Seeing that we've yet to conclude the sixth (out of 11) CT event this year, that puts us at the exact midway point in the season. Which makes now the perfect time for reflection and analysis. Play the tape!
So, what's happened thus far in 2016?
Event 1: Holy shit, Wilko???
Event 2: This is getting weird, but.....WILKO!!!!!The Bass has landed! Photo: Jimmicane
Event 3: Seabass finally did something!
Event 4: Gun shots! John John!
Event 5: Finally some stability. Gabby slays the field.
Event 6: Wilko falters, JJ and Gabby inch closer.
I'm sure you can fill in the gaps of what happened over the course of the year. Now, what have we learned thus far in 2016?
- Nothing means anything.
Name, age, ranking, any numerical statistic for that matter - throw it off a cliff. It's useless. It's VHS. It's MapQuest. 2016 does not abide by the laws of surfing past. There are no more gimme heats. And this is a great thing.
- The 'Old Guard' is dead.
Taj retired. Parko looks close. Kelly won't ever win another title. Mick is the last man standing, assuming he even wishes to pursue competition in 2017. Surfing is now, more than ever, a young-man's game. That's partly due to a large generation gap between the Old Guard and the new, but mostly due to the fresh sense of confidence felt by surfing's youngest stars.
- Coaching/Training works.
If you need more proof than Wilko, we can also cite John, and then Tyler on the women's side. A little help goes a long way.
- The judging still needs reform.
See this piece for one obvious flaw in the system, then sprinkle in a criteria that properly rewards progressive surfing, even in "non-progressive locales". Also, they need to stop scoring based on wave height. Sometimes guys will just ride a big wave without doing any critical maneuvers and receive an excellent score.
All these happenings have made 2016 the second-most interesting year in 21st century professional surfing, behind only 2015. But hey, there's still half the year left, so who knows? Let's dive into some predictions.
- Wilko will not win.
Wilko's mercurial rise came as a surprise to everyone. That he's held onto it for this long is equally as amazing. In my eyes, Wilko lacks the mental fortitude to maintain his lead through Hawaii. His surfing is good, usually not exceptional. When you put him against someone like Gabby, who is both a better surfer and a better competitor, it's unlikely he will preserve that lead over the course of a season.
- Wilko might win.
Because he's Donald Trump. Think about it. He started off the year with great numbers and a lot of support. It was fun to cheer for him — the sheep in the lions' den — but nobody really believed it could happen. Yet here we are, half-way through the season, and he's still got all his limbs! People are getting behind the Aussie too, often lambasting Brazilian minorities for trying to disrupt his title run. Wilko could become the most bizarre world champion of all time, just one month after America elects its most bizarre president of all time. I'm only rooting for one of them.
- John and Gabby will fight til the bitter end.
The two best all-arounders in the game will fight the fight that everyone has been waiting for. The past few years have had some amazing world title finishes (the past 4 years have come down to Pipe), but John vs Gabriel is the future. And while Gabby has surfed 2016 with blatant disregard for life and limb, John has taken the slow and steady route, quietly amassing a string of consistent results in order to achieve long-term success. Their separate paths have led them to a nearly-identical point, just shy of the number one slot. Come December, one of these two will be crowned.
- Kelly won't retire.
Not that we want him to. We don't. Kelly brings, if not classic surfing, an interesting anecdote to every event. Whether it's a passive-aggressive post-heat interview or a surfboard that looks like it belongs on a Corona ad display, Kelly is never boring. Plus, he refuses to go out like this. He is The King, and he'll be damned if he doesn't figure out how to beat Adriano before he
quits dies. - Michael Ciaramella