How Will The Rookie Class Of 2018 Fare On Tour?
Heartfelt predictions for the CT’s eight new faces.
With less than two weeks separating us from the start of the 2018 Championship Tour season, I can’t help but feel electrified. You know it’s easy to degrade the WSL and its list of recent mishaps (Hawaii, Facebook, etc.), and I have certainly thrown my fair share of barbs in my day, but when it comes down to it I think the League does a pretty awesome job at corralling top talent, getting that talent into quality surf, and broadcasting it live, and free, for viewers around the world.
But for those who still doubt the WSL’s positive impact, think of it this way: watching a CT event, even if just peripherally, is better than not. And while surfing contests aren’t typically as exciting as, say, The Bourne Ultimatum, they can always be used as background entertainment while you’re hanging with friends or, as most Stab readers prefer to watch the contests, at work.
Plus, the beginning of the season delivers a list of exciting unknowns! Who will be this year’s Wilko: coming out of the gates hot with unprecedented passion and form? Who will be the Freddy/Taj: retiring halfway through the season (or at Bells) with one final lightning strike (Ok, we might have a clue about this one.)? And who will be our Connor O’Leary: the low-profile, maybe Australian rookie who shocks the collective surfing world?
I’ve got a few thoughts on the latter questions. In fact, I think it might be fun to break down that entire 2018 rookie class (excluding those who have already surfed a full season on tour), with all of their pros and cons, in order of their 2017 QS ranking. Startinggg… now!
1. Griffin Colapinto
19 and ready to tackle the world.
Over the last six months, Griffin has proven himself to be one of the most explosive and well-rounded surfers on the planet. In terms of sheer Power Rankings, I’d place him highest of all the rookies and probably in the top-10 of the overall CT. He’s been that good.
What really sells me on Griffin is that his surfing doesn’t appear to have a weakness. Despite being 19, Griffin already possesses an impressive amount of power and a sturdy rail game. In terms of airs, I don’t think he’s fallen since that Haleiwa Hail Mary in 2016. And perhaps best of all, Griffin doesn’t seem fazed in the slightest by big, heavy surf. In fact, I think he likes it.
And I know what the Aussie/Brazzo commenters will say: “Oh, you Americans are always fondling these California ‘wunderkids’ as if they were God’s gift to surfing. Too bad they haven’t won a title since Curren in 1990, or an event since Bobby in 2009. Have fun riding the Griffin hype-train into a gun-filled ditch!”
And that is where they’re wrong. I am not just a passenger on this burgeoning locomotive — I’m the motherfucking conductor, snack cart girl, and ticket-checker all rolled into one. So if this Griffin hype-train crashes and burns, which I genuinely believe it will not, I’ll get on my knees, beg for forgiveness and eat my stupid little train driver hat.
2. Jesse Mendes
The consummate professional.
This handsome Brazilian qualified about two weeks into the 2017 QS season, which is why it surprised me when he proceeded to surf every remaining event on the schedule. When I asked Jesse about why he chose to chase unnecessary points rather than practicing at his future CT venues, he reminded me how important having a good seed was, and that he’s already surfed at most of the spots on the 2018 calendar.
In terms of Jesse’s surfing, he’s another one of those guys who doesn’t have much of a weak spot. His turns are precise, his airs are clean, and he seems to love a good lefthand tube. The one thing he lacks is a bit of X-factor, but this tends to matter more to spectators than it does the judges, who will easily throw 8s and 9s at strong, cookie-cutter surfing.
I would be surprised if Jesse failed to requalify after his rookie year, but I wouldn’t expect him to be the new ‘It’ guy on tour. He’s something of a modern-day Ace Buchan.
3. Wade Carmichael
Wade is a part-time Wookie, full time face-smasher.
Anyone with a sharp surfing eye will tell you: Wade Carmichael is legit. Out of the seven true wookies, I mean rookies, Wade has the best rail surfing of the bunch (sorry Willian). In fact, I’d go ahead and say he’s one of the top-5 power surfers on the 2018 Championship Tour. And as past years have demonstrated, face-focused rookies are much more successful than your average punter.
That said, I don’t think Wade has done an air since 2014. And while one can have a successful career without a stellar flight pattern (hello, Mick!), it’s just a little harder to do so in 2018. All up, I think Wade will prevail at the open-faced waves on Tour, and as long as he can thread a backside tube, I think he’ll be clear for requal. I also see predict a few nine-point hammers in this kid’s season, should spots like Margs, Bells, Jbay, and Keramas light up for his heats. More than anything I’m just excited to see him surf good waves.
4. Tomas Hermes
Yeah, he finally did it.
As one of the two 30-something-year-old Brazilians to qualify in 2017, Tomas Hermes is a unique type of surfer. Standing no more than five-and-a-half feet dripping wet, it might surprise you that the Brazilian has a mostly rail-driven competitive approach. However, due to his size, Tomas’s carvey skillset is built upon the pillars of timing and technique rather than brute strength. And while the Brazilian’s ability to hold a rail in a tight pocket is impressive, I’m not sure how effectual it will be on the CT level.
Frankly, Tomas has always struck me as the anti-Wade Carmichael. What I mean by that is, the Brazilian’s surfing is more or less built for the Qualifying Series.
However, I believe Tomas will be a fierce CT competitor due to his consistency and determination. He’ll put up mid-range scores with his eyes closed and often give the top dawgs trouble in the early rounds. Basically what I’m saying is, while I don’t expect Tomas to have a highly successful rookie season, he will keep the world’s best on their toes and probably sneak a few victories in the process.
It would also be really funny if he and Keanu Asing did that two-kids-in-a-trenchcoat thing for Halloween. #Heightoverheart
5. Yago Dora
Pre-heat form-ups with style master Yago.
I don’t think anyone could refute the fact that Yago Dora is one of the most naturally gifted surfers in the world. The effortlessness with which he soars, the sheer grace of his body movements between maneuvers, and his ability to recover from what should be a “fall” cannot be earned through any amount of hours in the water, 10,000 or otherwise. He’s a freak talent, and thanks to a little work on his competitive approach, Yago has finally landed himself on surfing’s main stage.
Buuuuutttttt… (trigger warning) I don’t think Yago will fare well in his first year on the CT.
If history has shown us anything, it’s that uber-progressive, technically-gifted kids don’t initially succeed on the elite tour. If anything, it’s meat-and-potatoes surfing that leads to rookie success. And Yago simply doesn’t have the leg strength nor the robotic backhand rhythm to match the CT’s grizzled vets.
A strong counter-argument to my theory would be that last year, as a wildcard, Yago beat three world champs en route to a semifinal finish at the Oi Rio Pro.
I think that in small beach-break conditions, Yago has an advantage over the vast majority of Tour surfers. But at spots like Snapper, Margaret’s and Bells, well, to be frank, I think he’ll be lucky to make more than two heats across the entire Aussie leg.
So for those of you who, like me, absolutely love Yago’s surfing, do yourself a favor and don’t set your expectations sky-high for 2018. At best, I’m hoping for a few moments of brilliance and a lot of lessons learned. He could very well be a world title contender one day.
6. Willian Cardoso
Big boy Willian is ready to rock!
Until last week, I believed Willian Cardoso had spent a year, maybe two, on tour. Turns out he got a few CT wildcard entries over 2012/13 but was never officially on the Top-34. Who knew?
So, Willian. He’s 32, has to weigh over 200 pounds, and is certainly not the most talented bloke to ever set foot on a surfboard. How he made the Top-34 is something of a mystery to me, especially in year where he didn’t compete in all the events. Maybe it was a dad-strength situation.
That said, Willian surfs surprisingly well in smaller conditions (remember when he finaled at the US Open?!) and unsurprisingly well when the waves get chunky. For that reason I wouldn’t be shocked if he made a couple quarters in the Aussie leg, Keramas, and J-Bay. Though I don’t know how he’ll fare at the CT’s tubey stops, nor if the wavepool will float him.
I can’t see him requalifying through the CT this year but I suppose stranger things have happened.
7. Michael Rodrigues
Main takeaway from this article: winners were blue.
Over the last two years, Michael Rodrigues has become my favorite Instagram surfer. In every clip he posts, I’m amazed by just how much spring, pop, and power are generated by his wonderfully-sculpted thighs. He really is something else.
As far as his rookie year on tour, I could see Michael struggling due to inexperience and a terrible case of QS-syndrome.
Inexperience-wise, let’s put it this way: I recently had a conversation with Matt Biolos about CT vs QS surfboards (coming soon!), in which Matt explained that he had to personally conceive and design M-Rod’s quiver for the Aussie leg of the tour, because Michael had no idea what he’d even need. And while this demonstrates an obvious lack of knowledge on Michael’s behalf, it also shows that he’s willing to learn and accept guidance from those more experienced than himself, which will help greatly in the years to come.
QS-syndrome-wise, I think if there’s one fault in Michael’s approach, it’s that he lacks the flow necessary to surf the higher-quality venues on Championship Tour. Trick for trick, he’s as good as anybody out there, but until Michael discovers how to link those maneuvers without losing speed or putting himself behind the section, I think he’ll be left with lots of sixes and sevens rather than eights and nines.
Still, I guarantee you nobody wants him in their heat at Snapper.
8. Michael February
Although he didn’t qualify naturally, M Feb will compete in most of the 2018 CT events.
For any committed QSer, nothing stings like finishing the season one place outside of qualification. And after failing to secure any meaningful results at Haleiwa or Sunset, Michael February lived the last couple months in a fog of devastation.
Alas, with Mick Fanning announcing his retirement post-Bells, Michael, as the next highest QS surfer from 2017, will assume Lightning’s position for the remainder of the season. And seeing as how Julian will probably miss some of the Australian leg due to his shoulder injury, Michael will probably be able to surf all 11 events this season.
A win for South Africans, heterogeneity, and style divas everywhere.
As far as how Michael will fare on tour, I’m afraid to say not very well. While M. Feb has a unique and aesthetically pleasing approach, I’m afraid his thin-legged surfing won’t cut it on the World Spray League. That said, I believe Michael’s long, rhythmic gliding will help soothe the eyes after watching a few too many ADS vs. Wilko squat-offs.
With all of the above in mind, here are my predicted rookie rankings at the conclusion of 2018 CT season (keep in mind I had Connor O’Leary at the bottom of the pack last year, so this is essentially meaningless drivel):
- Griffin Colapinto
- Jesse Mendes
- Wade Carmichael
- Michael Rodrigues
- Yago Dora
- Tomas Hermes
- Michael February
- Willian Cardoso
Why You Should Never Not Paddle Out
How an impromptu 30 minute session made a Jamaican surfer $1,000 richer.
Rio Waida Has Been Surfing Onshore, Oversized Bells Alone
...and he might not go home all year.
John Florence Releases Long-Form Piece On The 243km Great Ocean Squiggle
Tourism Victoria going, ‘he just did our job for us’.
Japanese Rice Farmer Enjoys Frightening Sumatran West Bowls
Kaito Ohashi is on his best behavior.
Watch: When People Like This Speak, We Listen
Raw, extended conversations with Clyde Aikau and Eddie Aikau winner Luke Shepardson.
Diamond Tail = Diamond Hands?
We'll explain everything in the Rusty D-Min Joyride.
Behold Australia’s Nine & NZ’s Two Challenger Series Qualifiers*
May the Southern Cross smile upon you at Snapper.
An Unordinary Life Structured Around A Tidal Bore
Long Read: The life and times of Pete Beachy.
Sun Room: The Overnight Success Of A Young Surf Band
What's it like touring the world and living off of McDonald's?
How Surfers Get Paid, Episode 6
An instructional manual for the modern professional surfer
Globe Pulls Out Of The Apparel Game
…and, Taj Burrow and Dion Agius are now looking for new main sponsors.
Owen Wright Announces Retirement From Competitive And Heavy-Water Surfing
But will surf final CT event at Bells.
Fancy An Ale, Some Good Music, And A Bunch Of Tubes?
Ballet's minimalist full-length will satiate your needs.
Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.
Already a member? Sign In
Want to join? Sign Up