The WSL tour schedule ended this week, and the final event in Tahiti was exactly what you’d want for a season finale.
After a long, frustrating week of lay days, Teahupoo turned on for the WSL on Thursday, providing flawless 5- to 8-foot reef pass slabs for the crew to go bonkers in. Between Kelly Slater’s run to the semifinals, Nathan Hedge’s return to form with a near-perfect airdrop to spit storm, the solidifying of the final five for the WSL Championship event, and Matthew McGillivray’s perfect 10 for an impossible drop to barrel, spectators were rewarded for their patience with everything you could want from a season-ending event at Teahupoo.
But perhaps the biggest story of the event was local wildcard Kauli Vast, who stormed his way into the finals with dominant performances the entire event. Only 20 years of age, the local charger peaked in his semifinal against Slater, absolutely annihilating the GOAT 17.33 to 1.17.
The biggest winner of the day (aside from Pupo) was Kanoa Igarashi, whose quarterfinals finish was enough to move him past Griffin Colapinto into the top five. Igarashi will face off against fourth-rated Italo Ferreira in the first round of the championship event. The winner of that heat will surf against Ethan Ewing, who has looked tack-sharp all season. The winner of that heat will face off against Jack Robinson, who actually had a chance to overtake Felipe Toledo for the first seed, but was ultimately eliminated from Teahupoo by Nathan Hedge. Finally, whoever wins that heat will compete with Toledo in a best-of-three-heats format for the world title.
The women also surfed Teahupoo this week, returning to the End of the Road for the first time in 16 years. From the first round, local wild card Vahine Fierro seemed like the woman to beat, but her rampage was eventually stopped in the semifinals by Brisa Hennessey when the ocean went flat.
Hennessy clinched her spot in the top five by making the final, but was handily dispatched by Courtney Conlogue, who was the other form surfer in the women’s draw. While the win wasn’t enough to earn Conlogue a spot in the championship event, it was a great end to a difficult season for her, and will hopefully kickstart a great 2023 season for one of the fittest women on tour.
Steph Gilmore ended the year in fifth, meaning she has a chance to win a record-breaking eighth world title at Trestles. To do that, she’ll first have to beat Brisa Hennessy in the first round, followed by Tatiana Weston-Webb in round two, Johanne Defay in round three, and last year’s world champion Carissa Moore in a best-of-three showdown in round four. Moore comes into the event as the obvious favorite for the title, due both to her top seeding and the fact that she has been competitively dominant all year. If she ends up winning the title at Trestles, it will be her sixth, putting her only one title behind Steph Gilmore and Layne Beachely, who are tied for the record at seven world titles. But all five women have been looking strong this year, so it really could be anyone’s game.
Now that the regular season is over, we have only 12 heats left to surf at Trestles before the men’s and women’s world champions are decided. The waiting for the Rip Curl WSL Finals is September 8-16. Here’s hoping we score a huge swell for the decider!
Speaking of swells, the waves that fired Teahupoo up over the past few days will be hitting Oahu this weekend, giving us one of the best swells of the summer. Watch the Surf Forecast here. Here’s hoping everyone has a chance to paddle out and catch a few!