It's been a long time since the World Title race wasn't exciting (Kelly Slater 2010-2011 due to complete dominance), and this year is already setting up to be a showdown for the ages. Kudos to the WSL for creating such a solid system to determine our annual World Champion. Fans might take this for granted sometimes, but after comparing to our fellow board sports (snow and skate), you might be suddenly inclined to write the WSL a thank you note.
Last year at this stage, Adriano de Souza was leading with 34,950 points over Mick Fanning with 34,700 points. Today, John Florence (39,000 points) leads Matt Wilkinson (36,000 points) and Gabriel Medina (35,700 points).
Both John and Gabby are thought to be deadly over the closing events of each season but are they really? Let's take a look at the past five years of results dating back to JJF and GM's rookie year on tour.
John flashed in 2014, the exact same way as Gabby did last year (albeit in a different order of events). Both were in chase-down mode with little to zero pressure on them at those times. If one was to repeat those same results in 2016, it'd equal 29,700 points. Probably strong enough for any of the trio to win the World Title, but certainly not bulletproof.
Unfortunately for Wilko, his track record in these events is horrendous. In 20 total CTs, he's never once cracked the Quarterfinals. If that's not enough to leave him for dead, Wilko's only advanced through one heat in his previous five Billabong Pipe Masters. That heat, he managed to slip past Aritz Aranburu in Round 2, with a 4.13 heat total (in giant and out of control conditions).
On a positive note, Wilko has defied these same, underdog odds through the first half of the 2016, smashing his previous career bests in all but a couple events. He also has one more win than either John or Gabby, good for a 2,000 point advantage.
Still, most fans believe 2016 has already become John John vs Gabriel, Part One. Two of the most talented surfers this world has ever seen are finally threatening in the same year. Already the most polarizing rivalry our sport has witnessed since Kelly vs Andy, and neither has thrown a (public) verbal jab at the other... yet.
There is, of course, a mathematical chance for many other surfers to snatch the crown in 2016. Realistically, you should have zero faith in any of them. However, if one person can still scare, it's gotta be Kelly Slater. He's already holding onto a 25th in his scoreline, which can kill. Since they cut the tour down to 34 surfers in 2011, no one has finished in the Top 5 holding onto a single 25th place result in their scoreline.
Either way, Lowers is coming up soon. As fans, there's only one thing left to do...