The 2022 Championship Tour is finally upon us, and after a cancelled 2020 season and a shortened 2021, we’re set for a full slate of events. The male’s side of the draw looks set to once again be dominated by Brazilians, but there are plenty of capable surfers nipping at their heels, not least a man by the name of John John Florence. Let’s take a look at some of the top chances this season, and who we think might end the season victorious.
Gabriel Medina ($4)
Medina was far and away the best surfer in the world last year, dominating the Championship Tour from start to finish and appropriately ended the season by becoming the inaugural champion to be crowned at the WSL Finals in Trestles. Throughout the course of the shortened season which saw him add a third world title having won previously in 2014 and 2018, Medina won two and came second in three of the seven events, with the events at Rottnest Island and in Mexico the only in which he didn’t compete in the final.
Heading into 2022, he is unequivocally the man to beat once again. Having only recently turned 28, he still has plenty of his best years ahead of him, and has a chance to become one of the most successful surfers in the history of the sport. Capable of excelling both on the face of the wave and in the air, he is versatile enough to be a threat at every event, and if last season is anything to go by he’ll be competing in the pointy end of most of them this year.
Italo Ferreira ($5)
Medina’s diminutive Brazilian counterpart, Italo Ferreira might be the reigning champions biggest threat to going back-to-back. The powerful goofy footer rose to prominence in 2018 when he won three events en route to a fourth placed finish, before he backed that up with his first and to date only world title in 2019.
Last season he didn’t exactly take a step backwards, but he certainly couldn’t match it with Medina. Ferreira finished second in the world rankings at the end of the six events, but the points gap between he and the eventual world champion was equivalent to that between second and 12th. At Trestles, he lost to the third member of the brilliant Brazilian trio in Filipe Toledo, sending him to a third place finish. Just a few months younger than Medina, the two Brazilians are in similar points in their career, and will likely be battling it out at the business end of many events, and perhaps the season overall.
John John Florence ($5)
In the eyes of most, Medina is the best surfer in the world, but if there’s anyone who is a legitimate chance of taking that title of him when fully fit, it’s John John Florence. The Hawaiian, for so long viewed as an eventual multi-time world champion, finally fulfilled on his potential in 2016 and 2017 when he won back-to-back titles, but a cruel run with injury has prevented him from continuing on that path. He has failed to compete in more than six events in each of the last three seasons, though when able to get in the water consistently he has proven he’s still more than capable of matching it with the best, winning three of the last ten events he’s entered harking back to 2019.
Entering 2022, he is fit, firing and ready to go, and his biggest impediment to another world title – Medina aside – is most likely to be his fitness. If he can manage to stay in the water for the majority of the reason, he is every chance of adding a third title to his trophy cabinet. Unfortunately, based on the past few years, that’s a big if.
Filipe Toledo ($8)
Toledo has for a long time played either second or third fiddle to Medina and Ferreira in Brazilian surfing, despite the fact that he’s been among the top handful of surfers in the world for much of the past six years. Perhaps the fastest surfer in the world, Toledo is extraordinarily talented, something he’s been able to showcase at the Surf Ranch in recent years, but has been unable to translate that into a world title largely due to inconsistency. He struggles in bigger surf, at least relative to his competitors, and his ability to win individual events is offset by his tendency to throw in poor performances. Never was that more evident than last season, when he won two of the seven events but came 17th in another three of them.
Nonetheless, his talent means that he will always be a threat, and the new format which sees the world title winner crowned based on one event at Trestles means that as long as he can finish in the top five in the season rankings, he is a chance. Still just 26 years of age, he is more than capable of taking another step, and if he does he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Jack Robinson ($13)
Jack Robinson has long been touted as a future star, with his wildcard performances at his home town of Margaret River catching the eye of many over the past few years. Last year he got a chance to strut his stuff on the Championship Tour over the course of the whole year for the first time, but it didn’t all go to plan. He failed to finish better than ninth in each of the first six events, but ended the season on a high by winning the event in Mexico to leapfrog up to 12th place.
That performance was indicative of the talent of the 24-year-old, and with a full year of experience now under his belt he is likely ready to make a big jump. It would be quite an effort to improve sufficiently to make an appearance at Trestles in the WSL Finals, but such is his talent, he is more than capable of doing so.
It might be the obvious choice, but it is extremely hard to go past Gabriel Medina to add to his rapidly growing trophy cabinet. He’s been the best in the world for years, and at his best is realistically better than both of his Brazilian counterparts. John John Florence is the man most capable of taking it off him, and if he was guaranteed a full season we might be picking him instead. As it is, however, he’s coming off three consecutive interrupted seasons, so Medina’s our man.