Who will win the 2024 Shiseido Tahiti Pro?

After the lengthiest hiatus of the season, the Championship Tour is set to return this week when the world’s best head to Teahupo’o for the Shiseido Tahiti Pro. This will be the first event after the post-season cut, meaning reduced fields on both sides of the draw as we officially kick off the run to the WSL Finals. One of the most consequential waves in the world, ‘Chopes’, as it is affectionately known, is one of the few waves on the planet capable of matching Pipeline for pure power, and if it switches on during the waiting period could be the most watchable event of the year. 

It doesn’t look likely to reach great heights early in the event window, with ‘playful’ size predicted by Surfline, but as we reach into next week a long period swell with a whole lot of potential is likely to see the surf pick up significantly, and with favourable winds expected there could be some pumping surf on offer. Though that is still a longer term forecast and thus far from a guarantee, the signs are good that we should get some very solid conditions for the back end of the event.

Women’s Shiseido Tahiti Pro

Unlike on the men’s side of the draw, the women’s Tahiti Pro hasn’t long been a fixture of the Championship Tour. It was first held in 1999 – like their male counterparts – but after just seven years was scrapped from the fixture, and it was only in 2022 that it was again added to the tour. That means that most of the women surfing in this contest haven’t necessarily had all that much experience here, but with a couple of Tahiti Pros in the rearview mirror we can at least get some sense of who rises to the occasion at this famous wave. 

The Favourites

Caroline Marks is one of the two surfers to have won this event since it rejoined the women’s tour having taken it out last year, and as the reigning world champion she will clearly be one of the women to beat. She dealt with the conditions better than most last year, certainly not setting the world on fire with her scores but winning most of her heats relatively comfortably. With another year of experience at the wave under their belt, the scores will most likely improve at this contest this time around – as they have at Pipeline – so she will probably have to do more than she did at the corresponding event last year to win. But having won it last year, she is coming from a higher base, which will place her well to go deep this time around. Marks will also be one of just a couple of goofy footers in the draw, and while surfing frontside hasn’t necessarily been a recipe for success in the past in either the men’s or the women’s events, it certainly seemed to work for her last year. Her season to date has been solid without being spectacular, but she is a big threat to win this and subsequently jump into the top five in the process.

It was Caitlin Simmers who Marks beat in last year’s final, the then-17-year-old showing her wares on waves of consequence in what was just the 11th event of her professional career. Like Marks, she made her way through to the final with a couple of average heats, but her semi-final against local Vahine Fierro was the best of the contest; she won that one 15.73-12.34. Already at that stage Simmers had developed into one of the best surfers in the world, and less than a year on she is already making a case that she is the best. At only 18 years of age, she will have the yellow jersey on her back halfway through the season, having won two of the five events so far in 2024. Simmers earlier this year confirmed just how well she surfs backhand barrels when she won at Pipeline, just months after finishing second at this contest. There is plenty going for Simmers here, from past results at this and similar waves to her form throughout the course of the year. She looks like arguably the surfer to beat at this contest.

Another member of the wildly impressive group of young surfers coming through the women’s ranks is 21-year-old Molly Picklum, and as the current third ranked surfer in the world and the runner-up at Pipeline a few months ago, she too will pose a major threat at the Shiseido Tahiti Pro. Picklum had a terrific start to the season, finishing 2nd and 1st at the two events in Hawaii, though since then she hasn’t made it past the quarterfinals. This is a great opportunity for her to arrest that trend. Having surfed so well at Pipeline, it’s clear that she has plenty of ability in the backhand barrel. At this event last year she made her way through to the quarterfinals, but having gone down to Simmers by just 0.07 she could easily have made it further. Admittedly she didn’t exactly own the wave – that was a really low scoring heat while she also managed just 4.50 in her Opening Round – but that was her first time at Teahupo’o and just her first full year on tour, so with a few more events under her belt and a strong showing at Pipeline, expect her to surf it a lot better this time around.

The Next Tier

If the favourites are all part of the aforementioned group of youngsters taking women’s surfing by storm, this next tier has a whole lot more experience. Tyler Wright kicks it off, the 30-year-old beginning to work her way up the standings after a slow start to the year and having no shortage of both experience and ability in waves like this. She had two early exits in Hawaii to kick off the season, putting her spot in the back half of the season in jeopardy, but two semi-final appearances in the next three events saw her charge up the standings, and it would be no surprise to see her scoot up them even further than the 8th place that she currently occupies. Wright was the first female winner at Pipeline a couple of years ago, while last year she finished 2nd at Pipeline and 3rd at this contest. She had a shocker of an Opening Round heat at the latter of those, but thereafter appeared unawed by the heavy conditions – no particular surprise to anyone. Wright is a weapon in heavy conditions and is beginning to show some strong form, and a win here is well within her reach. 

A long-time rival in the water of Wright, five-time world champion Carissa Moore announced at the beginning this season that she would take some time away from competitive surfing. That hiatus has lasted just four months. She’s set to return this weekend to one of the most difficult contests on the calendar, but one to which she is pretty well-suited.  Moore has only finished 5th here at both of the two previous incarnations of the event, both times losing to local Vahine Fierro, but she put in a couple of impressive heats in that time. She’s also been the best performed surfer at Pipeline the three times the event has been held there, finishing 2nd when it started in Maui then finished at Pipe in 2021, winning it the next year and then finishing 2nd again last year. The main query about her at this contest is, of course, the fact that she hasn’t surfed competitively since January, but this is Carissa Moore we’re talking about. Write her off at your own peril. 

The Roughie

Maybe she can’t be classed as a wildcard given how she has performed at this contest in the past, but Vahine Fierro has only surfed in four Championship Tour events since her debut at the Roxy Pro in France back in 2018. The last two of those, however, have been at her home break in Tahiti, which she surfs arguably as well as anyone. Despite not competing at any other events on the tour, she has come in and given this contest a real shake over the past two years. On both of those occasions she has made it through to the semi-finals and lost, last year going down to Simmers in the aforementioned heat of the contest. Most of her competitors at this event don’t have a great deal of experience at Teahupo’o, but Fierro has it in spades. Based on her performances over the past couple of years, she is more than capable of going all the way as a wildcard at this event.

Our Prediction

It certainly isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that somebody from outside the above six ends up winning the Tahiti Pro, but it seems far more likely than not that the winner will come from that group. And the name that really sticks out from that group is Caitlin Simmers. She has a ridiculous winning strike rate in her career to date, having notched up four event wins in just 16 events, and two from five this year. With a second place in her solitary appearance at Teahupo’o combined with a win at Pipeline earlier this year, Simmers has shown just how well she surfs these heavy, barrelling waves. She is going to be extremely tough to beat, and can secure what would be her third contest win in just six events over the next week or so, extending her lead atop the world standings in the process.

Men’s Shiseido Tahiti Pro

Unlike on the women’s side of the draw, the Men’s Tahiti Pro has been a regular fixture on the Championship Tour ever since its first iteration back in 1999, the only years in which it hasn’t run being the covid-affected 2020 and 2021 seasons. As he has at so many contests around the world, Kelly Slater has been the most successful surfer here with five wins, but for everyone else it’s proven difficult to win this contest multiple times, Medina the only person to win it more than once in the past decade. But with two of the three standout favourites having won it before, there is a good chance that trend stops this year. 

The Favourites

2024 has not been Gabriel Medina’s season so far, but this is a great chance for him to turn things around and begin a charge towards the top five. Though he is way back in 18th and has only made it past the Round of 16 once in five events this season, he’s less than 5,000 points from 5th, and with 10,000 points on offer for the winner here he could rapidly climb up the standings with a strong result. It’s testament to just how good he has been here that Medina heads in as favourite despite his poor year to date; alongside those multiple wins mentioned above, he has also picked up four 2nd place finishes and a 3rd dating back to 2014. In all, his past seven appearances at the Tahiti Pro have yielded six finals and a semi, so while he is not surfing at his best, that history would suggest he is going to be very hard to knock out of this event. Medina is probably the best left-hand barrel rider in the world, his record at Pipeline nearly as good as his record at Teahupo’o, so it’s easy to see why he is one of the main men to beat once again this year.

Medina’s host of second place finishes at this contest continued last year courtesy of Jack Robinson, who knocked him off in a high-scoring final, 15.66-15.00. That score was far from an anomaly for Robinson, who scored at least 15.57 in four of his five heats throughout the course of the event. The West Australian also won at Pipeline last year, and having secured both of the two waves of this magnitude on his backhand, it’s safe to say that he’s pretty comfortable getting shacked on his backhand. He endured an early exit at Pipeline this year, but has since come into some excellent form, winning two of the last four events to jump into second place in the world rankings. Based on how he performed here last year, there is every chance that he will be wearing the yellow jersey come the next event.

The final member of the trio that finds itself streets ahead of the chasing pack for favouritism is John John Florence, who will somewhat surprisingly be going for his first ever Tahiti Pro title. But in fairness to Florence, injury has played a major role in that; prior to last year he hadn’t surfed this contest since 2017, having missed three in succession along with the two which were absent from the tour schedule. Prior to that he had finished 3rd or higher in three out of his six appearances, and while last year he finished 5th – being eliminated by Medina in the quarterfinals – he showed what he could do at the break with a 14.00 in the Opening Round and then a huge 17.64 in the Round of 16. Florence has been solid all year but is yet to win, having picked up runner-up finishes at both Pipeline and the most recent event at Margaret River. This contest is a great opportunity for him to change all that, and potentially climb all the way to the top of the world standings in the process.

The Next Tier

Though the above three are the clear best chances to win the Tahiti Pro, Griffin Colapinto is the current yellow jersey wearer and certainly should not be counted out. After enjoying the best year of his career in 2023 and finishing third, he has been terrific this season and in particular over the last three events, picking up a win in Portugal and a 2nd place at Bells Beach to set up a run at the WSL Finals and beyond. But while he deservedly finds himself at the top of the world rankings halfway through the season, he hasn’t enjoyed all that much success at this contest. He’s competed in it four times; in the first of those he finished 25th, while in each of the last three he has been knocked out in the Round of 16. Clearly he will need some drastic improvement if he’s to challenge here this year, but he is surfing as well as he ever has, so a career-best result at Teahupo’o is very much on the cards.

Teahupo’o is a specialists wave, the kind that surfers who aren’t necessarily threats throughout the course of the year can easily go deep in, and Barron Mamiya is a prime example of that. The 2024 is gradually going about establishing himself as a top ten surfer and has improved year on year, but a 12th place finish last season was still the best of his career. This year he is every chance of improving on that – he currently sits in 7th – but that high current ranking has been largely on the back of his victory at Pipeline in the opening event of the season. His home break, Mamiya is very comfortable on the wave, and unsurprisingly that has translated to Teahupo’o in the past as well. Though he was eliminated early in his first appearance here in 2022, last year he made it through to the semi-finals for just the second time in his career, notching up a couple of solid scores before he was bested comfortably by Medina. Mamiya hasn’t done much damage in the four events since his Pipeline win, but this is a good opportunity to him to add a big chunk of points to his season tally and keep himself in the hunt for the WSL Finals – potentially even putting himself comfortably inside the top five with a big performance.

The Roughie

Can a five-time winner here be a roughie? When he is 52 years old, he probably can. Kelly Slater hasn’t made it past the Round of 32 in four tries this year, but if ever he was going to it would probably be either at Pipeline, or Teahupo’o. He has won this event five times, and though he’s clearly not competing at even close to the level he was when he won most of those, he has still enjoyed some decent results more recently at the wave. Last year he finished 9th – not a great result, but his equal best of the year, and it could easily have been better given he lost 14.50 to 14.26 in the Round of 16. The year prior, he made it through to the semi-finals – one of just three occasions in which he has managed that this decade, the other two coming at Pipeline. A Slater win would be a remarkable result here and is admittedly very unlikely, but he’s won somewhat out of the blue here back in 2016, and if he can do it in his mid-40s, could he do it in his early 50s too?

Our Prediction

There are plenty of surfers who could theoretically win this event, but the top three look like being streets ahead of the rest. Each of Medina, Florence and Robinson has good reason to think that they can end this contest victorious, but it’s Florence that I’ve got standing out above the rest. It feels inevitable that he will both finally secure a win at some point this year, and finally secure a win at Teahupo’o having never before done it in his career, and this looks like a great spot for him to tick both of those boxes. Florence is a phenomenal surfer in hollow left-handers – no surprise given he grew up on the North Shore – and that can lead him to an inaugural Tahiti Pro and a likely rise up the world standings, potentially all the way to the top.

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