The 10(ish) Surfers Who Can Win A World Title In 2023
Lowers is calling. Who’s gonna answer?
Read our full Tahiti Pro Finals Day wrap here.
Though the swell never went west enough and the wind never went east enough for Teahupo’o to deliver the gladiatorial showdown we wanted, the last event of the WSL’s regular season still delivered a high degree of entertainment.
Nearly all of this enjoyment rested on the laurels of the Top 5 and Olympic narratives.
Here’s how the cookie crumbled, plus some stat-based predictions on how each surfer might fare at Lowers.
Men’s Top 5
#1 Filipe Toledo
Not much needs to be said about Fil’s dominance at the North San Diegan cobblestone terrace. Two wins, one final, two semifinals, and one World Title in his seven appearances at Lowers.
He’s the best performance surfer on earth, he’s on the best boards, and his confidence is unrivaled. Anything less than a win here would be surprising.
#2 Griffin Colapinto
After narrowly missing out on last year’s Top 5, Griff will finally be offered the chance to duel for a World Title at his hometown training facility. Because he arrived on tour in 2018 — just one year after Trestles was removed as a regular WSL venue — this’ll be his first time competing in a CT event at his local. Expect brilliance.
#3 Ethan Ewing
Barring some spinal sorcery, Ethan likely won’t be making it to Lowers come September, which is a loss for everyone involved. You can read everything we know about his injury, here.
#4 João Chianca
Despite a handful of uninspired appearances lately — including an early loss in Tahiti — Chumbinho’s two semifinal finishes and his Portuguese win to start the season locked him in for Lowers.
Though he’s never competed in San Clemente, based on his results at similarly stretched rights (A 9th at Bells, Punta Roca, and J-Bay), he may well be the least dangerous in the final draw. You can read our interview with the energetic Brazilian here.
#5 Jack Robinson
In the most dramatic matchup this year, Jack just bested Gabriel Medina — despite the Brazilian’s biblical Teahupo’o form — and jumped from an unlikely 8th into 5th.
Though you’d expect Robbo’s strengths to be in waves of truth, recall that he found his first ever CT trophy at Barra de la Cruz. Based on his underdog savagery in Tahiti, a Steph Gilmore-esque Trestles run is well within the realm of possibility. Read Jack’s interview here.
Women’s Top 5
#1 Carissa Moore
You wouldn’t really bet against the 5x World Champion, but then, you wouldn’t have bet that Stephanie Gilmore would win last years WSL Finals either. Carissa will be looking for her 30th CT win after a mostly dominant year, and once again heads to San Clemente with a unique pressure.
The first heat she’ll surf after three weeks of downtime will be the most important heat of her year.
This dynamic worked for her in 2021 and against her in 2022. How will this winter’s Vans Triple Crown champ handle 2023?
#2 Tyler Wright
Despite missing both previous iterations of the WSL Finals, Tyler has a win and two quarters in her four previous Trestles starts.
Unexpectedly, Tyler has a losing head-to-head record against all of the Top 5 except Caroline Marks.
Despite that, we’d be very surprised if she isn’t battling Carissa in the final heats.
#3 Caroline Marks
Though she didn’t find a memorable result in her previous Trestles appearance (at age 13!), one would expect that Caroline’s versatility and unmatched backhand gives her a certain advantage over the four regular foots in the draw. Plus, her first CT win this year came at Punta Roca — a wave which bears significant resemblance to Lowers and has only ever been won by Californian residents.
#4 Molly Picklum
At odds with Toasted counterpart Caity Simmers, Molly leads the Australian charge of progressive young women, returning from the 2022 Challenger Series with a consistent run of results on this year’s CT — she has not finished worse than 5th all year, with seven quarterfinal finishes.
Fifth will not, however, be a satisfactory result at Lowers.
#5 Caitlin Simmers
After pushing the envelope of female cone-wrangling in Tahiti, Caity will start her WSL Finals campaign against Pickles — against whom she has a 2-0 record.
In fact, in reverse-Tyler twist, Caity has a winning record against the entire Women’s Final 5 except Caroline.
One would expect Lowers to suit Caity’s surfing, especially considering the wave resides just 20 minutes from her Oceanside abode. Yet, the waves she’s done the best in this year have been windy, warbly lefts (Saqarema, Tahiti, even Portugal), and the waves she’s done the worst in have been cuppy, cobbled rights (Bells, Punta Roca, J-Bay).
Let’s hope she goes full tryhard mode.
For the men, all 10 CT-based Olympic spots have been locked, courtesy of the Brazilian uncertainty which Jack Robinson kindly cleaned up.
Because of Yago’s unfortunate departure from the Final 5, there will be no need for an Olympic qual. battle between him and João at Lowers. Simply, Chianca gets the final spot.
The list of those qualified now looks like this:
- Filipe Toledo & João Chianca (BRA)
- Griffin Colapinto & John John Florence (USA)
- Ethan Ewing & Jack Robinson (AUS)
- Leonardo Fioravanti (ITLY)
- Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
- Jordy Smith & Matthew McGillivray (ZAF)
For the women, only seven of the eight available spots have been locked, with Caroline Mark and Caity Simmers left to battle for the final* USA vacancy.
The list of those qualified now looks like this:
- Carissa Moore (USA)
- Tyler Wright & Molly Picklum (AUS
- Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA)
- Johanne Defay (FRA)
- Brisa Hennessey (CR)
- Teresa Bonvalot (PRT)
*Well, not quite final. By way of winning the 2022 ISA World Games, Team USA women’s have a bonus third spot in the 2024 Olympic Games, which can be given out to whomever they choose, CT surfer or no.
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