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Close READER POLL 2017
We promise this won't (really) hurt.

Wanna win a new surfboard? We have a custom Chilli ‘Black Vulture’ to gift (plus all the trim you’d expect from a premium dealer). To be in the running, just answer a few questions for us. It won’t take long.

Taj Burrow On Who Will Win The 2018 World Title

This afternoon in France, despite an incredible performance, Filipe Toledo lost his Round 3 heat to wildcard Ryan Callinan.

“I’ve been on tour for six years and I’m still making rookie mistakes,” Filipe said in his post-loss presser, in response to an unforced priority error. “It cost me the heat and could cost me the yellow jersey. But Ryan surfed very well. He deserved that win.”  

Currently 4,000 points ahead of his nearest World Title opponent, Gabriel Medina, Filipe will in fact lose his ratings lead if Medina makes the semifinals or better. If you look at Medina’s history at the Quik Pro France, a result of that stature is more than likely.

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Medina has historically won 80% of his heats in France. Photo: WSL

But before any of this chaos ensued, Stab chatted with ex-CT veteran Taj Burrow about the World Title race. Due to a prevailing knee injury, Taj has been sidelined for the better part of five months, but has recently found solace in the prone sliding abilities of his sponge.

“I’m so shit at bodyboarding,” laughed Taj. “It feels so good to get back in the barrel, but I have no clue how to get out.”

Taj expects to surf again within the next month, but in his downtime he’s kept a keen eye on the World Title Race.

Here are his thoughts on who the real frontrunner is heading into the final three events.  

Taj John Barton

Soon Taj will be off the boog and back on his own two feet! Photo: John Barton

Note: this interview was conducted prior to Filipe’s Round 3 loss.

Stab: Hey Taj, stoked to hear your knee is nearly healed! So, have you been paying attention to the Tour this year?
Taj Burrow: Yeah, I kinda watched everything except the pool, and it’s been sick to watch.

Then you know that Filipe’s got a 4,000 point lead and the remaining events are France, Portugal, and Hawaii, which have obviously been stellar for Gabby in years past. So, who do you think the favorite is going into the end of the year?
I’d say Gabriel 100%. He’s by far the best competitor on the Tour, in my opinion. Both him and Fililpe are the most exciting to watch, but Filipe is probably not as strong in heats as Gabriel. And not only are those last three events the strongest for Gabriel, but he also loves coming from behind and chasing someone down. I think he enjoys that. He’ll be chasing Filipe down pretty quickly in my eyes.

Would that be your preference?
I’m hoping the battle goes to the end. I’m really hoping Filipe goes strong in those last three events. Like always, you really wanna see a huge, strong battle all the way to the end. I don’t have a preference, you know. I love them both, so I just wanna see the best man win.

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Gab wants to be that "best man". Photo: WSL

What do you think about Filipe in bigger surf? Obviously he’s struggled in past years at Teahupo’o and Pipe, but this year he made a real effort to go to Tahiti early and, despite the small conditions, he did clinch his best result ever there. How do you think he’ll fare if this does come down to Pipe?
I think Gabriel’s stronger, but I think Filipe’s still on his way to becoming a great big wave, slabby kinda surfer. I think he could be one of the best surfers in those types of waves. Mark Mathews said that a while ago and I kind of agreed. He’s got such fast twitch muscle reflexes and he’s just so agile. Once he starts charging and figuring out how to knife into big tubes perfectly, he will be invincible because he’s just really, really skilled. So yeah I think he’ll get there in the end, but at the moment I think Gabriel’s still stronger. But I think Filipe’s doing the right thing by showing up to places early. He’s just gotta put in the time.

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Filipe gets it. Frame: Baronis

And with Filipe's Round 3 loss (and Medina's subsequent win), TB's predictions are well on their way to becoming hardened truths. 

However there are plenty of heats left to be surfed this year, and Filipe will not go down without a fight. 

Like Taj, we can only hope that this battle goes to the bitter, bitter end. 

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