.

However Jordy is impatient – even when you speak to him he wants to be somewhere else – there are so many waves to catch, so many deals to do, so many contests to win and so many new lines to carve. But the waves will be there tomorrow and so will his future, so maybe he should take a breath and look around and slow down because it is not always the swiftest that wins the race. When he eventually figures out all the minutiae of competition you can carve this prediction in stone– watch out and take cover because he is going to burn things down.

Jordy had some interesting and cogent comments about his surfing at that time: “In the water I don’t like to think about things too much – I like to try whatever is spur of the moment. Whatever my mind creates, I’m just going to try it. When you think about your manoeuvres too much, it makes it too technical – you have to make it more natural. Don’t force it, just let it happen.”

Spur-of-the-moment creativity is where the big points are coming from today – not just an explosively grand manoeuvre, but an unexpected, explosively grand manoeuvre. Obviously that has to be backed up by awesome and fluid carves on the face. Jordy has all the ingredients right now, along with competition savvy and the fact that he flying pressure-free under the radar. The publicity glare has just moved elsewhere and I think Jordy is in the shadows for now – and that invisibility suits him just fine. He seems to be just cruising in his heats, letting it flow and following his own advice. Don’t force it, just let it happen. He is finally fitting into his skin that he was exploding out of last year. He’s fit, focused and motivated – while his team mate John John’s star has shone brightly over the last few months Jordy’s has dimmed. There is a massive extra incentive for him to do well – both from a financial and reputation perspective – it’s no fun to be last year’s prodigy.

I asked him post-Snapper how he is feeling about the year ahead: “I’m feeling really good and free. It’s the best I’ve felt in years. Can’t wait for the next one.”

It has taken Jordy three years to figure things out but it seems he now has the pieces in place. Power, creativity, rhythm and speed. Freedom, fitness and enthusiasm. Finally following no one else’s advice but his own. Don’t force it, just let it happen.

CJ Hobgood, 2001 world champ: “I told the ASP I wanted Taj before the first event, I still stand by that and from an emotional side I want Taj to win. He’s had his heart ripped out the most. He’s put in a lot of time, absolutely loves surfing and has forgone a family. Taj always starts good at the first event, if he goes good at Bells and can get ‘Bong to bag Chopes and have a good run through Europe, Taj will do it.

I do like the fact he keeps his enemies close. Maybe Taj is the person to tell KS to focus on winning events at 50 and forget about titles anymore.

Jordy is way up there. He has the motivation. I did some of the QS when it was contract year and it was cold-blooded. The dude won everything in sight and didn’t flinch. If he can get in that I-have-so-much-to-prove-and-the-rest-of-my-life-depends-on-2012, watch out, even with J-Bay off.

Julian will win a WT event this year for sure. Owen and DeSouza will be around at the back end of every event. The talent is real deep that will cause upsets at each event. However, if Slater does the tour your bet will have to be on him. That’s where my money is at. I just can’t see Slater showing up to Margarets and then not going to Bells, but he will probably miss an event this year too and still have the best chance for a title. The sisters want to hang and the more events Taj brings his lady around the more reasons Kelly has to do the tour. Maybe ask the girls? My bets with Slater, though (Kelly and Taj are dating the Miller sisters, Kalani and Oleema).”

Luke Munro, former world tour surfer and now bookmaker for TopSport, reveals punter’s betting habits: “We had a heap of money on Julian after the Breaka qualifying event at Burleigh. All year Kelly Slater has been pretty much friendless in the betting and he’s out of $6 now, which is unheard of for Kelly. Both Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning have been backed heavily but Mick’s had the bulk of the betting. There hasn’t been much on TB and early we had some money on Gabriel Medina but we can’t write a ticket for the bloke at the moment.”

And, Mun’s own choice? “Personally, I like Julian Wilson. He ticks all the boxes. On paper, match him against anyone at any break and he always looks good.”

Jake Paterson, former world tour surfer, Pipe Master, commentator: “It’s Taj’s year! I feel he is going to put it all together and win it before Hawaii. Why? The best start always helps, he’s riding boards he believes he can win a title on, he’s the fittest he’s ever been and he’s still riding fixed-fins. He will win! What’s changed from previous years? TB will win plain and simple. I think he does have the head space finally. Last year he tried too hard against people he really wanted to beat, but I think now he knows it’s the same game plan against everyone.”

Ironically, the opinion we’re most interested in is yours. Who do you think is gonna win?

  • Sam vert


  • Bonghead

    Taj will choke, Kelly should piss off and Jordy will win

  • Bruno

    Adriano de Souza will win this year! 4 sure!

  • Matt Ward

    Kelly to win overall, but perhaps without winning an event.

  • Rodrigo Fernandes

    I would like to see Adriano, but I dont think they will give it to him!
    If I had to put money on it I would probably put on Taj. He deserves and surely has got the talent! Kelly will be off this year!

  • Bogan

    I’d love to be wrong but Taj is going to choke. Kelly will spoil a few runs but won’t win it. Without J-Bay, Jordy should finish in the Top 3 but I think ultimately Julian is going to squeak it out. He’s comfortable in anything.

  • bobby brown

    Josh Kerr as the dark horse especially if the tour gets cut in 1/2…

  • cammy

    Interesting take… So what events are still happening, New York? J bay? Fiji?
    If it’s a beachy tour it could be anyones

  • Ted

    What??? No Owen anywhere to be seen… What about Fanning??

  • esdee

    NY is off. As is J-Bay, for certain. Dunno if there are replacements…

  • HT

    Money money’s on Jules, after all that’s why I named my first born son after him.

  • rbier

    No goofies??

  • james b

    JULIAN??? This guy never won a WT event, so why put him on this picture??? Ohhh… let me think… he´s on Nike team, and Nike is a major sponsor of Stab… Understood.

    And please, be serious… Adriano de Sousa is the #1 world title contender this year. Taj, as usual, will choke.

  • Mauricio Franzão

    Adriano de Souza, Absolut!!!

  • jrad


  • Alan

    go Adriano!!!!!!

  • juan luis burgos otamendi

    jordy or medina

  • surfslave

    nike spend lots of money on surfing&julian so asp will give julian a title and even without that, like munro says:julian ticks all the boxes so it would be well deserved

  • Joshyboy

    Joel Parkinson is my pick for world champ this year.

  • Mik

    Taj. and frankly, he surfed better on his FireWires… But no matter. He’s as amazing in the air as Dane, and has the best backhand of the top 10. He just needs to blank out who he surf’s against.

  • pat

    Taj is known for loosing consistency throghout the year, it’s not the first time he wins at snapper, so I wouldn’t expect much more from him… and oh, not to mention it’s not the first time Adriano get’s robbed neither!
    I would like to see Adriano win this year., I wouldn’t be surprised if he led the ranking again. It’s all on the judges hands really, will they let a latin american surfer win a world title? Wait and see…

  • Stuben

    Dunno … Adriano’s a great surfer, but he always looks really choppy and sometimes a bit like he’s trying too hard, almost to the point of flailing. At least he did at Snapper … surfing off his front foot a lot, makes it look harder than it should. Anyway, mainly just waiting to see who goes well in Fiji, Tahiti and Hawaii (like, say, John John), and you can have the rest of the tour.

  • Smith

    These people who bet on Adriano do not realize that granting him a world title is not for the good of the of the industry, neither for surfing as a sport or lifestyle. As Shaun Tomson said he still lacks flow and style. He has to work on it and should look for someone who advises him on those matters.

    The Derek Ho´s title is stein in ASP history, although Adriano is a way better than him.

  • GRA

    My House is Riding on TAJ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    As long as the Title is WON by an AUSSIE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    P.S GO FANNING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • chodey

    I really hope Adriano doesn’t win. Not because I have anything against brazilians, but because the dude has one of the ugliest bowlegged styles I’ve ever seen.

  • Dan

    Funny how all these Brazilians are coming on here to comment on Adriano. If you are so blind at least pick the better of your brazilians and that is Medina. He didn’t do as well as Adriano at Snapper but there are plenty of left break events coming up and I hope the judges don’t reward those lame floaters adriano was doing last year.

    Kelly will overtake Adriano if it came down to it. Kelly can smoke Adriano in Fiji, Teahupoo and Pipeline if it came down to it. Parkinson is much better suited than Adriano, Jordi can also likely make a much better run than Adriano can.

    In order of who I think would win:
    Kelly (if he commits to the entire year and does better at bells otherwise he goes further down)

    • bolado

      yeah and kelly can and already did smoke all of them……..

      btw, medina beat the shit out of julian and the whole rest of the tour, you put him on the end of the list?! lol!


  • rick

    How can you not consider Adriano? As long as he doesn’t face Medina of a left hander he’ll be good to go… Ozzie surfers are overrated.

    • samgreen

      Adriano is overated…. If you guys have to jump on board a south american as a contender, it’s medina.

  • Mark

    I am aussie and I think Adriano rips. Explosive in surf from 2 – 6 foot. When it gets bigger though he holds back a little. Needs to charge more in the big stuff and get deeper. Heard slater has been cruzing designing a ‘Bat’ board at DMS on the goldy so he is not really thinking WT. But that is when he is most dangerous. Bigger waves this year will bring Joel in the mix, smaller waves will bring the young freaks in like Medina. Jordy could do it. Julian needs to win a comp. Medina could go berko, but I hope it’s Joel or Taj. It’s their time.

  • taylor

    Jordy Smith

  • Andy Crow

    I don’t care who wins so long as it goes down to the finals at Pipe and there are still a handful of guys who could win. I would also like to see the Triple Crown title mean something.

  • PLM

    My hearts West Oz -so Taj. …Perocial, irrational call maybe ,but he is connecting through amazing turns so fast,and his rheotoric is a little more mature too, so he may not attract negative energy with stupid comments? (be cool and disarm your opponents with encouraging kindness and respect Taj) A Jordy win will not surprise me, Wild card selection ..the John John freak!! That would be cool!

  • Francisco

    I think this year is going to be amazing! there’s lots of guys that can do it… Kelly if he’s on it for sure, he ripped on the Quiky like anyone, Taj, Jordy, Owen, Julian, Medina, Adriano and last but not least PARKO.. I think he will win it. What about Josh Kerr? Nobody likes him for the title but I think he’s going to give lots of headaches to all the contenders (like he did with Kelly)

  • Chris

    My initial gut feeling was Jordy. Then I heard Jbay was gone. That 1 result could be the difference between first and second for him, but I’m sticking to my pick

  • Iron ic

    Ace will win, hands down, runner up Wilko.

  • Box

    Hey EVERYONE! its the title for second in the world anyway.. DAne Reynolds has the number one spot so just calm down. haha please react.

  • Nicko

    Owen will be fired up to win Tahiti, Fiji & the Pipe because of his 2nd place at Tahiti last year and his unlucky loss at Pipe. In the worst (fullest) surf of the contest, Kelly beat him the final at Chopes. If that wave Owen did not make was hollow, he would have won. Owen toyed with Pipe and was so unlucky to lose his heat at Pipe because the Hawaiian local caught better looking waves. But Owen surfing was easily superior. With three lefts on tour plus Portugal which is a left/right, Owen can win. The addition of Fiji and loss of J-Bay dimishes Jordy’s chances (if the surf is good). But it is good to see the best surfers win: Owen, Jordy, Parko or Julian

  • Smith

    Swaping their coaches would bust Joel and Adriano odds.

  • tupac

    1) taylor
    2) ace
    3) victor ribas

    • gonka

      this isn’t 1990. none of those guys have figured out the above the lip game which what the tour boils down to both big, and garbage heats… none of those guys can get above the lip.

  • David C

    I really hope it’s Taj’s year, if you go on who deserves it, there’s know one else! But at this end of the comp it’s harder to pick than the Melbourne Cup! Everybody is surfing so well. I think an interesting comment to throw in is the judging. Last year I think they got a little hung up on aerials – they certainly sent out a message that if you want to get out of a combo look for a ramp! But then again at Snapper Joel got a 10 for a pure bit of power surfing – when’s the last time you’ve seen that for a wave that didn’t involve a tube or an aerial? So are they going to be a bit more equitable with their judging? who knows!

  • gg allin

    Owen is way underrated, Taj and Adriano always do well in aussie then ebb away…Jordy isnt world champ material…Joel has peaked…Mick is recharging…Owen and Kelly showdown at pipe, KS for 12 in 12.

  • surfcheck

    Thanks Stab except for the crappy site update this is best article in a long please keep it up. We are sick of industry clips unless they are off the chart or Dane.

  • megaspray

    who cares? they all suck. But really, Id say Kelly, or Taj.

  • Mike Collingwood

    $20 on Laird Hamilton or Shaun White.

  • Spitball

    a shorter tour favors the less consistent surfers. It also puts more weight on smaller beachbreaks and especially the euro leg.
    Julian looks great on paper but titles are won with heart and he is a thoroughbred. A win a Snapper was required for him to win this year and he couldn’t deliver. He could win one and go an a tear but it will take help from the judges. Long odds on this one.
    Adriano could win it easily this year. His air game is a serious threat now and he makes few mistakes. Facts are facts regardless of style.
    Taj has finally stopped chasing the most fickle way to make a magic board ever devised. I don’t mean firewire. They did an amazing job at reproducing that extremely tempermental design of Webbers. Ten years wasted on chasing the wrong board. Now it is his to lose but he probably will find a way. Hope he wins it though.
    Medina the rookie of half a year who eclipsed the rookie of the year. Julian should file his ROTY with obamas nobel prize. Both underserved. Medina will finish strong but seems on a learning year. Needs to win trestles to win the title.
    Kelly suffers an off year. Unless Danes video clip lights such a fire under his ass that he competes with Dane in a virtual world title race with contests as his venue. Long odds.
    Jordys window has come and gone.
    Owen has to win Bells to win the title.
    That leaves the Parkosaurus free to sneak a well deserved title. My money is on Joel to claim one.
    I wish John John would step up and deliver

    • james b

      I absolutely agree with Spitball

  • Bob

    Why is everyone banging on about Adriana? The guy surfs poop stance THE WHOLE TIME! Please stop this rubbish about “will the judges let a Latin American surfer win?”. It has nothing to do with where he is from, you can’t win a world title if you are a kook!

  • Trent

    I’m thinking owen, he looked sharp at snapper- j’bay out of the picture- thats one less right. Don’t discount Mick as well.
    The tour has been dominated by rights over the past 10 years- even pipe has been a backdoor shoot out year after year. Parko looked good at Snapper but his backside surfing has looked weak over the past year or so. Jordy needs to win at a left as well. Julians backside surfing can also look weak as his wide stance makes it hard for pivot radically off his back foot.

  • renato

    Lets pay attention on this sentense: “Adriano could have easily won the event on his final wave but the judges decided that Taj was the better surfer – maybe not as explosive, but stylistically superior”
    Exactly, taj was stylistically superior, i can even agree with that. But hey, wake up, there is no style on the asp criterias anymore, since long time ago. What really matters now is achieve big maneuvers on the critical parts of the waves with progressive and explosive surf, right? So, Adriano should won that final, end of history.
    Therefore, Adriano is a contender, no matter if people likes him or not. I just hope judges AND asp stop messing around like they did.
    Furthermore, its a big mistake dont even count gabriel, he’s obviously a contender too.


  • Danimal

    I think Adriano’s style is far inferior to Joel’s smooth drawn out surfing and to Taj’s exceptional drive and explosive fin releasing turns. Personally I would hate to see Adriano win a title without his style being improved a bit, even though as people have mentioned, his air game has been elevated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean jack squat at Fiji, Teauhupoo and Pipeline if the size is there. I hope they get solid swell so that these one and done explosive manuevers are not rewarded as highly as I think the best surfer is the one that can put it all together. Parko is capable of doing that, so is Kelly (but where will his head be this year?) as well as Taj and Jordy. It will be interesting to see how Adriano does, and Medina as well . Personally I think Medina’s style is far smoother than Adriano’s. I don’t like Adriano’s style for some reason but it is better than it has been in past year.

  • Danimal

    Also reminds me of when Adriano had the ratings lead last year and everyone was saying he was going to make a good solid crack at getting the title and it all fell apart. I don’t see anything different this year based on his style other than he is going a little more radical on airs. I don’t think that change would have gotten him the title last year. Fundamentally his style is no match for a guy like Parkinson’s or even Taj. However he can throw some big maneuvers and eliminate competitors with a one maneuver approach if the waves allow it.

  • Adam Ripplinger

    Kelly once more!!

  • truth

    Kai Otton..

  • Iron ic

    Sorry boys I’ve lost my mind, Jadsen first, Ace runner up and Wilko just a head behind. Two of then can fly.

  • Iron ic

    Iron ic is a goofy and like the surfing of Heitor Alves – maybe the most under rated surfer on small stuff on tour.

  • Iron ic

    - 55.
    Iron ic is a goofy and like’s Heitor Alves surfing (just for the grammar purists). P.S. Lot’s of spots going off around the world today, hope you guy’s score something.

  • Kevin

    Jordy first Travis second………go Saffa’s

  • Jack

    i reckon top three will be julian, taj and kelly. hope julian gets it, but i think it is taj’s year. mick, kelly, jordy, kolohe, john john, michel bourez and parko to round out rest of the top ten.

    • samgreen

      Kolohe is not going to be in the top 10

  • Mikey Mike

    layne Beachley is gonna win again hahahahha all you are fucking twat groupies…….from 1 to 62 twat groupies who dont know fuck all wait wait wait I think Dunga neto should make a comeback hed win for sure………

  • Jordy

    Yeah Jordy Smith!!!

  • Nutbro

    2-Fabio Gouveia
    3-Barack Obama

  • rd


  • Tubs

    1-Simon Law
    2-Ben Dunn
    3-Greg Anderson
    4–Bryce Ellis
    5-Jeremy Flores

  • zack

    as long as no braziiss win.. they wont there all crabs!!!

  • john john

    Dane Reynolds and his “greenhead” Ventura manouvers!!! THAT WOULD PROBABLY WIN ALL THE CONTESTS IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD !!

  • Tommykazi

    anybody but adriano or any other brazilian. no style except alejo going right. Kelly if he shows to all the events but if not its going to Australia with Mick. Parko is out because he refuses to include the air game (doube grab air dont count).

  • Zac Attack

    dusty payne will win!

  • jokerman


    6- Owen- MAYBE 2 OR 3 YEARS FROM NOW???

    You guys get ready for Kelly 12 !!!
    That’s for sure!!
    I’m tired of him as well but, what we gonna do if he rips harder than anyone, again?

    don’t get me wrong, i’m beeing super realistic!

    • samgreen

      shut up

  • bolado

    we know it hurts to see a brazilian at the top! if you scared go to church! adriano de souza 2012 world champion

    • samgreen

      In what way does he deserve to be world champ more than Parko, Taj or all the other contenders that are more well rounded and have been in contention longer?

  • joe pack

    #77 – NEVER GONNA HAVE A LIFE – 50+ years from now – desperate KS fanboy who worries constantly if his merrick sticker is placed correctly and everyone at his work knows that he surfed this morning. pack it up packer. no one is listening to your ramblings.

    • jokerman

      shut the fuck up woodpecker. i’m teeling nothing but the truth aussie boy. ks fanboy MY ARSE! packerwood haha no titles for your country! the bussines is for brazzos hawaians and floridians.. loser!

  • nathan mackie

    so true

  • pathetic brazzo

    ads = sad

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