Although Filipe Toledo wasn't in the hunt for a World Title last season, 2016 may have been the most important year of his life. Between battling injury and becoming a father, the 21-year-old Brazilian faced some major setbacks and milestones both in and out of the water. True to character, Toledo embraced it all -- and it showed in his surfing. Amid all the chaos, he still managed to finish the season ranked No. 10 on the Championship Tour.
But as many surf fans recall, Filipe didn't get the fairytale start he was after in Australia last March. Coming off his breakout season in 2015 where he won three CT events and finished the year ranked No. 4, the young Brazilian had a World Title squarely in his sights as soon as he hit the sand at Snapper. And then this happened…
During his Semifinal heat against Matt Wilkinson, an awkward landing on an otherwise routine air-reverse had major consequences. And when Toledo came up next to his board wincing in pain, everyone knew something was wrong. Amazingly, he continued to surf through the agony, but as soon as the buzzer sounded he went straight to the medical tent.
Despite his solid third place finish at Snapper, Toledo's resulting groin injury forced him to bow out of the next two events at Bells and Margaret River -- a crushing blow to his World Title hopes. With his two throwaway results accounted for, Filipe couldn't afford any major slip-ups for the rest of the year.
Following his rehab, it took Toledo a few events to regain his high-caliber competitive form. During his first event back in Brazil -- and still not surfing at 100 percent -- the defending Oi Rio Pro Champ managed a commendable 9th place result. But it was only a matter of time before he bounced back.
And after his injury at Snapper, Filipe finally got his right-point revenge at J-bay and Trestles. Although the Brazilian has long been pegged as a progressive aerialist, Toledo's searing rail gouges have played a huge role in his success over the past few years. And at the J-bay Open, his quick, committed approach paired perfectly with the racing South African walls, as he carved his way to a Quarterfinal finish.
The Hurley Pro told a similar story, as the San Clemente transplant went to town at his new home break, Lower Trestles. Despite his smaller frame, he threw all his weight into each buttery section, keeping perfect pace with the slopey walls. And in an event plagued by wildcard upsets, no one could touch Toledo as he racked up a handful of 18-point plus heat totals before going down to Joel Parkinson in the Semis.
And who could forget his superheat in France with the 2016 World Champ himself, John John Florence. At the Quiksilver Pro France, however, Florence still didn't have his crown locked -- and Toledo didn't make life easy for him. During their Round Five air show, he upped the amplitude against Florence, nailing one of the best backside rotators ever witnessed in competition.
The pinnacle of Toledo's year, however, came in Portugal -- but not without considerable stress. Although CT surfers appear to have it easy surfing and traveling the world for a living, the nature of their job can also keep them from loved ones during their most critical moments. So, imagine being Filipe trying to compete in the MEO Rip Curl Pro knowing that half a world away in California his pregnant wife is about to go into labor. Surfing or not, that's about as heavy as it gets. Still, Toledo stayed poised through it all, and in the middle of the night, he watched via Facetime as his girlfriend Ananda Marçal gave birth to their beautiful daughter.
Of course, Filipe's new role as Dad will add a whole different degree of responsibility in his life. However, if we've learned anything about the high-energy Brazilian in 2016, it's that he can handle the extra challenge. So, between dirty diapers and sleepless nights, don't be surprised if he's right in the mix for a World Title in 2017.