Who Will Win the 2024 Lexus Pipe Pro?

And just like that, we’re back! Four months after Filipe Toledo won his second consecutive world title and Caroline Marks her first, the Championship Tour is set to kick off its 47th season, for the fourth time in a row, at Pipeline. The 2024 season will follow the same schedule as last year, albeit with the notable absence of the Surf Ranch Pro in Lemoore, an omission which will disappoint…well, not too many people at all. 

The WSL this season has some work to do to win back fans, many of whom have been disillusioned by a number of decisions made by the powers that be in recent years, including the inclusion of a mid-season cut and the existence of the WSL Finals at Trestles to decide the world champion, rather than simply awarding it to whoever accumulates the most points throughout the course of the season. On the men’s side of things, the latter of those hasn’t had a major impact anyway, with Toledo finishing atop the standings and winning at Trestles anyway, but Carissa Moore has arguably been robbed of a couple more world titles having finished on top of the women’s standings only to finish second at Trestles, and her recent announcement that she will leave the Championship Tour after Pipeline while still very much at the peak of her powers is the last thing they needed in their attempt to win back public approval. 

Of course, they are one of the few sporting governing bodies in the world who are reliant entirely on environmental conditions, and last season they, the fans and the competitors were no doubt on the wrong end of consistently disappointing waves. The current format may never win over the general public, but the best weapon this tour has in its arsenal is good waves, so fingers crossed for a little bit more luck in that regard in 2024. There are set to be some solid enough conditions in the days leading up to the opening event at Pipeline, and hopefully that endures through to the waiting period, which kicks off on the 29th of January. 

The critical nature of Pipeline makes it one of a handful of waves on tour where the best surfers are not necessarily the best throughout the course of the year – certainly some are, but equally there are a few big names who typically struggle here as well as a few lesser lights who shine brightest on this heaving reef. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the best chances in both the men’s and the women’s Lexus Pipe Pro to take out one of the most coveted individual events in world surfing.

Men’s Lexus Pipe Pro

A staple of the World Surf League’s top tier tour since the beginning, the Pipeline Pro has seen many of the biggest names in surfing history secure salute, from Kelly Slater and Andy Irons to, more recently, John John Florence and Gabriel Medina (and, of course, Kelly Slater again, who won just two years ago at the ripe old age of 50). Previously the final leg on the world tour, Pipe was for a long time where the world champions would be crowned. Nowadays it’s at the other end of the tour, kicking things off instead of wrapping things up, and while many preferred to see it conclude the season, if the waves are on then this is some way to start off the season. The usual suspects should be in the mix this time around, so let’s take a look at the favourites to start off their season with a win at the men’s Lexus Pipe Pro.

The Favourites

John John Florence

John John Florence grew up with Pipeline as his backyard, so it’s little surprise that he’s the best surfer of his generation at the break. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always translated to wins at this event – he’s been victorious on just a solitary occasion, back in 2022, though he does have a couple of second place finishes to his name too. Last season he made it to the quarterfinals before being knocked out by eventual winner Jack Robinson in a tight heat, though he had already showed just how dominant he can be here with a 19.33 heat score in the Round of 16. He also enters this event having won the Vans Pipe Masters just a month ago, so the form is there. Waves of consequence are no concern to John John, and for him, the bigger the better, so in an event in which solid conditions are expected and having won here just a month ago, the modern day King of Pipeline well and truly deserves to enter this contest as the man to beat.

Gabriel Medina

After winning his third world title in 2021 it’s been a less successful couple of years for Gabriel Medina. He missed half of the 2022 season due to personal issues and, though he got a full season under his belt last year, a sixth place finish was indicative of a season in which he was a shadow of the surfer who finished no lower than third in seven consecutive seasons between 2014 and 2021. But with a full year back on the tour under his belt, we can likely expect a better showing from the explosive goofy footer this year, and a strong performance at a wave which has been one of his favourites would be the ideal way to start. His performance here over much of his career has been relatively indicative of his performance throughout the course of that year; in the seven seasons between 2014 and 2021 during which he finished in the top three every season, he made the final here on five occasions. Last year, he finished ninth at Pipe, and then failed to make the final five. At just 30 years of age there is no reason to think that he won’t return to championship contention this season, and given how dominant he has been at this wave in the past, he will likely be going deep in this contest, too.

Jack Robinson

After promising so much for so long, Jack Robinson has finally propelled himself into surfing’s elite over the past couple of years, with consecutive top five finishes sending him to Trestles for the WSL Finals twice in a row. In the early stages of the 2023 season he was the best surfer in the world by some margin and opened up a big lead at the top of the men’s CT standings, and it all began when won his inaugural Pipeline Pro. It wasn’t exactly the most scintillating of victories; waves were a long way from what Pipe is capable of producing and at no point did Robinson score more than 14.33 in a single heat, but he knocked off everyone who he came up against along the way to start the season with a victory. Robinson, who grew up surfing the heavy breaks of Margaret River, is as good as anyone in the world in the backhand barrel, and he showed as much by backing up his Pipeline victory with another at Teahupo’o later in the season. Like Florence, while bigger, heavier Pipe may put a dent in the hopes of some, for Robinson it will be a benefit. Aged 26 he should be coming into some of the best years of his career and is a legitimate title threat this season, and should be there when the whips are cracking in the opening event.

The Next Tier

Kelly Slater

It seems silly to still be putting this man’s name anywhere near this conversation at a couple of weeks short of 52 years of age, and realistically he isn’t a threat in the vast majority of contests at which he competes anymore. At Pipeline, however, it’s a different story. The most dominant surfer here by some margin, Slater has won this event a lazy eight times, and while the bulk of those came in the ‘90s and ‘00s, he wound back the clock as recently as 2022 to add to his collection of victories here. That win was pretty out of the box – his last win before that came in 2016 while the one before that was in 2013, so his odds of doing it again are probably realistically pretty slim. But while he’s obviously not nearly the surfer he once was and can’t really compete on the Championship Tour anymore, he certainly can at Pipeline. That win in 2022 was preceded by a third place finish in each of the three previous incarnations of the event; all of that while he was very rarely in the mix at any other event. Even at the age of 51, Kelly Slater remains a threat at Pipeline, and the prospect of him winning what would almost certainly be his final ever CT contest is not completely out of the realms of possibility.

Leonardo Fioravanti

Now aged 26, Leonardo Fioravanti has become a staple of the Championship Tour, but he’s still yet to get off the mark in terms of contest wins at the top level. His best finish is a second place at, you guessed it, Pipeline just last year, when he looked every bit the winner until he went down in a slow final to Jack Robinson. He surfed really well throughout that event, winning all but one of his heats in the bracket stage en route to the final by big margins, adding to a portfolio of solid results at the break. He also finished fifth at the corresponding event in 2021, and has demonstrated a comfort in the heaving North Shore break that is notably absent in many other more accomplished surfers. There is no doubt that he is a fair way back from guys like Florence, Medina and Robinson in the pecking order, but in an event in which many guys tend to struggle, he is one who will likely take his surfing to another level. If last year is anything to go by, he is capable of giving this a shake.


Seth Moniz

Seth Moniz isn’t someone who is likely to be anywhere near world title contention; in his five seasons on tour, his best year-long result is a 12th in 2019, while in the past three seasons he has finished no higher than 20th. But like Fioravanti, at Pipeline he is another story entirely. The youngest member of an esteemed surfing family, the Hawaiian does his best work at his home breaks, where – also like Fioravanti – he has racked up his best ever finish at the top level. That was a runner-up at the 2022 Billabong Pro Pipeline, the event which Slater famously won with an 18.77 in the final. His second best result came the year prior at another barrelling left, Teahupo’o, when he finished third. His ability to get that little 68kg frame tucked up inside gaping green rooms on his backhand is among the best in the world, and he demonstrated as much once again as recently as a months ago when he finished fourth at the Vans Pipe Masters. He’s not a recognised winning chance at many CT events at this stage in his career, but he is one to watch at this event as someone who could spring a surprise on this wave.

The Verdict

Each of the top three have a hell of a lot going for them, and realistically it’s tough to pick anyone from outside that group. John John is as good as nearly anyone in history here even if it hasn’t translated to as many wins as he would have liked, while Medina at his prime was close to unstoppable at Pipe. But it’s very hard to forget just how dominant Jack Robinson was in the early stages of last season. Finishing first, third and then second in the first three events, he was clearly the best surfer in the world before injury preceded a horrible run of form, and it all started at this wave, where he is clearly very comfortable. Having also won the Tahiti Pro a few months ago, he looms as the pre-eminent barrel monger in the world, and can make it two from two to start the year.  

Women’s Lexus Pipe Pro

It’s been just two years since the women have officially joined the Pipe party; they originally surfed here in 2021 after the Maui event was moved partway through following a nearby shark bite, an event which Tyler Wright went on to win, but it wasn’t until the following year that they completed an entire contest at the break. It’s safe to say there have been some growing pains with many competitors not particularly familiar with surfing Pipeline, but a couple of big names have had no such issues, while a young local has earned the moniker ‘Queen of Pipeline’ for her own performances there. They lead the charge as the best chances of taking out the third official incarnation of the women’s Pipe Pro.

The Favourites

Carissa Moore

The 2024 Lexus Pipe Pro will be the final contest of Carissa Moore’s decorated Championship Tour career – at least for the time being. The five-time world champ has been on the wrong end of the changes to the tour schedule the past couple of years, losing the WSL Finals at Trestles despite finishing on top of the standings in both 2022 and 2023, and though she didn’t officially reference that as a reason for her stepping aside, it’s certainly an abrupt exit for someone who would otherwise be the world title favourite. Disappointing and downright sad for the competitive surfing world as her absence will be, it does at least add an extra element of intrigue to the Pipe Pro, which she will attempt to win for the second time in as many years in what would be a fitting send-off. She has been one of the aforementioned competitors who has been able to rise to the challenge of Pipeline, finishing second in 2021 at the contest that got moved to Pipe, second in 2022 and then winning it last season, and she franked those results further by winning the Pipe Masters just a month ago. If that isn’t the form line of this year’s winner then I don’t know what is, and with the added emotional component the local will have the support of the surfing world in her quest for a 29th event win on the World Tour.

Tyler Wright

Along with Moore, Wright has been the best in the business over the past couple of years, and like Moore she has had no problems taking on the heaving waves at Pipeline. In fact, her form line rivals that of her Hawaiian counterpart, which is saying something; Wright won the 2021 event that was moved to Pipe for the latter stages, finished third in the first official event there the next year, before finishing second in a tight final to Moore last season. The more consequence there is to a wave the better that Wright seems to surf, and that is a trait that comes in particularly handy at one of the heaviest waves on the planet. The two-time world champ might just be world title favourite following Moore’s announcement, having achieved her best result since she won a second consecutive world title in 2017 last year. She is a lot better than most of her competitors at this break and it’s hard to imagine her not making it to at least the final four, and a win would be a surprise to absolutely nobody.

Moana Jones Wong

Unlike the two names above, Moana Jones Wong isn’t exactly a perennial world title threat. In fact, the 24-year-old doesn’t even really surf on the Championship Tour, having competed in just three events at the level in her life. The first of those was the 2022 Billabong Pro Pipeline – she won it. She wasn’t able to repeat the performance last year when she was knocked out by Lakey Peterson in the Round of 16, but she has been dubbed the Queen of Pipeline for a reason, and a fourth place in the recent Pipe Masters was a reminder of why. Probably unsurprisingly, Jones Wong is a local – she was born and bred on the North Shore and lives in Hale’iwa, running a surf school on the North Shore. She knows the wave as well as anyone and will no doubt once again prove very difficult to beat.  

The Next Tier

Molly Picklum

21-year-old Molly Picklum flew into world title contention last season in what was just her second year on the tour, and it all began in Hawaii. She put in an impressive showing at Pipeline, knocking off Tyler Wright and Courtney Conlogue in her Opening Round heat and then putting up a solid 12.17 in the Round of 16. She was subsequently knocked out in the quarters, but went on to win the next event – the first of her career – around the corner at Sunset Beach. Just a couple of years into her CT career she still has plenty of room for growth, and if her performance at the Pipe Masters a month ago is anything to go by she will again demonstrate plenty of it in 2024. She took it up to the best in the world at Pipeline in that event, ultimately finishing marginally behind Moore in second and well ahead of third place. Having made it to the WSL Finals last season she could very easily prove to be a genuine world title threat in 2024, as she likely will be at Pipeline.

Bettylou Sakura Johnson

Though she is only 18 years of age, this will be the fourth time Bettylou Sakura Johnson has competed at Pipeline at the top level, and the prodigiously talented North Shore local will be eager to pick up her first CT win in front of a home crowd. Her first ever event at the level came when she was a wildcard for the 2021 Maui Pro at Pipeline, where she finished ninth, before she achieved the same result the following year. Last season she took a big step forward, making the mid-season cut and surfing out her first full year on tour, and her best result came somewhat unsurprisingly at Pipeline. She made it through to the semi-finals in that contest before going down to Moore, and though her scores weren’t huge she still showed an ability to surf at Pipeline that few of her competitors possess, and she backed that up with a top ten finish at the 2023 Pipe Masters. Sakura Johnson has an exciting future on the tour and it’s at waves like Pipeline where she can really make a name for herself. It would be no great surprise to see her pick up the best result of her career at this event to start the year.

The Roughie

Steph Gilmore

At the ripe old age of 35, Steph Gilmore hasn’t been the surfer she was in her prime for some time, though that didn’t stop her ripping through everyone in her path en route to a surprise seventh world title just a little over a year ago at the end of 2022. She has become a perennial fifth-place finisher, but that world title was a not-so-gentle reminder that on her day, she can still surf as well as anyone in the world. Rumours have abounded in recent weeks that she will follow the lead of Carissa Moore and announce her retirement in the early stages of the season, and if true that will give her even more impetus to finish on a high at this event. Her performances at Pipe in the past couple of years have been solid albeit unspectacular; she hasn’t shown quite the ability of the likes of Moore and Wright at the break, but equally she certainly hasn’t been overawed by the break like a few of her competitors. A win, realistically, would be a surprise, but if anyone was going to win from the back of the pack, it would be Steph Gilmore.

The Verdict

Like on the men’s side, there is a clear top three entering this contest, with Moore, Wright and Jones Wong having been the comfortable best surfers at Pipe over the past couple of years. But while Wright and Jones Wong each have excellent cases as to why they can win the event, there is too much to like about Moore to pick against her. In her last competitive contest she will be the fan favourite, and having made the final three times out of three here she will also be the actual favourite. If she can salute, the victory would be a fitting end to one of the best careers in surfing history.