After more than four long months, the beginning of the Championship Tour season is finally here, and it all kicks off with one of the most entertaining events of the season. In what is a momentous occasion, both the men and the women will begin their respective years at Pipeline, one of the most intimidating waves in the world. Competitors will be eager to get their seasons off to a hot start, and this is how the men’s event is shaping up.
John John Florence is widely regarded as the best surfer in the world at Pipeline, his home break, so it’s no surprise to see him head into the event as the favourite. The two-time world champion began last season with a win here, and with Gabriel Medina a late withdrawal from the event this year, the local deserves to be regarded as the man to beat. If he can manage to make it through the season relatively injury free, Florence will almost certainly be right amongst the top chances for the world title, and a win at Pipe would be the ideal way to get his season underway.
Likely his biggest challenger is the man who finished in third place last year in Italo Ferreira. The diminutive Brazilian has been a feature at the top of the rankings for a number of years now, and he’s put in two consecutive strong performances at this location. In 2019, he wrapped up the world title at Pipeline, winning the event – the last of the season at the time – en route to being crowned world champ. Last season he couldn’t quite match that achievement but was still a semi-finalist here, so clearly he’s comfortable on the wave and should be a threat again.
Rounding out the list of favourites is Jack Robinson, the man who everyone expects to take a huge step forward this season. He’s competed here on the CT twice; the first time was in 2015 when he was just 17 years of age and unsurprisingly didn’t make much of an impression, but he performed better last year and managed to make it through to the Round of 16 before being eliminated by Kelly Slater. If he wants to make a big move up the rankings like so many expect him to this year, a strong showing at Pipeline would be a great way to start.
The Next Tier
Kanoa Igarashi has improved year after year throughout the course of his career, and now aged 24 he should be ready to take the next step and challenge for a world title in 2022. The consistent regular footer rarely puts in a bad performance and has shown an affinity for this wave in the past, so it’s hard to imagine him not making it through to at least the quarter-finals. He finished runner-up here in 2016, third the year after and fifth last year, so he’s shown he has what it takes to deal with the wave and is an outside chance at a win this year.
Griffin Colapinto is in a similar boat to the aforementioned names, with the 23-year-old expected to take another step forward this season as he looks to establish himself as one of the world’s best surfers. He already did that last year, taking huge strides forward and only just missing out on a spot at the WSL Finals after he disappointingly endured two 17th-place finishes in two of his last three events. He also had one other 17th during the year, and that one came here at Pipeline. He’s got work to do to show he can perform on this wave, but he certainly has the talent to do exactly that.
Kelly Slater might be well and truly at the other end of his career, but according to the bookies he’s still a chance this year. The 48-year-old might be a little under the odds given that he hasn’t won on the CT since 2016, but he’s had plenty of success here in the past; he won in 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2008 and 2013, and proved he still has a bit to give here when he became the oldest man ever to score a 10 on the CT at Pipeline back in 2019. It might be a bit of a long shot, but Kelly will have plenty of people hoping he’s still got a trick or two left up his sleeve.
It might seem odd to have the man who finished second last season as a roughie, but the bookmakers suggest that Filipe Toledo is exactly that. There’s a reason for it, of course; Toledo has historically surfed very poorly here. His Achilles heel is typically waves of consequence, and an inability to get past the quarter-finals in eight attempts suggests as much. In fact, he’s only managed to get past 13th on two occasions in that time, and his last four finishes here read 17th, 17th, 13th and 25th. None of that bodes well for him, but nonetheless the fact that he is right up there with the best surfers in the world means he has to be given an outside chance.
There are plenty of surfers for whom a win would come as no great surprise, but it’s really difficult to go past John John Florence. He has plenty going for him; at his best he’s probably the best surfer in the world alongside Medina, who isn’t competing, and this is the wave which he surfs best. He’s as good as anyone in history at Pipeline, and after a decent lead-in to the 2022 season he appears perfectly primed to kick off his season with a bang, just like he did last year.