For the first time in 2022, we saw the WSL World Tour run a complete slate of events in Hawaii as part of the season opener, with both Pipe and Sunset delivering excellent conditions, exciting competition, and a fair share of drama.
Gabriel Medina started the year off with a surprise announcement that he’d be stepping away from competition for an indefinite break, which opened the door for injury wildcards such as Ivan Florence and Caio Ibelli. Meanwhile, on the women’s side we saw a new crop of rookies led by Bettylou Sakura Johnson, as well as exciting Pipeline wildcard Moana Jones Wong.
When the spit had settled at Pipe, Moana sat atop the women’s leaderboard with her hero and mentor Carissa Moore just below here, while 50-year old Kelly Slater was back in yellow, followed closely by recent Hawaiian qualifier Seth Moniz.
Sunset saw enormous upsets from the first horn, with many of the top seeds falling out in the early rounds. Moana and Carissa placed 17th and 9th respectively, slipping down the ratings due to gutsy performances by Malia Manuel and Brisa Hennessy (with Brisa pipping Malia in the final and moving into first on the ratings).
Meanwhile, on the men’s side, Kelly Slater, John John Florence, and Italo Ferreira all finished with equal 17th place results, while other favorites such as Felipe Toledo, Jordy Smith, and Kolohe Andino had to be satisfied with 9th place finishes. This left a ton of room at the top of the ratings, where an eclectic collection of new faces are currently in control of the tour.
Coming into the third event of the season, which starts today at Supertubos in Peniche, Portugal, three of the top five women are Hawaiians, with Malia Manuel in second, Moana Jones Wong in third, and Carissa Moore in fourth).
There are another three Hawaiians in the top 10 (Bettylou Sakura Johnson, Gabriela Bryan, and Luana Silva), putting a total of six local ladies above the mid-year cutoff line. (Remember, after five events, the top 10 on the women’s tour and top 24 on the men’s tour will remain, while everyone else will be relegated to the Challenger Series in an attempt to requalify.)
On the men’s tour, there are only four Hawaiians above the cutoff line, but our local crew are dominating the top five. Rookies Barron Mamiya and Seth Moniz sit in first and second respectively, and have a strong lead on the rest of the pack after their dominant performances in their home waves. Their early position is especially important since only the top five rated surfers at the end of the year will compete for the world championship at a one-day event at Trestles. Kanoa Igarashi and Kelly Slater currently sit in second and fifth, while Brazilian Caio Ibelli has taken full advantage of his injury wildcard berth and established himself in fourth. John John Florence is a ways down the rankings at equal 10th, as is fellow Oahu resident Ezekiel Lau and Western Australian tube fiend Jack Robinson.
The forecast for Portugal is looking pretty interesting, with an active pattern remaining in the north Atlantic. This has been an epic winter for Europe, so if the trend continues, we could see some amazing beach break barrels at Supertubos this week. After that, the tour heads to Australia, where competitors will surf at Bells Beach and Margaret River before the mid-year cutoff goes into effect.
It's already shaping up to be a crazy year with new faces, a new format, and the potential for huge upsets. Hopefully our local surfers survive to the second half of the season, when spots like Teahupoo, J-Bay, and G-Land, and El Salvador are all waiting to be ripped apart!