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World Title Race Tightens Up After a Bumpy Event in El Salvador

When the government of El Salvador decided to invest tens of millions of dollars in their “Surf City” rebranding—including millions for the right to host a world tour event at the country’s crown jewel of Punta Roca—we are guessing their plan wasn’t to broadcast a bunch of small, onshore days to the world.

Unfortunately, you can plan a pretty event, but you can’t predict the weather, and the perfect right-hand point break in La Libertad had a pretty horrible forecast during the entire event waiting period. After half a dozen flat days, the event finally ran in bumpy, mixed-up swell rather than perfect, peeling walls, so it ended up being all about the surfers rather than the wave.

As you’d expect, the high-flying, high-performance crew thrived in the punchy, messy conditions, and by finals day it was a who’s who of surfing’s most progressive athletes.

On the men’s side, that included three Australians (back-to-back event winner Jack Robinson, style master Ethan Ewing, and young upstart Callum Robson), three Brazilians (Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira, and Felipe Toledo—no surprises there), and two Californians (Griffin Colapinto and Kanoa Igarashi, the latter of whom is technically surfing under the Japanese flag).

By the time the semis rolled around, that field had been whittled down to the three Brazilians and Colapinto, and the final saw the Californian surf against (and ultimately beat) current tour leader Felipe Toledo.

The women’s quarters saw a number of big upsets, with Sally Fitzgibbons, Carissa Moore, and Courtney Conlogue all falling out of the draw early. Semi one pitted Johanne Defay against Lakey Peterson, while semi two saw Caroline Marks face off against seven-time world champion Steph Gilmore. Steph came out of that heat victorious, then went on to dominate Lakey Peterson in the finals.

With their respective wins, Colapinto and Steph Gilmore both clawed their way into third place on the ratings. Italo Ferreira and Kanoa Igarashi are also both currently safe in the top five, as are Lake Peterson and Brisa Hennessy, but they will have to remain consistent in the final three events if they want a shot at the title at the championship event in September.

world surf league

Photo Credit to WSL

Meanwhile, Felipe Toledo is way out in front of the pack, with only Jack Robinson currently competing for the yellow jersey. Meanwhile, Carissa Moore leads the women’s tour, with Johanne Defay approximately one heat behind her in the ratings.

There are only three events left in the regular season—the Oi Rio Pro runs this week, then Jeffreys Bay runs in mid-July and Teahupoo finishes things of in mid-August. And this year the athletes are only dropping one result from their tally, so every event counts heading into the end of the year.

Last year, the top-rated male and female surfers ended up winning the world title at the championship event at Trestles (Gabriel Medina and Carissa Moore, respectively). But technically it’s anyone’s game once the top five are solidified, so right now that fifth place spot is the target of everyone else on tour. We can’t wait to see what happens!