Who Will Win the 2024 Western Australia Margaret River Pro?

It’s that time of year once again, a time which has become the bane of mid-tier surfers on the Championship Tour over the past few years – mid-season cut time. Now four events into the 2024 CT season, the tour heads to Margaret River for the fifth of the season, after which a whole bunch of surfers will be canned for its remainder. The cut has, like many decisions the WSL has made in recent years, been highly controversial, but whichever side of the fence you sit on, there is no doubting that it adds an added element of importance to each and every heat at this time of year. On both the men’s and women’s sides of the draw there is little separating a whole bunch of surfers around the cut line, so from the outset the Margaret River Pro will be both making and breaking seasons.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will be breaking any boards, at least not in the early stages, with minimal swell set to hit the south-west of Australia in the early parts of the waiting period. There is a good chance that they will get underway early in the waiting period in clean, small-to-mid-sized conditions to get a few heats out of the way anyway, and with some longer-term promise for good swell in a week or so there looks to be some chance that we do get a decent contest – just maybe not straight out of the gates.

Men’s Western Australia Margaret River Pro

Since re-joining the Championship Tour in 2014, the Men’s Margaret River Pro has been a feature of the calendar every year (with the exception of the Covid-affected 2020 season). Since that time the trophy has been passed around to a new winner virtually every year, with John John Florence the only man to have won it on multiple occasions in the past decade – he won in 2017 and 2019. He will once again headline the list of favourites to take it out this season, while local Jack Robinson and last year’s winner Gabriel Medina will look to join that exclusive list of multiple winners of the contest. 

The Favourites

Jack Robinson has had an up and down year, being eliminated before the quarterfinals in all but one event, and winning that solitary exception at Sunset Beach. But he is as good as anyone in the world at his home break of Margaret River, and looks like the man to beat heading into this contest. Robinson first surfed this contest in 2016 at the age of just 18, though he took a number of years to become competitive on the CT and his results at Margies were reflective of that. It was in 2022 that he finally took the step from talented youngster to genuine world title contender, and a victory at Margaret River kickstarted an excellent run of form over the back half of that season. That was the first time we’ve really had the chance to see what he can do at this break; after a slowish start in his Opening Round heat, he scored at least 14.4 in his next five en route to his win, including a 16.27 in the semis and a 16.24 in the final. Unfortunately he didn’t get the chance to back that up last year when he missed the contest through injury, but he’s fit and raring to go this season and will take a lot of stopping.

One of the best chances of keeping the hometown hero off the podium is John John Florence, who might not have grown up surfing this break but still surfs it as well as, if not better than, anyone else in the world. He has been a perennial threat at this contest, winning it twice, making the final on two other occasions and finishing third all within the last seven times that he has competed here. That is a serious record. His third place finish last year was his worst result at this contest since 2018, and he looked like the favourite to win it with scores of 17.93, 16.33, 16.93 and 14.83 in his first four heats before he went down to a rampaging Griffin Colapinto. Virtually every year that he comes here Florence puts up big numbers, but he will be hoping that the promising swell comes through in the latter half of the waiting period, because the pack will likely tighten up in smaller conditions. If the heaving Margaret River to which we’re accustomed comes alive, he will be really difficult to beat.

That big performance from Griffin Colapinto wasn’t the first time that he’s performed well at this break. He finished second last year, fifth the year before that and third the year before that, and now 25 years of age and seemingly surfing as well as he ever has he will be another genuine threat to take home the win. After he backed up his win in Portugal with a second place at Bells Beach, Colapinto extended his lead atop the world rankings over Ethan Ewing and now has a pretty significant cushion in first place over Ewing, while John John is a fair way further back in third, too. Colapinto has established himself as one of the best surfers in the world over the past couple of years, and was surfing the house down at Bells a couple of weeks ago. Given how well he has performed at Margaret River in the past and his current form, he should be in this one up to his eyeballs.

The Next Tier

Ethan Ewing might be the most consistent surfer on the men’s Championship Tour. Having finished fourth in 2022 and second last year, he is again sitting in second in the world rankings four events into this season having made the quarterfinals three times. Since 2022 when he really established himself among surfing’s elite, Ewing has finished third and fifth here, and hasn’t appeared to have had too much difficulty putting up big scores. In 2022 he scored between 13.7 and 17.93 in his five heats, only losing in a high-scoring semi to eventual winner Jack Robinson, while last year he went 13.43, 14.5 and 15.3 before putting in a more disappointing showing against Florence. His fluent style and ability to connect turns as well as anybody in the world means that he invariably scores well, and there is no reason to think that will be any different at Margaret River over the next couple of weeks.

While Ewing has been establishing himself as a title contender in the past couple of years, Gabriel Medina has done the opposite, missing half of 2022, failing to make the top five last year and then starting 2024 relatively poorly so far. He’s had one good result this year – a third place finish at Supertubos – but has failed to make it past the Round of 32 in each of the other three events and is in danger of missing the cut as a result. But with a good result needed, he will be happy to be heading to a break where he has enjoyed the ultimate success before. While he had a lot of disappointing results last season, Margaret River was not one of them. That event marked his first victory since 2021, and came in dominant fashion, with none of his opponents getting all that close to beating him and a 17.5-point total in the final resulting in a commanding victory over Colapinto. Interestingly he had not really had all that much success at Margaret River in his career prior to that, but in what was a relatively disappointing season for him in 2023, that edition of the contest reminded the world of what he is capable of. With his back against the wall after another frustrating result at Bells Beach, no one will be too keen to come up against Medina in this contest.

The Roughie

Cole Houshmand was one of the more random winners we’ve seen in a while on the Championship Tour when he took out the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, but as the old adage goes, winning form is good form. That was just the fifth CT event the 23-year-old has ever competed in, and in none of the others had he made it past the Round of 16. But his results had been improving by the contest to start the year, with a 33rd at Pipeline followed by a 17th at Sunset Beach and then that 9th at Supertubos, but even he couldn’t have predicted what happened at Bells Beach. Houshmand had a slow start in Victoria, being sent to the Elimination Round after a poor Opening Round and then just sneaking through to the Round of 32 despite putting up a low score, but after that he was probably the most consistent surfer at the event, scoring between 13.14 and 14.37 in each of his next five heats, and he was rewarded for it. A number of his heat wins were pretty close, but he knocked off plenty of far more accomplished surfers on the way to his victory, including Medina, Ewing, Igarashi, and finally Colapinto in the final. Having only competed in five CT events in his life it’s hard to predict how he’ll back up the win, but with his tail up and having proved that he can compete at this level, he looks like a good roughie to knock a few more fancied opposition over at Margaret River.

Our Prediction

A pretty clear top four has established itself at the top of the men’s world rankings – even if Jack Robinson is actually fifth – and three of those have shown plenty of ability at this wave. Robinson and Florence in particular will be really hard to beat, but it’s the latter who has established himself as the best in the world at this break. Robinson is more than capable of taking that crown, but Florence is a two-time winner and has made the semi-finals in three consecutive appearances at Margaret River, and having started this season relatively well there is no reason to think that he won’t once again be there deep in the tournament. He’s yet to secure a contest win so far in 2024 but he’s been consistently in the mix, and after a disappointing result at Bells he can bounce back with a victory at the Margaret River Pro.

Women’s Western Australia Margaret River Pro

The women’s Margaret River Pro returned to the CT a year earlier than the men’s after close to two decades off it, and like its male equivalent has since run every year except for 2020. Carissa Moore last year established herself as the most successful surfer in history at the event with her third win, but with the Hawaiian out of the picture this season, and particularly with the new era of women ‘s surfers taking the world by storm, the door is wide open for a new winner. These are the best chances of taking out the 2024 edition of the event.

The Favourites

Of that talented young brigade, Caitlin Simmers is the youngest of the lot; she also might be the best of them. The 18-year-old took out the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach to jump from fourth to first in the world rankings, having already taken out two events this season. That follows on from a rookie season in which she also won two events – while aged just 17, no less – and she has now established herself not just as the yellow jersey wearer halfway through the season, but also as the favourite to win the world title. Given her age it’s no surprise that she doesn’t have much experience at this break – she doesn’t have much experience anywhere – and in her solitary appearance here last year she put in and up and down performance, with a 9.97 heat score in the Opening Round being followed by a 15.24 in the Elimination Round and then a tight loss to Sally Fitzgibbons in the Round of 16. But that was just the sixth event of her career, and her development since has been rapid. Incredibly, she has now won four of the past 12 events on the Championship Tour, and with a strike rate of 33% over more than a year she is clearly going to be tough to beat again here. 

While it’s the youngsters doing the majority of the damage on the women’s CT at the moment, Johanne Defay is the solitary exception and after four events, is the only surfer over the age of 22 sitting in the top five. She’s there courtesy of a brilliant last two performances which have seen her make the finals twice in succession, winning at Supertubos and then finishing runner-up after losing in the quarterfinals at both events in Hawaii. The 30-year-old Frenchwoman is aging like a fine wine, having achieved the best result of her career last year when she finished second and looking well-placed to back that up – or go one better – in 2024. She hasn’t always had the best results at Margaret River, having failed to make it past the quarterfinals in eight of her nine appearances at the event, but in the sole exception she won it. There is a caveat though; that was in 2018 when the contest was moved partway through to Uluwatu. But while she hasn’t enjoyed the success that she would have liked at the break in the past, she is surfing as well as she ever has at the moment and is more than capable of taking this out.

Behind Simmers, Molly Picklum is the most highly touted of the new generation – we’re probably excluding reigning world champion Caroline Marks even though she’s only 22 here, given how long she has already been around – and after a couple of disappointing finishes in the past two events, she will be keen to bounce back at Margaret River. The 21-year-old started the season like a woman possessed, with a second place finish at Pipeline and then a win at Sunset Beach to carry the jersey into the next two events, but at each of those events she’s been eliminated early and has been bumped down to third in the world rankings as a result. But there is no doubting the talent of the young New South Welshwoman. She has been knocked out in the quarterfinals both times she’s competed in this event, but this season she appears to have taken a leap from talented young surfer to legitimate world title contender. She can bounce back from a couple of disappointing results with a run deep into this tournament.

The Next Tier

In the early stages of her career, consistency has been an issue for Caroline Marks, but she put those issues to bed with a breakthrough world title last year and has so far this season been the most consistent surfer on the women’s tour. Unfortunately that hasn’t culminated in anything more than a semi-final finish, but she’s done that in two of four events and finished in the quarters in the other two. Marks wasn’t able to get past the quarterfinals in each of her first three appearances at this contest, but last year she changed that with a very impressive third place finish. Though she was beaten pretty comprehensively in the semi-finals, she surfed unbelievably well prior to that, with her heat scores reading 15.17, 17.27 and 16.5. Those numbers aren’t going to be beaten often, and if she can put together anything close to resembling that run again this season she could easily be making her first final of season 2024.

The woman who beat Marks in that semi-final was Tyler Wright, who also happens to be one of just a couple of reigning Margaret River Pro champions in the draw. Wright hasn’t started this season as she would have liked, making it past the Round of 16 just once in four events, though that occasion did yield a second place in Portugal. The result is that she finds herself in eighth and just marginally ahead of the cut line, and with little separating her from Lakey Peterson in 11th she needs a decent result here to avoid what would be a shock early exit from the tour. But Wright has shown a penchant for this wave in the past. Alongside her victory in 2016, she has finished second here a massive four times including last year, and third once. That’s as good a form line at this break as anyone in the event, and had she been surfing better this year she would be a clear favourite to win it. But despite her indifferent form, with her back against the wall it would be no surprise to see the two-time world champion put in a big performance.

The Roughie

Brisa Hennessy has never really been in the world title conversation, having only once finished in the top ten – that occasion coming when she finished fifth in 2022. But the 24-year-old from Costa Rica appears to have elevated her game this year, and though she is sitting in sixth, she’s there despite missing one of the four events. She has made it through to the semi-finals in each of the other three, and though she hasn’t made it any further than that she has consistently looked like a winning threat. Her best result in four previous appearances here is a fifth which doesn’t bode particularly well for her chances of winning, but she’s in the kind of form that she hasn’t previously displayed in her career to date, so this could be her best chance yet.

Our Prediction

The above names look like clearly the best chances to take out this event, with Simmers looking particularly dangerous having won four of the past 12 events. But it feels like something has to give with Tyler Wright. With Carissa Moore out of the picture this season looked like a great chance for her to win her first world title since 2017, and though it hasn’t gone to plan so far she remains one of the most dangerous surfers in the world. Her past form at Margaret River is second to none, and despite a raft of early exits so far this year, she can sweep her way past the young brigade to what would be her first contest win of the year. 



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