These Are Your Top 10 Surfers In The WSL Finals
Kill or be killed at Trestles.
In 2021, the World Champion will not be decided by a surfer’s total points at the end of the competitive season (as it has been since the WSL’s inception in 354 BC). This year, surfers will earn points throughout the course of the year (as usual), however those points will only serve to qualify them for the “playoffs”, also known as the WSL finals, which are essentially a one-event surf-off for the World Title held at Trestles in September.
The idea is that—like in the NFL/NBA/World Cup etc.—the last event of the season will determine the World Champion, thus providing guaranteed TV drama. As one WSL honcho famously proclaimed, no longer will a surfer be able to win while “standing on the sand in Portugal.” It will boil down to the top fives performances on one day, in what will be the most high-stake and consequential heat surfing format to ever crown a World Champion.
Let’s see who is in the mix.
Men’s top 5
Gabriel Medina is currently sitting on 43,400 points, 11,740 points ahead of second place, Italo Ferreira. In any other year, this would’ve meant he had already won the World Tour by a landslide. If he didn’t compete at the next event and Italo won it, he would still lead the rankings. Gabby has made 5 finals this year out of 7, winning 2 of them at Narrabeen and Rottnest. The new SuperBowl format however, makes his season-long dominance irrelevant. He will have one heat to surf, and if he loses, that’s that.
From a spectator standpoint, this makes every heat high-stakes and exciting to watch, but it also means that a far less-consistent competitor could blitz finals day and win the world title despite being way behind on points. Will this seem fair? In a more closely contested final 5, I think the final’s day format makes sense. When a surfer is 10,000+ points ahead of second, deciding a WC over the outcome of one heat feels criminal.
Italo Ferreira won an Olympic gold, the event at Newcastle, and made two semi-finals and quarter-finals this year. While his 2021 WSL performances will forever be cast in the shadow of his blazing Olympic gold performance, memorable highlights include the 17 waves he caught in his 30 minute heat in Newcastle, and the aerial clinic he put on during his Round 1 heat with Morgs and Mick at Narrabeen.
Filipe Toledo, who tweeted that he “had the worst day of my life” on Friday, after being paid to surf pumping Barra de la Cruz all morning, comes into finals day ranked third. Toledo has had two CT victories this season, one at Margaret River and another at The Ranch. Toledo has had three 17th places this season, one of which he keeps in his final score. Despite being in the top three almost the entire year, it feels like it has been the year of Gabe and Italo. Filipe’s presence has been quietly brooding. With Trestles being a wave perfectly suited for his light-footed, explosive surfing, I wouldn’t be surprised if Filipe saves his best til last.
Conner Coffin moved into the top 5 following his performance at Barra de La Cruz. Conner was not on most people’s radars as a title threat until the Mexico event, but his silky rail game that earned him a 5th was enough for him to jump four places in front of Kanoa, Griffin, Morgan and Jordy. Conner posted consistent performances this year, including a 2nd at Narrabeen, three 5th places at Newcastle, Rottnest and Mexico, and a 9th at The Ranch.
Morgan Cibilic comes into finals day ranked fifth. The steel city rookie from Newcastle has surprised time and time again this year. Morgan had virtually no hype coming into this year. But it seems fair to say that since then his surfing has improved exponentially, and his hunger and grit to win heats rattles people. The guy is not phased by anyone. Morgan placed 2nd at Rottnest and 3rd in Newcastle. Now he’s the top ranked Aussie with a chance to win a fucking World Title as a rookie. Onya Morgs. Get it son.
Women’s top 5
Carissa Moore has crushed it this year. Her worst performance has been a semi final, making her the most consistent surfer across both the Men and Women’s draw. She won the Newcastle event, and placed second at the Ranch and Pipeline. Highlights include her air-reverse, 9.8 in Mex and untouchable Olympic gold medal performance in Tokyo.
Tatiana Weston-Webb comes into final’s day in second. Her surfing in Margaret river event, which she won, was some of the best backhand power surfing by a female to date. She backed it up with a 2nd place at Narrabeen and two third place finishes at Pipeline and Rottnest Island to bring her total to a wholesome 34,715 points.
Sally Fitzgibbons is sitting on 33,000 points in third. Sal took the crown at the Rottnest event and had three 3rd place finishes at Pipe, Mex and the Ranch. Her Olympic run this year saw her bowing out earlier than expected, but the 4x runner-up looks hungry in the lead up to the surf off. Could 2021 be the year she finally gets to raise the World Tour trophy above her head? I’m backing it. Sting em Sal.
Steph Gilmore is going for her 8th World Title this year. If she does get it, it will make her the most winning female surfer of all time, in front of 7x World Champ, Layne Beachley, who she is currently tied with. Steph placed 5th at Pipe, Newcastle and Narrabeen, and a 2nd place at Margaret River. Steph took out the Mex event over Malia Manuel with her trademark silky carves and tube-riding, giving her momentum moving into finals day.
Johanne Defay, is the fifth ranked female coming into finals day with 32,035 points – the same number of points as Steph. Since the beginning of the year, where she had her worst results, she has improved at each event, consistently making finals and taking out the win at the Surf Ranch.
The event window runs from September 9-17 at lower Trestles.
Who you backing to take the cheddar?
Male top 5
- Gabriel Medina
- Italo Ferreira
- Fillipe Toledo
- Conner Coffin
- Morgan Cibilic
Female top 5
- Carissa Moore
- Tatiana Weston-Webb
- Sally Fitzgibbons
- Stephanie Gilmore
- Johanne Defay
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