2023 WSL Finals — Live Updates, Commentary, & Conjecture - Stab Mag


Griff, McConaughey's man. (Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League)

2023 WSL Finals — Live Updates, Commentary, & Conjecture

Leave the best comment, win a surfboard!

news // Sep 9, 2023
Words by Christian Bowcutt
Reading Time: 12 minutes

Update: Congrats to Nick Sammons for winning the best comment/free board award.

Freeway banners, McConaughey pep talks, a magically healed Ewing, and the biggest day of the year for competitive surfing.

After eight long months of competition, the 2023 WSL Championship Tour will conclude today at Lower Trestles, with both male and female world champs being named. (You can read our predictions here, and Kelly Slater’s take on judging criteria here.)

This post will be updated live throughout the day with insights from both the webcast and the beach.

Final 10 consists (from 1st to 5th place in the rankings):

Women: Carissa Moore, Tyler Wright, Caroline Marks, Molly Picklum, and Caity Simmers.

Men: Filipe Toledo, Griffin Colapinto, Ethan Ewing, Joao Chianca, and Jack Robinson.

We’ll be giving away a surfboard (from one of the winning surfer’s shapers) for the best comment left down below. Play ball!

The Call

Good morning fellow surf fans. We’re 8 minutes away from a call. Waves are looking good, fog is delightfully nonexistent, and I’m predicting the green light for competition.

Me rn.

Update: Word from the beach is we’re on

WSL currently playing a hype-up video with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack for effect.

7:55am is the Colosseum-style introduction for the first heat of the day.

Griff and Carissa in the water right now, muscling waves away from the most annoying crowd of all time.

Waves will be getting better and angle will be improving from Hurricane Jova through the day. Maybe we’ll get a Kelly Slater in Black and White-esque September day at Lowers.

We haven’t had a Men’s world champ from California since Tom Curren in 1990.

Griff warming up. If he wins, he’ll be first Californian to win a world title in over 3 decades.

Women’s H1 – Caity Simmers v. Molly Picklum (they are close friends in real life) – 8:00 am

No waves yet. Oside crew on the beach. Joe Turpel said his anxiety is “through the roof”.

If Caity wins the world title today, she’ll be the youngest Women’s world title winner of all time.

Heats will alternate Men’s/Women’s all day.

Caity falls on second turn, Molly finishes solid wave. Conditions look a little morning sickness-y.

Molly drops 6.17 with a good finish. I think it’s setting a fair precedent for the day from the judges.

Caity weaves a steez-laden wave together, drops a 7.00, and needs a 2.50 to advance.

Molly snags another 6, Caity drops an 8.17 with several Athena-esque carves. Molly needs a 9 with 40 seconds left.

Caity advances, Molly claps for her — class act. Caity will be up against Caroline Marks next.

Post-heat interview: Caity says second wave of the set is the best. Says, “shoutout to my (760) supporters down here.”

(Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League)

Men’s H1 — Jack Robinson v. João Chianca — 8:45am

Jack falls on first two waves. Commentators said he wasn’t looking good in warm-ups — an uncharacteristic hot take.

Joao drops a 5, Jack looking for 4.28.

Jack jams a carve and smacks two hits. There’s a weird warble in every wave, like the ocean hasn’t its morning coffee. Second wave of the set looking a lot cleaner.

Joao links 4 turns together, looking ferocious. Lots of hair whips and stompy finishes. Mikey C. is shaking in his boots betting-wise.

Jack needing a 4.93. Starts with a risky air rev, stitches a few turns together, but falls on the last air reverse attempt on that wedgy inside section. He’s not looking quite as confident as normal. I’m waiting for some Hercules energy.

Ocean flat, Strider jolly as always. I need his medication.

Jack snags an insider wave at the Grom’s Paradise section, lands opening air wave, shimmies back to the tail and finishes, scores a 5.60 and takes the lead. 12 minutes left.

Joao with two extremely saucy laybacks, the first one blinding us from him by his own spray. He wiggles as quick as he can and catches up for a finishing jam. The green jersey/green rail combo is cute. Scores an 8.33 and is in the lead. Jack needing an 8.27.

Notes from the beach: Each camp is divided. People aren’t crossing enemy lines. The Griff and Caity camp is split up like an elementary school yard, boys on one side and girls on the other. Brazilian flags are flying like crazy.

Split peak. Joao gets first left of the day. 4 strong turns and a crotch grab claim at the end. Jack went right, Pete Mel said he’s “just going through the motions”. Jack falls on air attempt. Joao scores a 7 on it, Jack needs a 9.33.

Jack flicks very nice nosepick air reverse to start, lands so quick and clean. Wave flattens out though, won’t be the score.

Jaoa gets another screamer. Smacks together multiple strong carves, frolics with a float over a long section, and pounds the final section. He’s looking extremely virile if I’m allowed to say that. Board looking insane, looks like more foam than Jack.

Joao wins. Says he’s just having so much fun and connecting with himself and his surfboards. Talking confident as hell like a swaggering Jordan Belfort-ian figure.

(Photo by Pat Nolan/World Surf League)

Women’s H2 – Caity Simmers v. Caroline Marks – 9:25 am

This is gonna be an exhausting day for Caity if she keeps advancing. I didn’t realize that the 5 seed has to stay in their wetsuit all day and surf every half hour.

Caity goes left, mushburger, and falls on last turn.

Winner of this heat “provisionally qualifies” for the Olympics.

Caroline sitting on a 4 and a 3. Nothing too crazy thus far. Caroline needing a 2.

Caroline links up 3 strong turns. Medium-sized waves looking better than the sets. Scores a 5.53, takes the lead.

Cheese breeze already picking up. All of a sudden looks like Fall.

Caity needing a 6.84.

Caroline snags another 3-turner. Florida flags on the beach flying — gotta love the federalism. Caroline has Occy vibes.

Griffin shaking hands and kissing babies on the beach — looking like the mayor.

Caity strokes into a nug. Falls on second carve with 6 minutes remaining.

Caity gets another left, looks fairly cruisy. Not looking as stressed out as her fans are right now. 5 mins left. Thank Zeus for the jet skis.

Caroline plays defense, uses priority and links together a few spicy turns but falls on last turn — won’t better her situation.

2 minutes left. Caity with priority. Needs a 6.14.

There is a Griffin boat out the back. Not a yacht, but a lowdown fishing trawler — pretty core.

Ocean goes dormant. No waves for Caity. Caroline takes the heat.

Caroline vs. Tyler Wright up next.

Post-heat interview: Caroline is going to represent the US at the Olympics. She seems like that really nice cousin you see every Thanksgiving that you don’t talk to all year but are suddenly best friends with again for a week.

(Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League)

Men’s H2 — Ethan Ewing v. João Chianca — 10:05 am

Ethan, fresh off a broken back and miracle recovery, sus-ly sneaks a wave out from underneath Joao. Scores a 7.83 to open the heat.

They aren’t starting the heat with priority to the highest seed. So they’re starting out fighting. A slight disadvantage for the top seed. Maybe a way for the Woz to create more underdog stories for the #narrative?

Big exchange. Joao’s back foot slips off, he recovers, and puts together a nice combo. Gets a 6.67. Ethan Ewing slices through a massive 3-turn combo. My back hurts watching him. Scores a 8.60.

Ethan snags another mid-sizer right away. Lays into 3 sizzling carves, releasing the second one and drifting in a Mick Fanning-esque pirouette.

Joao falls on subsequent wave.

Commentators saying Ethan Ewing is the best rail surfer on tour; big claim.

Ethan’s L3 and L4 vertebrae is fractured. No risk to spinal cord but pain is immense. Ethan pushing through it.

Joao is comboed, needing a 17.60. Not looking nearly as confident as last heat.

Joao gets out of combo. Needs 9.70.

Joao flicks a reverse, falls on the shuv. Ethan moves on. Mikey wins some scrilla.

Ethan tells off the haters in post-heat interview. I didn’t know he had haters (besides the infamous DM). Says he’s been the underdog his whole career.

Men’s H2 — Ethan Ewing v. João Chianca — 11:25 am

Ethan Ewing. Scene from the beach.

Women’s H3 – Tyler Wright v. Caroline Marks – 10:45 am

Caroline opens up with a 12 O’Clock hammer. Finishes the wave clean. Her coach told her she needed to start falling more, said she wasn’t going big enough. Scores 6.50.

Tyler answers back with silky turns and strong finishes, scores a 7.17 and a 5.50.

Caroline needs a 6.61 to advance.

Caroline first competed at a world tour event at Lowers when she was thirteen.

Caroline finding her flow. Concocts a 4-turner with a foamy finish. First turn was pretty electric. Looking strong. Scores an 8.33 and goes to first. Tyler needs a 8.59.

Tyler glides through a 5-turner. Very seamless surfing. Had a crazy chest-pound claim. Thinks she has the score. But the wave seemed a bit underwhelming.

They are interviewing some Hoag Hospital representative. Kinda weird. I was born there so thanks, I guess. Long lull rn.

11 minutes left. I’ve noticed that despite the criteria favoring airs, we really haven’t seen any noteworthy airs at all. And nobody has scored one of their top 2 waves on the left.

Caroline swerves into a 9.07 from a flurry of backhand whams. Tyler comboed and needing a 17.40 to advance and… oh no, here’s another Candy Crush Soda commercial. Damn it.

Second wave of the set still looking so much better.

Caroline takes the win. Advances to final world title heat against Carissa Moore. Tyler takes 3rd in the world.

(Photo by Cait Miers/World Surf League)

Men’s H3 — Ethan Ewing v. Griffin Colapinto — 11:25 am

Mayor of San Clemente leads the introduction for Griffin. Beach erupts. A sea of Griffin red shirts, hats, and flags is overwhelming the scene.

Griffin’s board looks well-worn and pressure-dinged up. It’s the same board he used in El Salvador.

Kaipo interviews the 2 Percent crew and they all F-Bomb on camera. It’s complete bedlam.

Griff opens the heat with mellow left (5.67). He looks clean and composed. Probably won’t be a keeper wave. Still claims it. Griff seems like momentum guy, Ethan more of a patient guy.

Ethan opens up with 3 flaring whips (8.17). Beach is totally silent. In the pre-heat announcement, Ethan had a devious smirk on — he wants this upset.

Griffin lays another brick in his build-a-house strategy. Gets a solid 3-turn right. Snags a 6.50. He now needs a 4.00.

Griff’s surfing seems reactive and improvisational, like freeform jazz. Ethan’s surfing seems more planned and excellently executed, like a symphony, if you’ll indulge me.

Griff hits back with 3 functional jams. Good score but Ethan fires back…

Ethan finds a flat, non-set wave and somehow makes magic out of it. He just has more torque through turns and it’s looking very electric. Beach is hushed. Scores a 7.00.

But wait… Griffin is right back up. He hammers out 3 whacks, the last one especially impressive. Beach starts convulsing. Scores a 7.73. Griff needs a 7.45.

Ethan and Griffin both get two similar waves back-to-back: 2 searing turns with a critical float/climb to finish. Will Griff get the 7.45?

Griff gets a 7.73. Ethan gets a 8.13. There’s a 0.34 difference in scores.

Will be tricky for Griff to beat Ethan on turns alone. Will have to go to the air. Needs to use his X-Factor.

Ethan plows through ANOTHER 3-turn punch. Betters his score with an 8.93. Griff needs an 8.88. It’s bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, game 7. 3 minutes left and Griff has priority.

Beach is having an aneurism.

Set approaching. He’s got one shot.

Ethan gets the first wave under priority. Falls on last turn, won’t change the situation.

Griff goes on the second wave but kicks right out — mushburger.

Clock runs out. Griffin loses. Ethan moves on. Griff exhales, ducks underwater, and looks to the beach. Ethan hops on the ski with the facial expression of a coy Bond villain.

Ethan beating Romans in Rome.

Women’s Final (1st match) – Carissa Moore v. Caroline Marks – 12:15 pm

Carissa goes on an insider, falls on a layback attempt.

Caroline gets priority and finds a clean wall. Her first two turns are the best I’ve seen from her; so strong. She gets a tad hung up on her last turn. Scores an 8.67.

Second exchange: Carissa taps off four maneuvers — clean but nothing face-melting (6.50). Carissa fits a few turns in and falls on her last turn (4.67). She’s gonna need to reset and restart this heat in her mind.

Third exchange: Carissa finds a comeback chance. Stamps a few carves and finishes it off. She’s finding her rhythm (7.27). Caroline finds another great wave and finds a finish as well (7.93). Carissa needs a 9.33 to win the title.

Fun fact: Carissa has scored 330 excellent wave scores in her career.

Both of these surfers are riding Mayhem’s. When Pete Mel interviewed Matt Biolos, he said that tweaking Caroline’s rocker profile was the biggest change they made in equipment this year. He said that this allows her to use the “power more efficiently”.

Fourth exchange (it’s a very orderly heat): Caroline, in the middle of Matt Biolos’s interview, procures another set wave and seems to get better every wave — like a surfer reaching their crescendo. She scores an 8.43.

Carissa now needs a 9.40 to win the title with 4 minutes remaining.

Carissa up and riding… does some set up work, links a few turns together and pumps into an air section but can’t quite ride away from it. 1 minute left…

Time runs out. Caroline wins the first match of the best-out-of-3 final showdown.

Men’s Final (1st match) — Filipe Toledo v. Ethan Ewing — 12:55pm

Filipe starts out with a 7.00 for a few mighty turns and routine air reverse on the end section. He stomped the air rev with his signature speedy spin-around and glared at the beach.

Ethan answered back with a 7.33 for the similar sort of poetic justice he was serving up against Griffin.

After a long lull and with 18 minutes left, Filipe takes off and jams a gaff followed by a floaty air reverse into the flats, scoring a 9.00. His lion tattoo is likely glowing under the suit.

Ethan responds with the a 3-move wedge, his last turn being my favorite of his the entire event. He scores an 8.50. Judges seem to choose airs over carves, perhaps because of their “new” criteria.

Third exchange: Filipe up, massive functional floater, quick wrap, huge open-face nose pick right into a set-up carve, and a viscerating blow-tail with an alpha male claim. Gets an 8.98.

Ethan gets a mid-range wave with likely a fairly good score. Filipe is seeing to match Ethan’s rail work in a way that nobody else has been able to do. He ends up getting an 8.73.

Ethan now needs a 9.24 to win this first match-up.

Clock runs out. Filipe wins first match-up.

(Photo by Pat Nolan/World Surf League)

Women’s Final (2nd match) – Carissa Moore v. Caroline Marks – 1:35 pm

Huge lull. Commentators really having to dig deep. Luckily no Candy Crush Soda commercial.

It is now an NSSA heat. There is 16 minutes remaining in the heat with no scores.

Finally, we have some action. Carissa connects a few turns (5.50) but it’s not quite as zappy as Caroline’s wave…

Caroline lights up 4 separate sections and scores a 7.00

10 minutes left, both Carissa and Caroline take off on waves and both link up 3-to-the-beach waves, Caroline wins the exchange again — scoring a 7.60. Carissa scores a 6.93. Carissa needs a 7.67 to win the match and move on to a third round.

Caroline secures priority with 3 minutes left. Gonna be tough for Carissa to pull this out.

Oh wait here comes a set…

Arguably a bad call for Caroline to go, she falls on her second turn.

2 minutes left. Carissa is out the back with priority.

Carissa up, lays down two fierce turns and yells “come on!” before jumping off. Waiting on scores…

Gets a 6.60. Not enough.

21-year-old Caroline Marks is our 2023 World Champion.

Men’s Final (2nd match) — Filipe Toledo v. Ethan Ewing — 12:55pm

Hooter has sounded. We are off. Will Filipe take this second round or will Eth survive for the third?

Just a quaint, classic south-swell lull. Normally, the lineup would sound as loud as a high school cafeteria with constant chatter about real estate, and e-bikes, and new Tacomas. Right now, it’s (probably) silent.

21 minutes left and no takers still.

15 minutes left, Filipe takes the first chunk out of this heat. A flurry of foam climbs, standard wraps, and a groovy air reverse to ride out. Scores a 5.17. Follows it up with a cheeky bounce on a left and gets a menial 1.77.

Ethan takes off at the 7 minute mark, crafts a couple cracks and kicks out.

This is a mournfully dull heat — Joe Turpel is earning his salary.

At the 5-minute mark Ethan takes off, twerks a bit, smashes a turn, and signals to his team that his board is creased. Back to the pit crew. E’s not out but he’s gonna have to grind. Scores a 5.17. If he wouldn’t have kicked out of his first wave he might’ve been winning this heat.

Filipe cops a 4.70 for a few lethal jabs. Extends his lead.

Team Brazil is erupting on the beach. They are starting to push each other into the water.

The cobblestones are shuffling and rumbling. Time runs out.

Filipe Toledo is the 2023 World Champion.

(Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League)
(Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League)

Gamble Ramble:

Mikey C’s betting season comes down to this. Currently up $4,824 on the year, let’s see if he can pierce the $5k (maybe 6k?) mark at Lowers, or squander it all away in a blaze of glory. Below are his pre- and mid-season picks for the title winners, plus round-by-round picks for finals day.

Men’s winner

$250 on JJF at +600 to win $1,500 LOST
$150 on Filipe Toledo at +450 to win $675 WON
$100 on Filipe Toledo at +350 to win $350 WON

Women’s winner

$100 on Tatiana Weston-Webb to win $600 LOST
$100 on Tyler Wright at +250 to win $250 LOST
$100 on Caity Simmers at +750 to win $750 LOST
$250 on Carissa Moore at +300 to win $750 LOST


$100 on Jack Robbo at -200 to win $50 LOST
$50 on Molly Picklum at +115 to win $58 LOST


$100 on Caity Simmers at +100 to win $100 LOST
$300 on Ethan Ewing at -135 to win $222 WON

$100 on Caroline Marks at -115 to win $87 WON
$300 on Griffin Colapinto at -125 to win $240 LOST


$250 on Carissa Moore at -105 to win $238 LOST

Day Total: – $266

Season Total: $4,558

Update: Congrats to Nick Sammons for winning the best comment/free board award.


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