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High Drama, World Title Qualifications, and Olympic Spots as Jack Robinson and Caroline Marks Win at Tahiti

Robbo Seals Olympic Berth with Win at Tahiti Pro

For a while there, it looked like Gabriel Medina was about to pull off a year-long comeback and the ultimate hat trick.

With nine minutes left in the final at Tahiti, he was once again dominating—as he had been all event.

All he had to do was maintain his momentum and he’d win Tahiti Pro, earn a spot in the WSL Title Event, and nab a spot on the Brazilian Olympic team for the 2024 Games.

Robbo Seals Olympic Berth with Win at Teahupoo Pro

Photo Credit to WSL

Unfortunately, Jack Robinson had other plans.

Throughout this event, the main story was always qualification for the World Title event at Trestles in September. There were two spots up for grabs on the men’s rankings and one on the women’s. Joao Chianca and Yago Dora were on the hot seat, as was rookie Caitlyn Simmers on the women’s.

Chasing them down were a handful of the world’s best surfers, including Steph Gilmore, Lakey Peterson, Gabriel Medina, John John Florence, Jack Robinson, and Leonardo Fioravanti.

Simmers took matters into her own hands, and by the time she stormed her way to the finals at Tahiti, she had already clinched her spot in the top five and at the championship event at Trestles. Even though she came up short in the final against Caroline Marks, Simmers got the job done on her own terms. She ended the year as one of two rookies to make the top five, and will surf against fellow rookie Molly Picklum in the first heat of the world title showdown in Southern California.

Awaiting the winner of that heat will be Caroline Marks, Tyler Wright, and eventually Carissa Moore, who has an automatic seed in the final heat.

But on the men’s side, Joao and Yago found themselves both at the mercy of the surfers chasing them. Chianca lost in the first round, which meant his yearend points total was capped at 44,290.

Technically, Medina could bump him down into the fifth spot with a win. And to make things more stressful, Dora, Medina, Florence, Robinson, and Fioravanti were all through to the quarterfinals, which meant it was possible for Chianca to get bumped again—this time out of the top five altogether.

That being said, Yago Dora was the man currently on the hot seat. Any loss by him opened the door for the four competitors ranked below him to move him out of contention—and he ended up losing to Fioravanti in the first round of the quarters.

Jack Robinson won the second quarter, keeping his dreams alive, and then it was time for the ultimate faceoff: Medina versus Florence. The two competitors are considered to be the best out at Tahiti.

Between them, they have five world titles and a nearly unbeatable record in Tahiti. With Dora out of contention, it was only natural that people would think this was the heat that would decide everything—the winner of the event and the final qualifier for the championship event.

As it turned out, the quarterfinal clash was pretty lackluster—a lopsided affair from the time the opening horn blew. Medina had been on fire all day, and he continued his streak, making barrel after barrel and annihilating John John, who couldn’t buy a good wave.

Medina ultimately ended up comboing John John, and with that, the writing appeared to be on the wall. The Brazilian wunderkind was going to do it again, storming his way to an event win and a huge comeback that would see him once again competing for the world title.

Medina’s semifinal only served to confirm his momentum, as he dismantled Barron Mamiya, who had won quarterfinal number three. All of the momentum was with Medina, and all eyes were on his end-of-year heroics.

But on the other side of the draw, the other best barrel rider in the world was quietly putting together a world-beating campaign. Jack Robinson has long been considered one of the gnarliest guys when it comes to tuberiding, but when you are operating in the shadow of John John Florence and Gabriel Medina, it’s easy to be underestimated.

When Robinson beat Fioravanti in their semifinal clash, no one seemed to take note. And when Medina sprang out to a big lead in the first half of the final against Robinson, everyone just nodded their heads and said, “We knew it.”

The final between Medina and Robinson was a dream finish for the WSL. Whichever surfer won would end up qualifying for the champions event and the Olympics—the last heat of the regular season, and the ramifications were enormous. On paper, this heat was all Medina—his track record at Tahiti is virtually unmatched.

And with nine minutes left, he was sitting on a very comfortable lead, courtesy of a flurry of barrels that he’s ridden during the past half hour, while Robinson had remained relatively quiet. But as it turns out, Jack was sitting patiently for a reason. The boy loves big barrels, and he was waiting for the one, putting all of his money on the hope that the ocean would send him the wave he needed.

As it ended up, that’s exactly what happened. Robinson survived a late drop and pumped through a throaty one, coming out straight into a roundhouse wrap and an 8+ score. That was enough to put him into the lead, and when Medina fell on his next wave and gave Robbo priority, all he had to do was sit on the former world champion as the time ticked away.

When the hooter sounded, it was Robinson on top, joining Caroline Marks as the 2023 Tahiti Pro champion. Instead of Medina taking the ultimate hat trick, Robbo did, earning a spot in the world title showdown and in the Olympics next year, which will be contested right here at Tahiti.

With the world tour complete, the top five ranked surfers on the men’s side are Felipe Toledo, Griffin Colapinto, Ethan Ewing, Joao Chianca, and Jack Robinson. (However, it is important to note that Ewing injured his back last week and had to sit the event out. Hopefully he will be back in fighting shape by mid-September, when the world championship will be decided at Lowers). All five of those men have also qualified to represent their respective countries at the Olympics in 2024, as have John John Florence, Leonardo Fioravanti, Kanoa Igarashi, Jordy Smith, and Matthew McGillavray.

On the women’s side, it’s Carissa Moore, Tyler Wright, Caroline Marks, Molly Picklum, and Caitlyn Simmers who will fight it out for the world title in September. In addition, Carissa, Tyler, and Molly have provisionally qualified for the Olympics (along with Tatiana Weston-Webb, Johanne Defay, and Teresa Bonvalot). Whomever finishes higher at the world title event at Trestles—Caroline Marks or Caitlyn Simmers—will claim the second US spot at the Olympics.

Now that the regular season is over, it’s just a matter of waiting for the right forecast at Trestles. The waiting period of the WSL Rip Curl Finals stretches from September 8-16, and the entire world title showdown will happen on the one day during that week that has the best conditions and forecast. We can’t wait!

 

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