Fans of professional surfing couldn’t have written a more dramatic script to end this year’s World Surf League tour.
After 10 events held in Australia, Brazil, the South Pacific, South Africa, California and Europe, the final competition — at the famed Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu — will begin Dec. 8, and it’s sure to be a doozy.
This year, four surfers have a shot at winning the WSL’s World Championship Tour: defending champion John John Florence, whose home is located on the beach at Pipeline; Gabriel Medina, a former world champ from Brazil; South African Jordy Smith; and Australian Julian Wilson, who won the 2014 Billabong Pipeline Masters.
These four have been trading wins back and forth across the globe all season, with Medina coming from seemingly nowhere to win the past two events in France and Portugal and put pressure on Florence as he tries to repeat as champion.
Most prognosticators are putting their money on Florence to finally win the event at his home break and clinch his second title. But because surf conditions vary greatly at the Pipeline event — from massive, heaving second-reef barrels that even frighten the best pro surfers to more likely A-frame tubes at Backdoor and Pipe — this year’s contest truly is up for grabs.
Which means, of course, that the world title is also in play. And there are few spectacles more dramatic than the best surfers battling it out at the last competition of the year at one of the more dangerous and heavy waves on the planet. Think Game 7 of the World Series or overtime in the Super Bowl. It’s going to be that kind of finish.
Added to the mix this year is the return of Kelly Slater, the 11-time world champion who broke his foot between heats in July at the Jeffreys Bay contest in South Africa and has been recuperating since. As of this week, Slater is in the heat draw at Pipe, and he has indicated he plans to surf the event. Given his prowess at the competition (he’s won it seven times), Slater could certainly upset one of the remaining title contenders.
There’s also more to the Hawaiian leg of the pro surfing tour than the single event at Pipeline. While that final contest is the only one that’s part of the World Championship Tour (WCT), there are two World Qualifying Series (WQS) events on tap at Haleiwa and Sunset Beach. Both of these contests are dramatic as well because surfers are battling to qualify for the championship tour, surfing’s major leagues.
The waiting period for the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa begins Sunday followed by the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach, which starts Nov. 25. These two events — along with the world tour event at Pipeline — comprise the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
If you’d like to check out the action at the Hawaiian contests, you can watch them live and for free on the World Surf League’s website, www.worldsurfleague.com.
TGSA Galveston Open postponed
The Texas Gulf Surfing Association announced Friday that the scheduled Galveston Open, which was set for the seawall this weekend, has been postponed until next weekend due to minimal surf conditions. Check the TGSA website at surftgsa.org to keep up to date on whether the contest will be a “go” Nov. 18-19.
Grand opening set for new Rise Surf Company
in Texas City
Longtime local surfer Mat Wyatt has announced that the grand opening for his new Rise Surf Company location at 1201 Sixth St., in Texas City, will be Nov. 17. You can learn more at www.risesurf.com.