Sometimes it feels like Hawaii’s favorite local son can’t catch a break. John John Florence came into the sixth event of the year looking like a lock for the championship event at Trestles in September.
He was rated second, after Felipe Toledo, with a number of pet events on the back half of the schedule. Barring some sort of cataclysmic meltdown—and a huge late-season push from someone behind him on the ratings—Florence was pretty much guaranteed a spot in the top five at the end of the year, which meant he’d surf for the title.
Then the tour went back to G-Land for the first time in 25 years and everything fell apart. First of all, the forecast was horrendous—either windy or small for virtually the entire contest window.
Any hopes of seeing Florence going nuts in eight-foot Money Trees were shot to hell as the contest was run in a series of progressively weaker and smaller waves, where turns rather than barrels were the way to the podium.
Not that John John has any problem doing turns—after all, he has one of the best carves in the game. The problem is that every year or so Florence seems to turn too hard and destroy his knee.
This time, it was his MCL that failed 😢, and anyone watching the contest saw that Florence was in a knee brace after day one. He ended up finishing the event in equal ninth after losing to journeyman surfer Jadson Andre. That result was good enough to keep Florence in the top three, but after the event he announced his injury would likely see him missing a number of events. As El Salvador kicks off this week, it will do so without the world’s best surfer—which is a huge bummer, because the more heats John John misses, the more ground the rest of the field will make up on him.
On the other side of the coin, Australian phenom Jack Robinson left Indonesia feeling pretty darn good about his title chances. After having won the fifth event home in Margaret River, he started the second half of the season with another win at G-Land, taking down Kanoa Igarashi, Gabriel Medina, and Felipe Toledo on his way to back-to-back wins.
Consider the fact that Kanoa and Felipe are both in the top five (along with the injured John John) and Medina is defending world champion, and Robinson’s performance in Indonesia was truly the start of a world title campaign. He is currently ranked second, only 100 points behind Toledo, and will more than likely surf for the cup in Trestles at the end of the year.
The big question is who else will be in the top five at year’s end 🤔. Florence’s future is in question due to his injury, while Igarashi and Ethan Ewing (currently ranked fourth and fifth, respectively) are a ways behind on the rankings and could see their positions slip if they don’t perform in El Salvador this week. That being said, Ewing has been one of the tours form surfers this year, and his patented power approach and impeccable style should fit well into the right-hand points of Punta Roca and Jeffreys Bay.
The ultimate question is how Ewing, Igarashi, and Toledo will perform in Tahiti, which is where the rest of the field has the best chance of catching up through huge, heavy water performance. Jack Robinson will go to Teahupoo as one of the favorites (as will John John, if he can get his knee healthy), and Gabriel Medina is on a mission to qualify for the championship event despite missing the first half of the season due to a mental health sabbatical. Whatever happens, things will be exciting as it comes down to the end of the season.
On the women’s side, Johanne Defay took out the G-Land content and moved into contention for the title with a current third-place rating. Carissa Moore currently leads the women’s title race, with Brisa Hennessy, Tyler Wright, and Tatiana Weston-Webb rounding out the top five.
We will know more once the El Salvador Pro gets started, but it’s been in a holding pattern for the past two days due to small waves. Next call at www.worldsurfleague.com tomorrow morning!