Who will crack, who will crumble and who will rise to the top?
The beach breaks of France can be a nightmare. Their shapeshifting nature can render even the best surfers of the world powerless. Add the pressure cooker of competition, re-qualification and world title hopes on the line and it all gets a little tense as we head to the European leg of the Tour.
With the waiting period open and signs competition will get under way today there are a few competitors that will be feeling the heat more than others.
For Filipe, it’s all about solidifying his hold on the top spot of the Jeep leader board.
"My strategy right now is just to stay ahead of everyone," said World No. 1 Filipe Toledo at the WSL’s press junket. “This late in the year, the Title race has taken shape so you just want to do better than the other guys in the top 5. I'm in a good position right now. I waited a long time to get hold of the Jeep Leader Jersey and I don't want to let it go."
His greatest threat to his world tile is countryman Gabriel Medina who has won the last two events – Tahiti and Surf Ranch. In France, he’ll be looking to go three straight and continue his ascent.
"I won the last two competitions and that inspires me even now," said Gabriel Medina. "It gets me fired up. And I love the waves here. I'm not putting a lot of pressure on myself, I just want to surf well. The last 4 years, I've been fighting for the title. Last year I was in Hawaii fighting for the Title, so I'm used to this type of pressure. I'm trying to stay in the zone and not think about any of the other competitors. I want to surf smart and take it easy. If I do the same thing I've done in the last few comps...I'll make it to the top."
Meanwhile, for World No. 3, Julian Wilson, Europe could make or break his season. Despite never having won the event his form in France is good. He’s made the semi’s and quarter-finals before and his pedigree in thumping beachies with ramps on offer makes him a serious threat.
If Jules can get on a roll in Europe and climb up the rankings the world title race will get very interesting as we head to Hawaii. While many have written him off and calling it a two-horse race between Gabby and Filipe, we know Jules is a Pipe Master and has been angling for a world title since he first rocked a puka shell necklace and below the knee boardies.
Another Australian that will need to lift in France is Matt Wilkinson. The goofy-foot has had a horror season. Ranked 34 on the Jeep Leader Board with a string of 25th’s to his name and no results on the QS he risks dropping off the Tour at season’s end. With only two QS 10,000s and 3 CTs left he is a very long shot to be on tour in 2019 unless he fires in Europe.
On the women’s side of the draw Stephanie Gilmore’s 7th world title looks all but sealed in 2018. The Australian’s closest competitor, Lakey Peterson, will be looking to claw back her lead in France. While after a win in the tub at Leemore, Carissa Moore will be wanting to swing the momentum back in her favour and begin her campaign for next season.