With the last empty tasses de café still dirty in Aquitaine, the surfers of the Men's Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour are on to the polished cobblestone streets of Portugal for the Moche Rip Curl Pro. The women, meanwhile, have a break before convening again in November for the palm-laden Target Maui Pro. With two and one events left this season, respectively, the battles for surfing's most prestigious prize are heating up.
There have been plenty of years in the past where winners have been decided in Europe. But there's nothing better for surf fans than when kings and queens are crowned in Hawaii. Here's a closer look at who's in the running, and what to expect from them in their final events. (See the detailed World Title scenarios with who needs what to win, here.)
WOMEN'S WORLD TITLE RACE:
Carissa Moore (HAW)
Moore, who is from Hawaii and rides for Target, is coming home to surf a contest in Hawaii sponsored by Target. It's safe to say that she'll feel comfortable when the horn goes off. She's the rare athlete who flawlessly balances being a sweet and genuine young woman with an unflinchingly competitive side; it's not an easy thing to achieve. If Moore makes the Final in Maui, she wins the Title outright. If by some freak chance she bombs out before the Quarterfinals, then Courtney Conlogue (USA) only needs to make the Semifinals to win her first World Title.
Should the North Pacific start throwing huge north/northwest sets at Honolua Bay, Moore's biggest challenge would be facing the fearless Tyler Wright (AUS). Wright's potential role as a Title spoiler was underscored further by her win last week at the Roxy Pro France, where she seemed to find her footing.
Courtney Conlogue (USA)
For as big a role as California has played in the surf world, the last time California had a World Champ, man or woman, was before Conlogue was born, much less dreaming of a World Title. (Californian Tom Curren won his last of three Titles in 1990, but no one has followed up since.) A native of the Golden State, there's something extra riding on a World Title for Conlogue.
What she has going for her is some of the best rail work on the Women's Tour, which is a must at Honolua Bay. Conlogue has displayed razor-focus this year, but she's never had the experience of being in a Title race before, which is a big factor. If Moore makes the Semifinals in Maui, Conlogue has to win the Target Maui Pro to take the Title. And here's an interesting scenario: If Moore loses in the Quarters and Conlogue takes runner-up in the event, the two would have to have a surf-off to determine the World Title after the final. Talk about exciting finishes.
MEN'S WORLD TITLE RACE:
Mick Fanning (AUS)
The only way anyone besides Fanning or Adriano de Souza (BRA) wins the World Title is if they both finish in 25th place in the final two events. (For argument's sake, Owen Wright (AUS) and Julian Wilson (AUS) are ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.) In short, it comes down to these two models of consistency, who are in a very tight race.
Fanning has already won three Titles and comes into the Moche Rip Curl Pro with 49,900 points on the Jeep Leaderboard. His commitment to fitness and homework raised the professional aspect of pro surfing to the next level for the whole Tour. There are no kinks in the armor of his mental game. Once you've had the kind of experience that he's had this year, there are few things that rattle your cage.
Add to all that the fact that he's won in Portugal twice already, in 2009 and 2014. He has proven his ability to muscle out of the shifty barrels when it's tubing and crush turns when it's not. But Fanning cannot clinch the Title in Portugal unless he wins this event and De Souza loses early on in the contest.
Adriano de Souza (BRA)
De Souza has been on the Championship Tour since 2006 and despite strong finishes, has never come this close to a World Title. Going into the contest in Portugal, he's ranked World No. 2 and has 49,450 points. And while it's nice to go down in history as the guy who kicked down the door for the next wave of Brazilians, it's nicer to add a World Title to that legacy. His predictability is constantly brought up, but he doesn't (and shouldn't) make apologies for his that.
The bottom line is that he doesn't back down; he's made three Finals and two Semifinals this year. But even if he sets Portugal on fire for the win and Fanning uncharacteristically falls early, this title race is going to Hawaii.