"One way or another, Kelly always wins. He loves adversity and social media hate just makes the fire burn hotter. Kelly wants that Olympic spot so badly."
There are far too many men in the draw. This is the conclusion I am forced to reach as I read through the lengthy list.
In fact, I’m pretty sure some of these people are just random names included to confuse me.
Do they even surf?
I remain unconvinced.
I considered only writing about the top 12, because equality and all of that. I only wrote about 12 women.
Why do I have to get to know so very many men? But I didn’t want to disappoint you! I felt like you would be very sad if I did not write about every last one of these guys. Or if not you, then maybe their moms. (Hi mom!)
Here is part 1 of the extremely casual BeachGrit men’s power rankings. Please enjoy!
24. Kelly Slater. We have already talked at some length about the shenanigans involved in awarding Kelly a wildcard after he failed to make the cut. Either the cut matters or it doesn’t. Too bad if you’re just some guy trying to have a career: One way or another, Kelly always wins. He loves adversity and social media hate just makes the fire burn hotter. Kelly wants that Olympic spot so badly. But increasingly, his body is failing to match the powerful will that drives it. There’s only so long even the best athletes can stay at the top. Kelly’s clock is ticking down. Make the most of it, drink it in. The day slips away so fast.
23. The mysterious event seed! Feel free to imagine your own surfer here. He will go to Surf Ranch and hopefully make it beyond round 1. Or not.
22. Ian Gentil. A Maui boy, Ian quit surfing for three months at age 20. He’d spent his life until then chasing sponsors, making freesurfing videos, and trying to qualify for the CT. It turned out there was more to life than surfing and he says he returned with a more balanced perspective. Like most Maui surfers, Ian’s at home in heavy surf, wind, big barrels. Weak ass beachbreaks, not so much. Now 26, Ian managed to survive the cut in his first year on Tour, which is no small thing. His best results were a pair of ninths at Pipe and Portugal. Tahiti should be good to him.
21. Liam O’Brien. Nicknamed LOB, Liam is best known for breaking his ankle just before his rookie début at Pipe last year. In a solid display of resilience, he did his rehab and hit the Challenger Series. He says it took a long time for his ankle to recover, so it’s entirely possible we haven’t seen his best surfing yet. This year, he’s back on Tour after Morgan Cibilic fell short. LOB got off to a good start with a quarterfinal finish at Pipe where he lost to Caio. Thanks to the miracles of WSL seeding, he’s met Griff three times in early rounds, and lost each time. LOB survived the cut. Nowhere to go, but up.
20. Caio Ibelli. Somehow Caio got third at Pipe this year, and Leo Fioravanti beat him. That’s like the ultimate back end of the rankings cage match right there. Caio first qualified in 2016, and I’m not sure I’ve ever watched one of his heats. I mean, of course, I’ve watched heats he’s surfed. But I’ve never like, gone to the replays and pulled up a Caio heat just to see how it went for him. Maybe I should. Maybe I’m totally missing out.
19. Leonardo Fioravanti. At Pipe this year, Leo beat Jack Robinson in the final. When I read that result, I forgot for a minute how it actually happened. The final took place in shit small onshore surf. No barrel for you! Thanks to that result, Leo made the cut this year. Without it, he’d be looking at another trip to the Challenger Series. In his only trip to Lemoore, Leo finished ninth in 2021. He has a knack for pulling out one big result each year, and well, he almost won Pipe already this year. I’m not feeling hyped over here, is what I’m saying.
18. Rio Waida. A hard luck story, Rio grew up poor in Bali. In 2016 he won the Quik Young Guns event, a combo of video and real-life contest, which launched his career. He represented Indo at the Tokyo Olympics, and 2023 is his first year on Tour. In Portugal, Rio made the quarters where he went down to Jack Robinson. On Instagram, he described his round 1 heat against Gabby and Jordy as “the biggest heat of my life.” He also won it, and left Portugal ranked tenth. That was a high point. Australia wasn’t kind to him with two straight 33rds. Rio’s relentless positivity is extremely endearing. I hope he gets shacked out his mind in Teahupo’o this year.
17. Connor O’Leary. A consistent run of quarterfinal finishes sent Connor over the cut line this year. A goofy footer, his best results have come not surprisingly at Fiji (2017) and G Land (2022). His mom Akemo Karasawa surfed competitively in Japan and growing up his favorite surfer was Rob Machado. Surf Ranch has not been kind to him and he’s lost out early to both Medina and Griff. He’s powerful, but not super inspired or stylish. It’s was a surprise to me that he beat Yago at Margaret River when I rank Yago more highly here. I am not infallible.
16. Seth Moniz. Rookie of the Year in 2019, Seth was the last guy over the cut this time around. That says less about the Hawaiian’s surfing than it does about the lack of good waves on Tour so far this year. In 2022, he finished second to Kelly at Pipe in firing surf. Suck it, Leo. Seth says he surfs with Griff on the North Shore a fair amount, and he could use some of Griff’s knack for winning heats in less-than-awesome conditions. Seth’s a quality surfer in good waves, and if Tahiti turns on, he’ll shine. In 2019, he made the semis there. I don’t expect much from Seth at Surf Ranch, but I can’t hate him for that.
15. Barron Mamiya. A quarterfinal finish at Margaret River launched Barron over the cut after a lowkey first half of the season. His only appearance at Surf Ranch came in 2019 and he finished 17th, so he’s not going to suddenly spring up the rankings overnight. Barron’s career best result came last year when he won at Sunset as an injury replacement. A Hawaiian, he’s predictably at his best in good waves, which have been few and far between this year. Hopefully for all our sakes, it gets better. Surfing, it demands so much optimism.
14. Jordy Smith. Somehow Jordy is ranked higher than Italo, and I had to squint my eyes and read it twice to believe it. That’s not saying much, since he’s still down here in the teens somewhere. At least he made the cut. There are few people who can lay down a turn on a big, solid right better than Jordy. Lately, the Tour hasn’t featured those conditions all that often. In his two previous visits to Surf Ranch, he’s lost to Medina both times with a quarterfinal and ninth-place finish. Jordy’s been on Tour since 2010 and he won J-Bay in his first year. After blowing up young, how does a guy like Jordy stay motivated? Where’s the inspiration to throw down hard, put all the chips on the table, and try to win a world title? I wonder if even he knows the answer.
13. Callum Robson. At Portugal this year, Callum scored a sick barrel and a perfect ten. From Evans Head, a small town in Australia, Callum made the Australian Rural and Regional News for his performance. Callum first qualified in 2022. Unlike many first-timers, Callum survived the cut, thanks to a second at Bells where he went down to Filipe. No shame in that, by any means. He also made quarters at El Salvador and Brazil. Callum has power to burn, likes the barrel, and his freesurfing clips show some legit airs. His heat surfing still suffers from some inconsistency. At Sunset this year, for example, his wave choice let him down. He also wanted to barrel a little too badly. Who among us, etc. All these things take experience and seasoning. Callum’s made the cut two years in a row which ain’t nothing. Let’s see what happens next.
Part two, twelve through one tomorrow!