Stab's picks for the 2016 World Title!
Words by Damien Fahrenfort
Another year is about to kick off with possibly the youngest pack to date. There’s fresh blood with a diverse approach. Are they going to come out of the gates swinging? I doubt it. In the last five years the only rookie that’s come on and really given it a proper go is Gabs. The rest have taken a year at least to find their feet (Italo Ferreira had a fairly successful 2015, but not a genuine run at the title). These guys will challenge the old dogs to up their game. By the end of 2017, I don’t think we’ll have a dud surfer on tour, but that’s a conversation for another time. This year I’m predicting good waves for all the events. All of the oceans have been firing around the world from El Niño and while Snapper’s not looking great for the first event, I have a feeling the WSL has a good chance to score this year. So here’s my choices… Mick Fanning and Owen Wright are unfortunately absent and the title’s never been so ripe for the picking.
1. Gabriel Medina
He’s the best surfer in the world at the moment. Technically there is no better. This results in a slightly squat-tier style though. The few times my out-of-shape-rig has been to the gym, the trainer always insists when squatting, running or doing any kind of impactful exercise that my knees go over the tops of my toes when they bend. Thus producing maximum output and explosive energy when extending. Unfortunately this doesn't look good in the surf. We love watching that back knee dropped when bottom turning or that knee tucked when in there air. Which looks good but ups the risk of injury and brings down consistency. Last year Gab’s backhand surfing was better than anything anyone has done in years. His tube riding is world class and he's hungry for another title. Only issue is, this year looks like it will have a lot of swell and the only place that being a goofy is a real advantage is Fiji. Places like The Box are a big disadvantage for him. Regardless, I don’t think there’s anything this guy can’t do or doesn’t believe he can do. And, one of the few people in his way just stepped aside. On account of the news from Mick, I’d double down on Medina.
2. Julian Wilson
In the last two years, Julian has had moments and events that have left people expecting him to put up a proper title run. Unfortunately straight after these glimmering moments, he loses early or is cursed by wave starved heats. He hasn’t figured out how to be on the right side of those bad heats but bringing on Jake Patterson to coach him might just correct this problem. While I don’t think Julian’s surfing suits Snapper – because drawn out surfing sometimes doesn’t work with the steep little waves of the break – he’s so good that he’ll figure it out. He’s also up there with the best tuberiders in the world and is head strong. That’s why he's next in line.
3. Jordy Smith
The big man is ready to roll this year and is dedicating himself in the right ways. He’s been plagued by injury the last few years and after being out of the running for the title race he lost a bit of interest. Now he’s healthy, surfing as good as ever and is excited to compete. He’s got a bad seed which will bring him up against the higher seeds early and it’ll be a blessing for him. When he loses it’s usually to surfers far below his skill level because he gets too confident and gives them too much of a gap. When he competes against the best, he’s always twice as sharp. Look for Jordy to stick to his strengths this year, displacing water before going through the lip.
4. John Florence
Now that View From A Blue Moon is in the rearview, JJF can get busy doing his thing and focusing on the title. Less distractions are good for the introverted Hawaiian surfer. I know his surfing doesn’t really suit everywhere on tour but when you have that much talent you can pull off anything. From a few IG posts popping up on my feed it looks as though he’s been putting some time in the gym, which I never thought I’d see. If the waves show up this year for the WSL then so will JJF. I also think it’s pretty cool he won The Eddie before winning a Pipe Masters. This has to have him on a high going into the first event.
Outside chance: Kelly Slater
Again, if the waves show up, so will Kelly. I’d love nothing more than to see this man get one more title and call it quits. Hopefully it’s a good year of biz for him and all his investments. If so he'll compete with a happier mind frame. I just hope he’s not riding weird boards that make it look like he’s forcing it. At the very least, I’d be stoked to see him just win one more CT event because it’s been a while for the king.
Rookie Of the Year: Connor Coffin
He’s the best all rounder to come on tour in 2016. He’s got an incredible rail game and isn’t shabby above the lip. Conner also has a set of nuts on him when the waves are up. I think his only downfall could be is not believing he can beat the best guys. When the Brazilian kids come on tour their self belief is incredible and they show up looking like Italo did in 2015. The American kids almost respect their heroes too much and end up looking submissive to the veterans on tour. Either way, I’m excited to watch Conner surf this year.