Just like that, the 2015 Men's Samsung Galaxy Tour is close to an epic conclusion at one of surfing's most storied breaks. The final event of the year, the Billabong Pipe Masters, is surfing's biggest stage, where the world's best have put on incredible performances.
During this year's event, there are five competitors in the running for the World Title (there were six until Owen Wright (AUS) was injured Wednesday and withdrew from the contest): Mick Fanning (AUS), Julian Wilson (AUS), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Adriano De Souza (BRA) and Filipe Toledo (BRA). Just before the contest kicked off, the five contenders reflected on the unique paths they each took this season, and how they'll handle what could be the biggest contest of their lives.
"It's amazing. I knew at the start of the year who was going to be in the World Title race and that it was going to be a close one. The level on tour is just incredible. You can't sit there and walk into the Quarterfinals these days -- there's so many ups and downs. I've never been in a race with so many people and there's so many eyes to watch, it's exciting."
"With this contest there's just so many guys fighting for a World Title and it's so amazing to see their level of surfing. I'm really happy to see all these guys fighting with me to win it. Hoping to get some big barrels out here and just wishing the best to everyone."
"To be a World Title contender is totally different that being in a 20-spot but I feel good. I feel different now, I'm excited and super motivated as well as just really happy to be here. I can't wait to see how this is going to end."
Adriano de Souza
"I feel wonderful coming here. The last ten years this has been a dream just to sit here at Pipe and have a chance to win a World Title. All through the years I've watched the champs from the beach screaming and crying, and thinking someday I'll be here. It's really special with three Brazilians and three Aussies as well, it's going to be very exciting and can't wait to get started."
"I feel different. Last year I had a lot of pressure because I was leading and everyone was talking about it -- being the first Brazilian World Champ and just felt the pressure but this year I don't feel it at all. I just want to go out there and surf my best and I'm not thinking on a World Title, if it happens it happens."
"It's pretty special to be back here again. It's nice, the forecast is stacking up nicely and I'm just looking forward to get as barreled as possible and get that momentum going again. The Triple Crown isn't out of the question for me again this year so it's going to be a really fun event."
"I know exactly what I have to do in terms of making a few heats if someone doesn't. For me it's going out there and win the event. To still have a shot at it is a special thing and I'm looking forward to giving it everything I have -- hopefully take care of what I need to do and get a bit lucky."
Catch Fanning, Wilson, Medina, De Souza, Toledo and more take on surfing's biggest stage at this year's Billabong Pipe Masters, streaming live daily on the WSL website and the WSL app through Dec. 20.