Over the past few decades, we’ve become pretty accustomed to a predictable world tour scene. Since 1992 there have been 26 world titles—and 21 of them have been won by five people. Between Kelly Slater’s 11 wins, Mick Fanning and Andy Irons taking three apiece, and John John Florence and Gabriel Medina dominating the past five years with two world titles each, there really hasn’t been room for anyone else at the top of the heap. And while that might be a testament to how dominant these surfers are, a predictable world tour doesn’t really make things very interesting for spectators.
Fortunately, 2019 is off to a very unpredictable start. The third event of the season just ended at Keramas in Bali, and the top-10 picture is all over the place! John John Florence still holds on to the Jeep Leader Yellow Jersey, but Kanoa Igarashi is nipping close at his heels after his first win in Indonesia—the first Japanese surfer to announce himself as a title threat on the world tour! (Kanoa was born in Japan but moved to Huntington Beach at a young age to gain dual citizenship and pursue a professional surfing career. Last year, as the battle for Olympic qualification started, Kanoa switched his declared nationality back to Japan, so that he can compete under the Rising Sun flag).
Next up you have Brazilians Italo Ferreira and Felipe Toledo, both within striking distance of John John, and both perennial threats for the title (although neither has been able to finish a season in the number one spot). But then things get really weird. Gabriel Medina is way down at 10th, and ahead of him you have Kolohe Andino, Conner Coffin, and even 47-year-old Kelly Slater! In fact, this is the first time in years that the US has held the majority of the spots in the top 10 (5 out of 10 if you include HB resident Kanoa).
Perhaps strangest of all, there is currently only one Australian in the top 10, and it’s not one you’d expect. Wade Carmichael has been putting together a decent season thus far, and is leading the charge for the boys from Down Under. He is currently tied with Gabriel Medina in the 10th spot, with two quarterfinal finishes.
On the women’s side, the season started out a bit weird as well, but after Steph Gilmore’s dominant performance at Keramas (where she ended the contest with a perfect 10 in the final), things are back to normal. Steph has already matched Layne Beachely’s record of seven world titles, and has now regained control of the tour, slipping into the leader position with a third of the season in the books. It is interesting to note that over the past few decades, the surfer rated first after three events has gone on to win the world title 60% of the time, which means that Steph and John John are the odds-on favorites to win the title in 2019. But in a season that has already had some crazy upsets, you never know what could happen!
The tour now moves to Margaret River in Western Australia, with competition set to kick off this afternoon Hawaii time (the morning of May 29 in Australia).