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Our Tips for the Men’s Hurley Pro Sunset Beach

The Billabong Pro at Pipeline got the 2022 Championship Tour season off to a start which had to be seen to be believed, with 49-year-old Kelly Slater winning the men’s event and a little known local by the name of Moana Jones Wong winning the women’s in her first ever CT event. But there’s little time to soak it all in and take a breath, with the second event of the season set to begin on Friday. For the first time in years, the CT will head to Sunset, which might not have the reputation of Pipe but is still more than capable of providing a serious challenge for the best surfers in the world. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the men’s side of the event is shaping up.

The Favourites

John John Florence is the deserved favourite for this one, but the gap between he and the rest in the betting odds is somewhat surprising. Given that he grew up around the corner from Sunset, however, along with the fact that he’s at worst the second best surfer in the world at his best and he performed well at Pipe, perhaps it shouldn’t be. As he always does, he surfed Pipeline brilliantly last week, and it took a white hot Seth Moniz in the quarters to send him packing. He knows this wave as well as anyone and it’s tough to imagine him not being there in the final handful of surfers.

Italo Ferreira is one of the best chances to upset Florence, with the stocky goofy-footer taking on the role of the best Brazilian in it in the absence of Gabriel Medina. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire at Pipeline, but then aside from his win there in his 2019 world title winning year, he rarely does. The open face is where Ferreira does most of his damage, certainly more so than in the green room, and at Sunset he should get plenty of that on which to strut his stuff.

Jack Robinson rounds out the top three favourites in a season in which the young Australian is expected by many to take a major leap forward. His result at Pipe wasn’t exactly the ideal start, but despite his Round of 32 exit he still showed what he is capable of there with a massive 18.67 total in his opening heat. He’s also surfed extremely well here a level below the Championship Tour in the past; he finished first, fifth and second in three consecutive years between 2017 and 2019 at the Sunset Open on the Qualifying Series, and this experience in high-level competition at this break – something which many of his competitors lack given its extended absence from the CT – should hold him in good stead. 

The Next Tier

Kelly Slater is a tough one to pick heading into this event. He’ll be 50 and hadn’t won a CT event since 2016 prior to this season, but he’s also Kelly Slater and for some reason won Pipeline last week. The GOAT still clearly has something to give, but how often he’ll be able to find it if he continues to compete throughout the course of the season remains to be seen. But his name alone, combined with his performance at Pipeline last week, means that his competitors will be hoping to avoid him for as long as he stays in the tournament at Sunset.

Jordy Smith is another seemingly a lot closer to the end of his career than the beginning, though having said that he is over 16 years younger than Slater. It has also been a long time between drinks for the imposing South African, who last won a CT event in 2018, but he’s a perennial attendee of the last few rounds and looked in pretty good nick at times during Pipe. He only made it to the Round of 16 there, but a score of 15.73 in the Elimination Round and 14.00 in the Round of 32 suggested he’s in good touch. He should also enjoy the powerful waves and open, carve-able faces of Sunset, and is a definite threat heading into the event.

You can add Ethan Ewing to the list of young Aussies expected to take a leap this year on which Jack Robinson owns top spot. The 23-year-old is yet to fully deliver on the talent which is so evident every time that he paddles out, having never made it past the quarterfinals in a CT event, but last year (just his second on the tour) saw him take a few tentative steps forward, and he looks ready to take even more this year. He won his Opening Round heat easily at Pipeline before being narrowly knocked out in the Round of 32, and though he is undoubtedly a long shot here, his talent is such that it’s likely only a matter of time before he breaks through for an inaugural tour win.

The Roughie

Morgan Cibilic had an incredible rookie year last season, making it through to the final five and competing at the first ever WSL Finals against a host of far more experienced and highly rated surfers. Logic would suggest he will only continue to improve, and though he couldn’t manage more than a 3.67 on a single wave in two 40-minute heats at Pipeline, he’s good enough to turn that around at Sunset. His powerful style and ability to smack the lips requires, evidently, a lip to smack, something he didn’t have at Pipe, but he will at Sunset and could be one to improve dramatically.

Our Tip

There are plenty of surfers capable of taking out the Hurley Pro at Sunset Beach over the next week or so, but Florence is a short-priced favourite for a reason. With Medina out indefinitely, injury may just be the Hawaiian’s biggest impediment to another world title, but he heads into his second home event in as many weeks fit and firing. He surfed more than well enough at Pipeline to win the tournament, and if he can find anything like that form at Sunset he will be extremely tough to beat.