Though Filipe Toledo and Jack Robinson have opened up a little gap on the rest of the field in the run to the WSL Finals, the men’s world rankings are tight thereafter and there remains a host of competitors capable of making their way into the top five. The Surf City El Salvador Pro resulted in plenty of movement in the top ten, with a couple of new names slotting into that top five and one particularly big one falling out. Let’s take a look at how it all played out.
Like on the women’s side of the draw, the amended format following the mid-season cut means that there was more on the line from the outset of the Men’s Surf City El Salvador Pro. Just one of the three competitors from each Opening Round heat advanced through to the Round of 16, the rest sent to the Elimination Round, though this time around the majority of the major title threats managed to avoid that concern.
Each of Kanoa Igarashi, Jack Robinson, Filipe Toledo and Gabriel Medina were heat winners and bypassed the Elimination Round, while Yago Dora, Jackson Baker, Caio Ibelli and Barron Mamiya also won their heats. Among the most notable names to finish in the bottom two of their heat were Ethan Ewing – whose 14.00 heat total was just shy of Dora’s – Italo Ferreira – who was also a close second, him to Jackson Baker – Griffin Colapinto and Jordy Smith.
Those four names, as it turned out, had little to worry about. Ewing was the first cab off the rank and quickly disposed of the local Bryan Perez, while Italo Ferreira easily beat Josh Burke from Barbados a couple of heats later. Colapinto also won comfortably, beating Costa Rica’s Carlos Munoz, before Smith put together the highest score of the round en route to a defeat of Nat Young. Callum Robson, Matthew McGillivray and Jake Marshall also won through to the Round of 16, before Connor O’Leary scraped through by the skin of his teeth against Samuel Pupo.
The Round of 16 started off with a bang when Aussie duo Jack Robinson and Jackson Baker squared off. Robinson was clearly the favourite, but Baker laid down the challenge with an early 8.07 ride, ultimately finishing with a 15.17 total. That would prove to be the fourth biggest score of the round, but Robinson managed to near-nine-point rides on his 12th and 15th waves in a busy heat to put together a massive 17.76. Immediately after that, Medina was nearly as good with a 16.00-point heat, easily disposing of fellow Brazilian Ibelli, and the big names kept on doing their thing thereafter. Igarashi was too good for Marshall in the third heat, Colapinto beat Smith in a tough heat immediately following that, before Toledo, Robson, Ewing and Ferreira won through in the remaining four.
Those results left us with a mouth-watering remainder of the event; of the eight surfers remaining, seven were inside the top ten in the world rankings, while the eighth was Gabriel Medina – arguably the best surfer in the world. Not a bad line-up. The first heat didn’t really live up to expectations, with Medina beating Robinson 12.50-6.50, but the second certainly made up for it. Igarashi was excellent, putting together a 16.20 heat total, but Colapinto was even better, scoring 17.60 courtesy of an 8.50 and a 9.10. Toledo continued that high-scoring trend with a 16.67 which left Robson in his wake, while the big numbers continued to roll in in the last heat. Like Igarashi, Ewing was gallant in defeat with a 16.10, falling shy of a rampaging Ferreira, who managed 17.47.
Surfing fans in Brazil would have been delighted to see the return of their Big Three in the semis, with Colapinto the only man capable of destroying the party. The American was matched up against Medina in the first heat, and very little separated them throughout. Colapinto only managed one wave in excess of a five-pointer, but that was an 8.50, enough to see him scrape over the line 13.30-13.17. Still, at least one Brazilian was going to be in the final, with Toledo and Ferreira coming up in heat two, and the way the former surfed it seemed like he was going to be tough to beat. He took five waves, four of which scored at least a five and the best of which was a 9.70 en route to a comfortable 17.10-13.20 victory.
The yellow jersey wearing Brazilian was always going to be tough to beat in increasingly choppy conditions in the final, and when he scored a 9.57 on his second wave, Colapinto well and truly had his back against the ropes. The young American, however, didn’t seem too perturbed. He responded with a 9.00 of his own, setting up a tantalising last 20 minutes of the contest. They each had a couple more decent waves in them, but with Colapinto’s scoring an 8.00 and Toledo’s best just a 6.43, it was the 23-year-old Californian who exited the water triumphant.
There was no change at the top of the leaderboard following the event, with Toledo and Robinson retaining their positions in first and second respectively; unsurprisingly given they have put together a decent gap on the rest of the field. From third and onwards, however, there was plenty of movement. Colapinto, of course, was the big improver; his 10,000 points saw him jump from seventh up into third, and with a decent gap on semi-finalist Ferreira, who also jumped up a couple of spots.
That meant Igarashi dropped a spot to fifth, while Florence’s absence from the event saw him drop from third down to sixth – indicative of just how delicately poised the race for the top five is. Ewing also dropped a couple of spots despite his quarterfinal appearance, while Robson moved up a couple of spots and kept pace with the top five as he hunts what would be an unlikely qualification for the WSL Finals.
Medina, meanwhile, with his second semi-final appearance in his second event of the year, moved up to 13,230 points, putting him about 15,000 behind Igarashi in fifth. With three events to go, the result was not what he was after but was still sufficient to give him an outside chance of making the finals. If my maths is correct, the current pace of scoring of fifth-placed Igarashi will mean about 40,000 points will be needed to qualify. Obviously it won’t be exactly that number, but if it is around there then Medina will need multiple wins to get there, or one win accompanied by a couple of runners-up to get close.
What’s Up Next?
Next up is the Oi Rio Pro, an event which has unsurprisingly been dominated by Brazilians in recent years. Toledo, in particular, has been hard to stop, winning the contest the last two times it’s been held here, and as the current top ranked male in the world he will no doubt be one of the men to beat here once again. Expect Medina and Ferreira to also come out breathing fire in front of what is always a parochial home crowd.
That event window kicks off in just a couple of days, running from the 23rd of June through until the 30th. Once again there will be plenty on the line for a large number of competitors, so be sure to tune in for what is always an entertaining event.