Underpinning Filipe Toledo's performance is a bedrock of depravity! True!
A year of two ago, I was employed by the excellent, if sexually provocative and hate-mongering, website Surfline to write the surfing equivalent of the NBA power rankings. I wrote maybe half a dozen and loved the idea of bombing anyone who’d been unkind to me during the year and festooning with flowers those with a kind word.
They were rightly condemned by readers and, occasionally, I felt like withdrawing into my little office cubicle. Lately, my fingers have again become itchy to write.
So, here, is a pre-Teahupoo power rankings, the top 10, with the second-tier bottom feeders appearing tomorrow.
1. Filipe Toledo
J-Bay result: 13
WSL rating: 4 (-2)
Key question: Can he stay top five after Teahupoo?
You wouldn’t say Filipe has an oriental solemnity. He declared war on dullness back in March, back at Snapper, and, but for the weird slowness of little J-Bay, would’ve won there too. His surfing is madness, just madness. You could see the realisation in the eyes of Julian and the rest of the tour at Snapper. It was like some terrible truth had been visited upon them.
The future is… here? So soon? It wasn’t Jordy or Dane, after all? Oh, how they sobered up. Their youth was stolen overnight!
The key thing about Teahupoo is it ain’t that hard to pick unlike every other stop on tour. Sit here. Take off there. Filipe will make a respectable show of things, pick up a 13th or thereabouts, stay top five-ish, win two of the last four events, and become the second Brazilian to win a world title. He’ll also become the youngest world champion, ever, eclipsing Kelly Slater’s one breakable record by eight weeks.
2. Mick Fanning
J-Bay result: 2
WSL rating: 2 (steady)
Key question: Is there enough sugar in Mick’s bowl to stay in the race with three beachbreak events left?
If god (the Christian one) neglects Filipe in the last half of the season, it’ll be Mick who’ll win, what is it, his fourth world title? There’s such an electricity in the air surrounding Mick, so many bowlfuls of press cuttings, that he may become, simply, unbeatable. Mick refuses to modify his idiosyncratic attitude to surfing (those frontside lesion!), and that ain’t necessarily a bad thing.
3. Dane Reynolds
J-Bay result: 13
WSL rating: 33 (steady)
Key question: Apart from the Quiksilver Pro in France, how many wildcards will Dane get?
Dane surfs in such a fine, clear italic that it would be too horrible to contemplate he not seeing out his golden years on the tour. A ninth (Snapper) and a 13th (J-bay) aren’t exactly examples of over-performance, but he has a valuable message to deliver. One of… enjoyment.
4. Julian Wilson
J-Bay result: 2
WSL rating: 3 (-1)
Key question: Can he win an event?
To win a surfing event at WSL level is an arduous task. Round one, two maybe, three, four, or five, quarters, semi, final. It must smack as a little sour that Julian has made three finals this year and won… none of them, although paddling toward the mouth of a Great White must count for something.
Julian is better equipped than any other surfer on tour, with the exception of current champ Medina, to deal with Teahupoo, Trestles, Hossegor, Supertubes and Pipe. But such is his bag of gifts, his arsenal, you often get the sense he doesn’t know what to pull out next. His drawings are brilliant and vigorous, yeah, but sometimes, as we saw at Snapper, he can look just a little laboured.
5. Adriano de Souza
J-Bay result: 5
WSL rating: 1 (steady)
Key question: Can the WSL judges get over the psychological hurdle of ushering Adriano into an unpopular world title?
Oh, to hell with it. Adriano inspires such vituperation, such unimaginably offensive insults, that I wonder if he’ll find scores much harder to come by in the second half of the season. I feel he could mash his opponents skulls in with a steel can and still not win. The world title will runaway from him, again, no matter how hard he he shoots out his hind legs.
6. Owen Wright
J-Bay result: 13
WSL rating: 5 (-2)
Key question: Has he got more than lefthand reefs?
Second last at Snapper, second last at J-Bay, fair to middling results at Margaret River, Rio and Bells, and wins Fiji (with stained undershorts).
You see the pattern? Lefthand reefs are to Owen what a bowl of warm gruel is to a grateful refugee.
So let’s count the remaining events: Trestles (youch), Teahupoo (like glove!) Hossegor (maybe, if big), Portugal (size needed) and Pipe (hell gonna bust loose). Two possible wins, a handful of average results.
Where’s that going to lead us? Top three, possibly a runner-up if he can gallop past Mick.
7. Kelly Slater
J-Bay result: 3
WSL rating: 6 (-1)
Key question(s): Is Kelly going to de-horn that board of his? And can he maintain in small beachbreaks?
You could watch Slater at various points of the season and think, oowee, it looks like he’s covered in dust, or, wow, I ain’t seen him this fresh since his last world title year. Kelly’s saddled up a lot of boards over the years but the move back to a rockered, narrow board has resulted in the inconsistency y’tend to see when a surfer, anyone, even Kelly, tries to get off what we tend to incorrectly call fishes.
At Margarets we saw how hard he can push a rail when he’s on a board that doesn’t need to be nursed; same at J-Bay. Teahupoo and Pipe are great for Kelly, maybe France, if there’s swell, but Portugal ain’t gonna be pretty. Trestles could swing either way. Like me after two am!
8. Taj Burrow
WSL rating: 8 (-2)
Key question: Honestly, can he be bothered?
You could never accuse Taj of looking old, of facing extinction. But there does come a time in a man’s life when, after 18 years of doin’ the same thing, y’think, is there anything else?
Since 2002, Taj has never finished worse than ninth. That’s a career with horns. Taj’ll miss Hossegor (a potential result) because he’ll have a kid poking its head out of mammy.
Does he care? About the kid, sure, about missing autumn in France? Not quite so much.
9. Wiggolly Dantas
J-Bay result: 9
WSL rating: 13 (+4)
Key question: Will he die of exhaustion given his arduous qualifying program?
So far this year, Wiggolly, the 25 year-old Brazilian rookie, has entered eleven events, including five qualifiers. He ain’t going to give up his CT shot easily.
What is constant in history is that the triers (see Adriano de Souza) will always push their chips forward over natural, but lazy, talents. Wiggolly rides a wonderful horse but how long before all that airline travel makes him smell rank and sweaty?
10. Gabriel Medina
J-Bay result: 5
WSL rating: 15 (+5)
Key question: Is the boot off Gabriel’s neck?
Do you remember that wave at J-Bay when we saw the boot come off the world champ’s neck, if briefly? One decent huck, though nothing particularly special, a five-five if the ride had terminated there, but then Gabriel reminded us why he became the second-youngest world champion in history, and Brazil’s first, when he loosed his wings and just… greased… the landing.
A little reminder that Filipe ain’t the only Brazilian on the catwalk. Even though his world title defence has gone to hell, Gabriel will win an event, maybe two, and finish top five.