Who’s going to claim this thing?
All world titles should be decided at Pipe. It’s a condition that should be written into the WSL’s constitution. Maybe it is. Maybe that’s why Medina fell so hard on his sword at Supertubos.
But let’s not go there.
Let’s focus instead on what we now have on our hands. A four-way title race that, for all the compelling calculations the WSL will unveil, is basically going to come down to who advances furthest at the tour’s most revered proving ground.
Talk about a turnaround. First John John looked like he was running away with things, then Medina seemed to have it all sewed up, but somehow, after a drawn out and controversial two weeks in Portugal, Italo is now wearing gold, a bee’s appendage separates Gabby and Jordy, and Toledo’s still hanging in there despite a sore back and half the world already writing him off because the title’s going to be decided at Pipe.
So who’s going to claim this thing?
Obviously the math is with Gabby. Three Pipe finals, a victory there last year, and a track record in heaving barrels that is fast approaching Kelly’s and Andy’s. But gee whiz, this past week hasn’t been pretty. A stupid decision that cost him a shot at wrapping up the title in Portugal followed by a stupider decision on Instagram that may have cost him his friendship with Caio Ibelli—that shit’s got to take its toll. My guess is it’s either going to fire him up to new levels or see him bomb out spectacularly.
Then there’s Italo. Mr. Mojo. When it’s happening for him it’s happening like he’s slaying the dancefloor at the sickest party going and no one can take their eyes off him, and when it’s not, he might as well be invisible. Consistency hasn’t been his friend. Or it hadn’t been until he strung back-to-back finals together at the last two events. Maybe things are finally changing. Pipe hasn’t been a particularly strong venue for him in the past, but with Italo, it seems to be less about the venue and more about which side of him shows up to the event.
Now what about Jordy? History says no. History says the big guy has a track record of choking in high-pressure moments, but then again history didn’t factor in the run he’s put together this year. Dude has made the quarters or better in seven out of ten events so far and won none of them. That’s not the Jordy of old. The Jordy of old would’ve smashed the hell out of one of them and then pinballed between keepers and throwaways for the rest of the season. The Jordy of old didn’t live on the North Shore either. Now he does, and he showed last year that his Pipe act had improved exponentially. One gets the feeling it’ll be now or never for a Jordy Smith world title.
Toledo, of course, stands as a slight outlier. Mathematically he’s only 2,000 points shy of the lead, but psychologically he may be much further. The waves-of-consequence hoodoo still stands over him despite the fact he’s made considerable leaps forward at Pipe and Chopes in recent years, and the back injury is still a factor, although he looked much healthier in Portugal. If ever there was a time to shake off both of those things, now would be it, considering a world title is waiting for him at the other end if he can pull it off.
Whichever way it goes, it should be exciting. If the waves show up, however, it’ll be a full-blown barnburner.