And we’re back. A more-than-three-week hiatus following the Margaret River Pro will end on the 28th of May, when the Championship Tour returns for the Quiksilver/Roxy Pro G-Land. The event will be the first following the inaugural mid-season cut, meaning our two lists of competitors will be significantly smaller than they were for the first five events of the season. On the men’s side, just 22 surfers plus Gabriel Medina (who was given a wildcard spot for the remainder of the season) and local Rio Waida will compete, so let’s take a look at who are looking like the best chances to take out the event.
John John Florence might not have won an event yet this year, but nonetheless he is as well-placed as he has been in years to win a world title and will head into the contest at G-Land as the deserved favourite. He’s made the final four in two of the last three events, including a finals appearance at Margaret River, and he should be suited by this wave. A CT event hasn’t been held at G-Land since 1997 so, Slater aside, no one has much experience here, but it is a barrelling left-hander – sound familiar? Florence is the best surfer in history at Pipe, so this kind of wave should suit him to a tee.
Gabriel Medina might not have surfed professionally all year, but the reigning world champion will nonetheless be expecting to pick up where he left off last year. Whether he’ll have much rust to dust off remains to be seen, but having finished in the top three in the world for seven consecutive years it would take a brave person to write him off. Medina has obviously given his competitors a huge head start this year, but so dominant has he been over the past few years that him somehow making his way towards the top five over the next five events and earning a spot at the WSL Finals still doesn’t seem entirely out of the question, crazy as it sounds. 10,000 points at his first event would be a mighty nice way to start.
Following a runner-up finish last year, Filipe Toledo’s 2022 season is going closely to plan. He’ll wear the yellow jersey, and a big result here would see him embed himself firmly enough in the top five that it will be nearly impossible to imagine him not making an appearance at Trestles later in the year. The big question mark surrounding him heading into this event will be how well the conditions will suit him; he’s the best small-to-medium wave surfer in the world, but heaving, barrelling conditions tend to be less up his alley. If it fires that’s what G-Land will produce, but while not ideal for Toledo, he has gone some way to shedding that reputation at a couple of events with bigger waves this year. As the number one ranked surfer in the world at the moment, he should give himself a chance regardless.
The Next Tier
It’s been a bit of a strange year for Italo Ferreira, but nonetheless he finds himself sitting in the top five halfway through the season – albeit only just. The 2019 world champion hasn’t yet made it to the final of an event this year, though he has been consistently making it through the early rounds and hasn’t missed the quarterfinals in any of the last three contests. The diminutive goofy-footer has won in Indonesia before and has a penchant for barrels, having also picked up two Supertubos victories and a win at Pipeline over the course of his career, so he should be suited to the wave and deserves to be considered a chance to earn his first win of the season over the next couple of weeks.
While Ferreira has been solid but unspectacular in his results so far this year, Jack Robinson has been much the opposite. The 24-year-old Western Australian started what many expected to be a year of significant improvement in indifferent fashion, being knocked out in the Round of 32 in two of the first three events. Once back on his home shores, however, things changed. He was a semi-finalist at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells, before putting on a show at his home break to win the Margaret River Pro. That win saw him jump ten places in the world rankings into third, and all of a sudden he looks like a legitimate world title contender. Another good showing here would only serve to solidify those claims.
Kanoa Igarashi’s season has been close to the exact opposite of Robinson’s. After three events he was wearing the yellow jersey, having made two quarterfinals and a semi throughout the Hawaiian and Portuguese legs of the tour. In Australia, however, things have turned rapidly south. He didn’t make it past the Round of 32 in either event down under, and has dropped from first to sixth as a result. The typically consistent Japanese representative, however, is rarely knocked out early in events, so don’t expect a repeat of those Australian results in G-Land.
Ethan Ewing finds himself a little down the list in terms of favourites for the event, but the way he has been surfing this year, perhaps he should be a little higher. He’s taken a huge step forward this year, and though a maiden Championship Tour win continues to elude him, it doesn’t appear to be too far around the corner. He’s the only male surfer to have made the semi-final in three of the five events this year, and though he hasn’t managed to progress any further than that, those results are still enough to have him sitting in fourth place in the world rankings. Going against him at this event is that, at the two waves most similar to G-Land at which he’s competed this year, he’s been knocked out early. He excels on the open face more than in the pit, but he is good enough to compete at a high level in all conditions and could easily go deep into this event.
Our TipWith just a couple of thousand ranking points separating fifth from 11th, there is potential for the men’s rankings to change very rapidly over the course of the run to Trestles. Realistically there are at least 15 guys who would still see themselves as a chance to make an appearance at those WSL Finals, from the likes of Florence and Toledo at the top all the way down to Medina, who currently sits on exactly 0 points. That means this contest, and every ensuing one, carries a huge amount of importance. There is no shortage of guys capable of winning and with no events having taken place here for 25 years, picking a winner is no easy task, but the kind of wave it is should suit John John to a tee. He’s been a regular in the latter stages of most events this year without earning himself a win, but he can break the duck with one here, and rip the yellow jersey off Toledo’s back in the process.