Medina is made of ice, Julian is trending and Parko and Wilko take very different paths off the CT.
10: Gabriel Medina: Surely, he converted some of the haters with that performance. Although I’ve seen some Tracks readers complain of him being overcooked in the Semi with Jordy. Maybe, maybe not. However this was ice cold Pipe perfection, delivered under intense pressure. He’s made the Semis in the last five events and won three. The lack of John John might add a slight asterisk and there might be a question over likeability, but none over talent. He’s one of the best surfers ever. And he’s getting better. Also, he's at the top of the Jeep Leaderboard, and that's all that matters.
9: Julian Wilson: Couldn’t have done much more, also delivering performance after performance under intense heat. He sent it at Pipe when it mattered, but he made a few mistakes and it wasn’t enough. He’s now finished 8th, 3rd and 2nd on the Jeep Leaderboard in the last few years. He’s definitely trending towards his ultimate goal.
8: Jordy Smith: His best result in a decade of competing at Pipe and the first time he’s looked truly relaxed at serious Pipe. However, he still gifted Medina a path out of their Semi when he took the bait on an obvious closeout. Finishes the year as World No 5 on the Jeep Leaderboard, despite a horror start. Just as the last eight years he will no doubt start the year talking about winning a world title. He won’t.
7: Kelly Slater: A Semifinal finish will have some of his faithful fans seeing this performance as a sign he can do something special in 2019. Yet 12-foot Pipe is a different beast to surfing three foot French beachbreak against, say, Seth Moniz, and he’ll need a solid start at Snapper to be anywhere in the conversation. But 2019 can wait for now. For the last three days Kelly was very much front of house. That in itself should be celebrated.
7: Wade Carmichael: Charged a few nuggets and finished in the top 10 as well as the Rookie Of The Year. Last year’s rookie Connor O’Leary will no doubt be a cautionary tale, but Wade’s no bullshit surfing and act was one of the highlights of 2018.
6: Filipe Toledo: Deserves some credit for having a dig at solid Pipe, even if he seems to have to work harder than most to find his groove out there. It might take more time, and he’s not short of work ethic, but right now his background and DNA doesn’t seem to be suited to tuberiding massive barrels. Until he overcomes his nature with nurture he won’t win a World Title showdown at Pipe.
7: Conner Coffin: Wore 30 set waves on the head on the big day, but always showed up and sent it when it mattered. He even managed to box in Medina for around 15 minutes, only for Medina’s combo of muscle and magic to engineer 19.5 points in 120 seconds. Still the guitar playing, necklace wearing Californian finishes as the World No.7. That’s a good thing, right?
7: Ryan Callinan: Finished an epic six months with a win at the Pipe Trials, a solid performance in the main event and one of the best freesurfing winters on the North Shore. On the big day he was treating Pipe like Pogos, always smiling whether he had been spat out of a Second Reed roll in or blasted onto the coral. He will walk into 2019 knowing he belongs on the CT. Cage, get ready to be rattled.
6: Joel Parkinson: It would be interesting what the feedback would have been if a retiring Brazilian had effectively stopped surfing the last ten minutes of a heat so Gabriel Medina could progress. That’s what Parko seemed to do in his Round 4 heat with Julian. If he did, who gives a flying? After all he’s done for the sport it’s fitting his last act in a singlet was a selfless one.
5. Matt Wilkinson: “I’m confused and sad. I hadn’t thought much beyond doing good at Pipe.” His career path now is either grind on the QS, running a wedding venue in the Byron Bay hinterland or going on boat trips with Fanning and Mason. He later said he’d be back on tour, and will no doubt have a crack at the QS next year, but at 30 it will take some real discipline to make it back for 2020.