- WSL / Ed Sloane
- WSL / Ed Sloane

The Chase is On

It's very early days on the 2017 Championship Tour, and there's still a ton of time left for the pack to shake out, but after Stop No. 3 at Bells Beach, the Australian endurance test is over, which means it's a great time to dive into the Jeep Leaderboard to decipher who's hot and who's not.

Air Aces
John John Florence edges Mick Fanning with a big aerial in their Quarterfinal Heat.

At the top of the heap, John John Florence is still clearly the man to catch. Jordy Smith was able to gain a little ground on the Jeep Leader with his big win at Bells, where he pulled even with Owen Wright in the No. 2 spot. Smith managed to shuffle the Top Five deck, too, as Kolohe Andino dropped two slots to No. 5. Adriano de Souza crept past Andino too with another solid 5th place finish.

Jordy Smith at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. He can no longer be called one of the best to never ring the bell. Jordy Smith, Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Champ. - WSL / Sherm

Florence, Smith and Adriano de Souza have all won the Rio event in the past six years. They'll be the heavy favorites in the run-up to the Oi Rio Pro, May 9-20. The event's new location, Saquarema, should be an upgrade in wave quality (and safety) over the old location at Rio's Barra Beach. The left point (and reform right) at Saquarema is downright bucolic compared to Barra's more urban feel.

What's With the Champs?

On the flipside is the Gabriel Medina/Kelly Slater/Mick Fanning group -- with 15 World Titles shared among the proud trio. Shockingly, all three sit outside the Top 10 after the Australian leg. Slater's been the most consistent of the three Title hopefuls, but 13ths are not keepers when you're gunning for a World Title.

3X World Champion Mick Fanning of Australia finished equal 5th after placing second in Quarterfinal Heat 1 at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater clashed early at Bells Beach. - WSL / Ed Sloane

Medina, who finished third in Rio last year and loves being home in comfortable surroundings, might have the most to gain with a good result in Brazil. The love and adulation of an unwavering fan base will no doubt bolster his confidence and comfort level.

Medina likes to start on the inside, but I like to start on the inside, too. -- Frederico Morais, following his strategic win over Gabriel Medina in Round Three at Bells

Fanning's season is perhaps the most perplexing. Sure, he ran into a buzzsaw in the form of JJF at Bells and still walked away with a 5th. But his 13th at the Quik Pro on his home turf was a head-scratcher. Fanning's Titles have all come on the backs of a quick start at Snapper, the opening event of the year. He's not out of it by a long shot, but sitting No. 19 after the Australian leg can't be how he imagined his return to the CT and hunt for a fourth championship crown.

3X World Champion Mick Fanning of Australia placed second Heat 2 of Round Four at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in 6 - 8 foot conditions at Bells Beach. While not insurmountable, Mick Fanning's got a significant World Title mountian to climb. - WSL / Ed Sloane

Leading into the ‘17 Aussie leg, Julian Wilson and Smith were two popular picks for new additions the Title race. Smith picked up right where he left off last year. Wilson, however, is currently mired in a "surfed-good-enough-to-win-but-didn't" funk. His post-heat loss interview at Bells seemed positive in the face of potential negativity, but he'll need to keep his head up and not fall prey to a pity-party trap.

This group's current rankings speak volumes about the challenge they all face:

Medina, No. 11
Slater, No. 13
Wilson, No. 16
Fanning, No. 19

Big Movers

Things are much more fluid outside of the Top Five. Caio Ibelli, by virtue of his runner-up finish at Bells, jumped up twelve spots to No. 7. With a pair of 13ths and a Final appearance under his belt after the Aussie leg, the young Brazilian is looking good to follow up strongly on his Rookie of the Year award in 2016. No sophomore slump here.

Wiggolly Dantas of Brazil placed second in Heat 4 of Round Four at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in 6 - 8 foot conditions at Bells Beach. It's the aftermath of turns like these that get the most attention. Wiggolly Dantas, human fire hose. - WSL / Ed Sloane

A rookie and a vet -- Zeke Lau and Wiggolly Dantas -- had the next biggest leap up the rankings, both surfers gaining 11 spots. Lau, following his Semifinal showing at Bells, sits just outside the Top 10 at No. 11 alongside Gabriel Medina. Dantas, who surfed brilliantly at Bells, went from No. 34 to No. 23, tucked neatly in front of a five-pack of surfers sharing No. 24.

Caio Ibelli advanced directly to the Quarterfinals after winning Heat 1 of Round Four at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in 6 - 8 foot conditions at Bells Beach. Caio Ibelli owns a 3-to-1 head-to-head record over John John Florence. Is it the most surprising stat of the year? - WSL / Ed Sloane

Looking for a Rebound

Where there are winners, there are going to be some losers. Conner Coffin and Jack Freestone both dropped eight spots after disappointing 25th-place results at Bells. Coffin is still inside the Top 20 at No. 15, behind two solid showings at Snapper and Margie's. Freestone, too, is inside the Top 20, mainly on the back of a third place at Margaret River.

Zeke's Priority Interference Call Explained
A rarely used interference call caused an uproar during the Quarterfinals. Then something even more rare happened: it was overturned.

Jack's now holding two 25ths after only three events, he'll need to be more consistent if he doesn't want a repeat of his down-to-the-wire re-qualification dramatics on the North Shore in 2016. Last year, Conner limped out of Brazil with a Round Two elimination at the hands of Michel Bourez. This time around, he'll be looking to improve on that result

World Surf League
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