Everything You Need to Know About the Title Race Coming into the Final Event of the Year
Since the beginning of the 2022 World Tour season, I’ve been watching Ethan Ewing’s surfing very closely.
Photo Credit to WSL
There was a lot of hype around Ethan as he was coming up through the junior ranks in Australia, but we didn’t really get to see much of him until he qualified for the tour in 2019. That year was pretty lackluster for the Australian regularfoot. Then 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19 and 2021 was again a bit of a slow one for Ewing. But 2022 has been something completely different. Watching his surfing at Bells Beach, where the soft, slopey point break tends to magnify surfers’ weaknesses in technique, it became clear that Ewing doesn’t have any. His surfing was miles beyond everyone else, both in style and power, and it was almost like we were watching the new, upgraded version of Taylor Knox.
Since then, Ewing seems to have finally figured out the competitive equation, because for the first time his results are living up to his talent. Coming into Jeffreys Bay event, Ewing was solidly in the top five, courtesy of three thirds and a fifth—all at difficult right-hand point breaks that tend to challenge most surfers (Sunset, Bells, Margaret River, and El Salvador). Based on his track record in long, technically demanding rights, you’d expect Ewing to do well at J-Bay, and that’s exactly what happened. He ended up storming the draw, carving his way into the finals without really breaking a sweat. And that’s saying something, because J-Bay was about as good as it gets for this event. Plus, after the mid-year cut dropped trimmed the tour’s fat, the field has been stacked over the back half of the year.
In the finals, Ewing came up against Jack Robinson, whose dominance this year has only been bested by tour leader Felipe Toledo. Robinson is looking like a legitimate title threat, with two wins, a second, a third, and a fifth in his tally. Oddsmakers gave the nod to Robbo going into the final, but having watched Ewing dismantle right-hand points all year, I had a feeling he was going to come out on top.
Photo Credit to Ethan Ewing
Ewing ended up proving me right, winning a close, hard-fought battle against his fellow Australian for the first world tour win of his career. Meanwhile, Robbo’s second-place finish clinched his spot in the championship event at Trestles in September.
On the women’s side, it looked like Honolulu’s Carissa Moore was going to once again run away with the win, until a rare, uncharacteristic priority blunder saw her lose in the semifinals to Tatiana Weston-Webb. Tati rode that momentum straight into the final, where she put in a huge performance to beat former world champion Tyler Wright for the win.
Video Credit to WSL
With one event left on the regular season schedule (Teahupoo), the road to the world title has now become much clearer. Carissa Moore and Johanne Defay have both clinched spots in the championship event, while Tatiana Weston-Webb, Steph Gilmore, and Brisa Hennessy are clinging to the final three spots. Virtually the entire field could still qualify with a win at Teahupoo, from Lakey Peterson in 6th all the way down to Courtney Conlogue in 10th, so it is really anyone’s game at this point.
The men’s race, on the other hand, is much more cut and dry—although not at all set in stone. Felipe Toledo and Jack Robinson have both clinched their spots, while Ethan Ewing, Italo Ferreira, and Griffin Colapinto round out the top five. Ewing is pretty safe—in order him to fall out of the top five, he’d have to lose in either the first or second round, Italo and Griffin would both have to beat him by at least one round, and Kanoa Igarashi (who is currently rated sixth, just below the cutoff line) would have to get either a second or a first at Teahupoo, depending how Ewing did. But for Kanoa to Griff would take much less, as he is only around 1300 points behind (the points equivalent of a last-place finish). If Kanoa finishes ahead of Griffin at Teahupoo, he will pass the Californian and qualify for the championship event.
Behind Kanoa, there are only five other surfers who could theoretically break into the top five at Teahupoo—and one of those is John John Florence, who will likely miss the event due to his ongoing knee injury. Callum Robson needs either a second or a first, and also needs Griffin and/or Italo to lose in the first round—plus he needs Kanoa to lose early as well. Everyone else still in contention (Miguel Pupo, Sammy Pupo, and Connor O’Leary) all need to win Teahupoo and need Griffin to lose in the first round and Kanoa to lose in the second round.
There are a lot of scenarios at play there, but most of them are quite far-fetched. Long story short, Felipe, Robbo, and Ewing are all pretty much locks for the championship event, and it will mostly likely be Italo, Griff, and Kanoa who are battling it out for the final two spots.
Of course, the qualification game isn’t the only one being played. Seeding in the championship event is also crucial, as the top-ranked surfer at the end of the year is seeded straight into the final heat. Everyone below him has to surf progressively more heats to make it to the finals, based on how far down the top five they are rated, so finishing the year with as high a ranking as possible is super important. Felipe Toledo has been dominant this year (two wins, three seconds, and four ninths), and is the obvious favorite to take out the cup at Trestles. But Jack Robinson is arguably the best in big barrels, and only has to finish two or three heats ahead of Toledo at Teahupoo to move into the top seed going into Trestles. Doing so would likely even the odds, as both surfers have proven themselves in small, rippable rights, and as second seed, Toledo would be forced to surf one extra heat before facing off with Robbo.
All of these scenarios only add to the excitement coming into Teahupoo, which has the potential to be the best standalone event of the year. Tahiti has had an amazing season so far with half a dozen 8- to 12-foot swells and the recent Code Red 2 event, so here’s hoping our luck continues and the world tour ends in dramatic fashion!