Situation appraisal pre-Lemoore
Now that Chopes is out of the way, Toledo has every chance of winning his first world title. Jordy too.
They are currently sitting at number one and number two respectively on the Jeep Leaderboard, and are looking pumped for the last four events of the season.
The next three events suit both the two surfers immensely. Both of them are standouts at the Lemoore contest – last year Toledo got a second and Jordy a ninth. The big fellow had to contort to fit into the tiny, yet perfect, Surf Ranch barrels, while Toledo slotted in nicely and also took to the air. There will still be much focus on defending champ Gabriel Medina, as well as the revitalized Kolohe Andino at this event, however, Filipe and particularly Jordy are chasing their world titles with an almost desperate fervor.
Jordy’s game at Pipe has also radically improved over the last few years, thanks to a house in front of the wave and loads more training time. A fifth in 2016 and a third place last year, indicates his climb towards the top echelon at was once a bogey wave for him. This year will no doubt see another leap in performance from Smith at the one other wave apart from Chopes that really messes up the minds of even the best-prepared surfers.
The major problem for the rest of the field is that Gabriel has got so many wins in the last four events that it is going to take a whole lot of nerve, skill, and luck to get past the goofy-footer. He won France in 2015, he won both the European events in 2017, and he won both Lemoore and Pipe last year! It would be the easiest guess to say that Gabby has got this in the bag, but with the cluster at the pointy end so tight, and with so many of the top eight surfers delivering incredible performances at this stage in the game, the doors are still fairly wide open.
Kolohe is right there, and despite growing pressure from all sides, he is still playing the part of the mature, thoughtful and wise surfer; giving clear and unemotional post-heat interviews and channeling a little bit of Slater Zen when it is needed the most.
Talking of which, Jimmy is out of the game this year and more’s the shame. His recent performances have been great, even dynamic, but there have been many factors at play that have influenced his slip down to ten on the Jeep Leaderboard.
The final consideration that needs to be assessed is the fact that the right-handers are all used up. Snapper, Bells, Keramas and JBay are done. Margarets was predominantly a right this year, with the highlights being at the Box. Even Rio was nearly all rights. Lemoore has both, France and Portugal have plenty of lefts for the hungry goofy-footers, and Pipe is the bangin’ finish, which usually requires a grasp of Backdoor and the Lefts, to do well.
This could bring Italo and Owen back into the game. Ferreira won Portugal last year, and Wright is on a mission after his win at Chopes. Neither can be discounted at this stage, yet neither seems to be wearing a champion’s sticker on their respective foreheads at this point in time either.
Kanoa Igarashi, the world’s favourite Japanese surfer, is also very much a contender, with a third at least year’s Surf Ranch Pro as well as a fifth in Portugal. The Lemoore setup suits his style and stature, and if he finds the form like he found at Keramas he is going to be dangerous. His poor performance at the recent Chopes event and his still-untested mettle in big stuff will hold him back if Pipe is booming.
All in, it’s going to be a thrilling final straight, with a number of possibilities. If the cards fall right, Jordy could be all-in for his first world title, but on paper, Gabby has the best chance. If Toledo finds his best form, he’ll still need to win before Hawaii, because his chances of any sort of clutch result at Pipe are slim.