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“Prediction Is Very Difficult, Especially About The Future”

2024 World Title picks from former CTers, pundits, and more.

// Jan 29, 2024
Words by Paul Evans
Reading Time: 8 minutes

First, some numbers.

The 2024 Championship Tour will see: 90,000 (max) ratings points, 684 heats (686 if both final matches go the distance), 51 starting surfers, 10 events, 8 territories, 2 scoring rides, One OceanTM and many, many delicious açaí bowls. 

And after all that, just a single man and woman will emerge as 2024 WSL Champions, perched atop the surfing world, supreme among wave riders. 

But who will they be?

Filipe & Caroline to successfully defend their World Titles, you say?

Fil and Caroline’s plan for Trestles 2024? Command C, command V. Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League

Very possibly. But only one male surfer has managed a three-peat this century (RIP Andy); and no women’s goofyfoot has defended a title since Frieda Zamba in ‘87.

Can Gabe & John roar back after 2023 disappointments? With Steph on smoko, and Riss possibly off tour for good, will Tyler leave their records alone? Or keep up her 2023 form, then manifest at Lowers? 

Should we get excited about shiny, new world champs? Ethan, Griff, Jack, Yago; Caity, Molly, Tati?

Does anyone gouge lip better than EE? Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

Making predictions can be a brave business — history isn’t always kind on those with accurate foresight, even less so on those wide of the mark. Back to the Future predicting the Chicago Cubs winning the 2015 World Series (in 1985) was impressive, while Paul the Octopus got all seven of Germany’s matches at the 2010 World Cup right. His career record for international soccer predictions was a hefty 85.7% correct.

On the flipside, bungled predictions can crush credibility. Stab‘s gambler-in-chief Mikey Ciaramella famously got all 2023 cut line calls 100% wrong, had issues getting media accreditation, and had to hire a personal security detail to attend some events. Still, he claims to have won $4,558 on the season in 2023. Makes you wonder.

For reference:

Richie Lovett

10 year CT vet, Trestles & Haleiwa winner, current WSL live broadcast analyst & self-confessed surf nerd, Richie is also a G-Land tsunami and cancer survivor, which probably makes him one of the low key hardest people in the world. 

Men’s Final 5
Gabriel Medina – world champ
Filipe Toledo
John Florence
Ethan Ewing
Jack Robinson
(Griffin Colapinto – 6th)

Women’s Final 5
Caitlin Simmers – world champ
Caroline Marks
Molly Picklum
Tyler Wright
Tatiana Weston-Webb

Richie says:

It’s going to be an exciting year, no doubt. We’ve got the departure of J-Bay, and the inclusion of Cloudbreak, that alone is going to create an interesting prospect for the final five. Essentially, we’re looking at four heavy wave locations: Pipeline, Sunset, Tahiti and Fiji. Throw in Margaret River and the tour really sets up well for the heavy water specialists so it’s hard to go past JJF, Medina and Jack Robinson. That’s assuming we get swell at all those locations. Then I find it really hard to go past Toledo who is ultra-consistent at most of the tour locations, and is in career-best form. To round it out I’ll give the nod to Ethan Ewing over Griff only because I feel like there’s a real appreciation for the type of surfing he’s doing at the moment. Otherwise, I would’ve thrown Griff in the mix based on his versatility. 

I’ll add a disclaimer though… If the tour gets skunked for waves, I’m going to substitute Griffin for Jack or JJF. I think John will struggle more for motivation and form if the waves are marginal at the events. The other wildcard for Jack is the arrival of his new baby. This can either create a distraction or extra motivation. It’s a big adjustment doing the tour with a baby and he may not find it easy.

We saw signs of Gabriel’s former icey form return in the back-half of last year. At the closing event in Tahiti, Gabriel increased his head-to-head stats against John Florence seven to five. He missed the WSL Finals cutoff by 710 points. A bees’ dick. Photo by Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League

I feel like Medina is going to come back in proper cyborg mode this year. Like most, he’s done an incredible amount of preseason preparation, but he looks stronger than ever. I think he will not only win the tour leading into the final five, but he’ll bring a level of power and a versatile repertoire to finals day that won’t be matched.

On the women’s side, the field opens up given the absence of Steph and Carissa. And like on the men’s side, the women who’re super comfortable at the reef break locations such as Tati, Tyler and even Caity Simmers will accumulate enough points through those events to see them into the final five. Caroline has also done the work at these locations, and I can’t see her feeling any pressure being the defending world champ, so she’ll easily make the final five again. Molly improved exponentially last year. She’s getting stronger physically and mentally, and while I feel like she still needs to find her consistency through the events, her ability to learn on the fly, adapt and not succumb to pressure will see her make the final five again. 

Caity Simmers is my pick for World Champion on the women’s side. Which feels like a weird prediction because on the outside, she doesn’t project a burning desire to be the champ like the greats that have won before her. That said, her talent is so extraordinary, and if Lowers congers up a decent swell for finals day, I think she’ll catch the judges favour by delivering a powerful yet progressive performance that will separate her from the other women. 

There’s a couple of rookies that I’m really excited to watch this year. Crosby Colapinto surfs big and the judges love that. I think he’ll do well. As will Cole Houshmand… He’s a beast of a man and the intensity and power of his turns won’t go unnoticed by the judges. His kryptonite will be any head noise around actually belonging on the WCT. If he can settle into the big leagues quickly, he’ll do well. I’ve also been a huge fan of Jacob Willcox since he was in the juniors, and I think he’ll do well in tour openers in Hawaii and at home in WA. He’ll make the cut then really dig in at Cloudbreak and Tahiti. He’s also got a heap of competitive experience in CT events already, and I think he’s a good shot at being the highest ranked rookie this year. 

2024 World Champs: Gabriel Medina & Caity Simmers

That index finger getting some action this year? Photo by Pat Nolan/World Surf League

Flick Palmateer

Big wave surfer, Eddie invitee, artist & reality TV star, Flick’s equally impressive and adept breaking down CT surfing on the live broadcast host set, as she is charging massive offshore reefs. 

Women’s Final 5
Molly – world champ
Tyler
Caity
Tati
Caroline

Men’s Final 5
Gabriel Medina – world champ
Ethan Ewing
Jack Robinson
Filipe Toledo
Yago Dora

Flick says:

I think Molly’s going from strength to strength. She’s one of the best tube riders on tour, especially on her backhand, she’s so technical. Her mindset seems like steel, resilient and unyielding in the face of challenge. I see her really really hungry for a title, and I’m expecting her to do well at all tour stops that are waves of consequence. If Brisa makes the cut, she makes the final at Cloudbreak with either Molly or Tati, and if it’s big and heaving, Tati wins. If Tyler continues with the momentum from last year, I see her making finals and battling it out with Molly in the title match at Trestles.

Filipe and Trestles – it’s a romance I like to watch. He’s going to be hard to beat. However, if Ethan comes through with the same performance as last season but with a bit more progression – he wins. Watching how Jack Robo takes on fatherhood will be cool. I think he’s going to take it in his stride and become even more of a zen master than what he already is. A lot of younger guys qualifying have to grow into their world tour bod. Cole Houshmand already has it. He matches power for power and with the tour so stacked with waves of consequence, I think he does well. Jacob Willcox has finally cracked the tour and with 13 previous CT wildcard appearances he’ll be a serious threat. Jacob and Cole will battle for rookie of the year.

2024 World Champs: Molly Picklum & Gabriel Medina 

Year of the Pickle? (Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League)

Jesse Mendes 

Former CT surfer in 2018 & 19, Jesse’s work/life balance includes bringing erudite, technical insights to the booth on WSL broadcasts, while simultaneously supporting wife Tatiana Weston-Webb in her quest for a first ever Brazilian women’s world title (hence why he gave no women’s predictions).

Men’s Final 5
Filipe Toledo – world champ
Gabriel Medina 
Ethan Ewing 
Yago Dora
Jack Robinson / John Florence (couldn’t decide)

Jesse says:

It’s undeniable that Filipe is the best competitor we’ve had over the last two or three years. The way he’s surfing, with the levels of aggression, speed and power, plus the maturity he now has from having world titles, it’s impossible to count him out. He’s also developed a lot at waves like Sunset, which makes him an even bigger threat. Gabe’s now had two weird years; he got hurt twice in 2022, and so was a bit out of rhythm last year, just from the lack of surfing heats. Everyone was sharp and he was still coming back. This year, I find it hard to believe he doesn’t make the Final 5, he’s gonna be hungry.

Reminder: Fil still rips in big waves. Maybe less so the hollow variety. Photo by Matt Dunbar/World Surf League via Getty Images

Ethan is the best rail surfer in the world, not just on Tour, but from 1ft to 10ft he has the best approach, nobody else is cutting the water like him. The way the tour is with all those right points, it suits him so well, Sunset, Bells, Margs, El Salvador, they suit his style. So expect at least one or two event wins. Yago is the surfer that developed the most in the last two years; he already had the airs dialled better than anyone frontside and backside, tubes too, and the frontside rail game was second to none. But what he lacked backside on the face, he’s now really improved upon. That puts him right up there, he only just missed out last year by a few heats. Plus we just added Fiji, which is huge for him. He has to be one of the favourites to win Cloudbreak.

Jack and John have similar qualities — if very different approaches. They’re both amazing in Hawaii, other waves of consequence, and big walls. It’s a case of how things play out; if John starts well in Hawaii, he should be dominant, winning at least one of the two North Shore events. If they have similar results in Hawaii, I’d go with Jack. It’s crazy that John hasn’t done well at a CT at Sunset, he’s a step ahead of everybody out there. It’s surely just a matter of time. 

2024 World Champ: Filipe Toledo

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