But what will it mean if he doesn’t get a decent result at Tahiti or Pipe?
And just like that Filipe Toledo is on top of the ratings. With six events in the can he heads to Tahiti ranked number on the Jeep Leaderboard and is now the frontrunner in the world title race. He made J-Bay his own with his sizzling rail work and aerial wizardry.
His technical prowess is second to none. Shaun Tomson dubbed his performance on finals day at Supertubes, “As good as a human being can surf.” High praise from one of surfings’ elders who has witnessed the evolution of professional surfing for the past four decades.
Without question Toledo is the number one surfer in the world.
However, there is still one gap in his arsenal and that’s his expertise in heavy water. At venues like Tahiti, Fiji and Pipe he is yet to prove himself and this remains his downfall.
Toledo admits that this is an area of his surfing he needs to work on. “I’m not that kind of guy who wants to be surfing Pipe everyday trying to get the shot, trying to make the cover and that’s a big problem for me,” he said in a recent WSL profile piece.
Despite acknowledging he needs to work on that area of his game we’re yet to see him spending time hurling himself under chunks of Pacific blue. Perhaps he needs to adopt a similar approach to that of countryman, Adriano de Souza, who has religiously turned up to events weeks in advance and stayed on long after the event to hone in his approach at waves like Teahupoo, Cloudbreak and Pipe.
Adriano cemented his world title by applying himself to Pipe, even employing Jamie O’Brien (whom he begged), to show him how to surf the wave properly. The Brazilian stayed at O’Brien’s house for the winter and claimed the 2015 World Title on the sands of Pupukea.
It would be remiss of Toledo if he didn’t adopt a similar strategy.
“I think Filipe is the first person to tell you he knows where his improvements are going to come from, it’s the barrel riding and bigger waves,” says Kelly Slater. “When I hear him, or see him being humble in that way it makes me more scared of what we can do.”
But looking at the events that bookend the back end of the year, maybe he can still win the world title without a result in Tahiti or Hawaii.
Kelly’s Surf Ranch in September, The Quiky Pro in France and Rip Curl Pro in Portugal are all events we all know play in Toledo’s favour. He won the Portugal event in 2015, has had a third-place finish in France and is arguably the most exciting to watch at Kelly’s wave pool.
His worst result in 2018 is a 13th at Bells, and with two event victories (Rio and J-Bay), he’s leapfrogged Julian, Jordy, Medina and Italo when it comes to consistency. He’s still got a throwaway up his sleeve if he falters.
The question is: Will there be an asterisk next to his name if he fails to fire in the Pacific and still claims the world title?
On the flipside, someone like Gabriel Medina has no weakness when it comes to the backend of the year. It’s also historically a time where his head clicks into gear and he makes his title run.
And we can’t forget Julian who looks steely determined to fulfil his destiny. Jordy unfortunately also falls into the Toledo category, lacking the experience and results in the heavier waves on tour.
With the Brazilians claiming victory in five of the six events this season their ascendency to the top of professional surfing cannot be denied. One thing is certain, this world title race is just heating up.