- WSL / Ed Sloane
- WSL / Ed Sloane

With a few weeks to go before the Corona Open J-Bay kicks off in South Africa, our number crunchers have been busy diving into their spreadsheets looking to extract pieces of information that can reveal what is going on underneath. To keep their heads down, we asked a simple one: How are each of the current Top 5 surfers doing this year compared to the same point in the season last year? To that end, here's what the numbers are telling us so far, and our read into it.

Road to the Final: Matt Wilkinson
Matt Wilkinson makes the Fiji Pro Final for the second year in a row.

No. 1 Matt Wilkinson

2016 points: 32,500
2017 points: 26,750
Differential: -5,750
Here's a good case of where the numbers only tell part of the story. While on the surface Wilko's pace is significantly shy of his 2016 run, peers and pundits are all saying his ascent to the top of this year's Jeep Leaderboard is built around a much stronger foundation that appears more sustainable. His back-to-back wins in Australia last year bolstered his numbers in a big way. Both, however, were won on the strength of his inverted backside attack. This year he's looking much more well rounded. While Wilko has left Fiji for the second year in a row with the Jeep Leader jersey, he did so this year while gaining ground on his competitors.

A League of His Own: John John Florence at Main Break
The reigning World Champion delivered a jaw-dropping exhibition on Saturday.

No. 2 John John Florence

2016 points: 23,500
2017 points: 26,500
Differential: +3,000
In 2016 John John Florence had a single victory during the first five events, just like he has this year. The big difference with John seems to be two things. No. 1 is the quality of his Margaret River win vs. his win during last year's Oi Rio Pro. While the Rio win highlighted his aerial acrobatics, at Margaret's he turned in one of the best wire-to-wire performances in pro surfing history with five of his heats scoring in the near-perfect range of 19 total points or better. All the while, he re-wrote the book on what rail surfing looked like in big, meaty conditions. But the more dangerous thing about John this year has been his consistency. Yes, he's had two 13th place finishes in a row, but he endured the same fate last year in Australia. The mathematical difference this year is that he's turned two 5th place results into two in 3rd place.

Jordy Smith is Fired Up
The big kid from South Africa is putting all the right things in place for the World Title run.

No. 3 Jordy Smith

2016 points: 16,000
2017 points: 26,150
Differential: +10,150
In 2016 Jordy Smith was feeling healthy for the first time in a long time. The big South African had been suffering from an incredible string of injuries that took a heavy toll on his motivation. His only hope for the year was that his health would hold up...the rest would come naturally. Well, while Jordy got a runner-up finish at Bells in 2016, his next best result during the first half of last year was a 9th at Margaret River. Smith, you'll recall, ended up finishing No. 2 last year. This year, Jordy is more than just healthy. He's happy, and his surfing is looking dangerous heading into an event that he's won twice before.

Why You Should Never Doubt Adriano de Souza
The former World Champ doesn't own any record setting stats at Bells, but he's still one of the best.

No. 3 Adriano de Souza

2016 points: 20,400
2017 points: 26,150
Differential: +5,750
Last year at this time Adriano was the defending World Champion, and a new husband to boot. It was the perfect year for the Brazilian battler to exhale a bit, and enjoy the fruits of his very hard labor. But anyone who knows De Souza knows that resting is not his thing. His peace resides in his process. It's impossible to be a World Champion and a new husband without the process being a little disturbed, and that's okay. This year, however, it's back to work. Adriano is right back to where he wants to be, well ahead of last year's pace, and lurking threateningly in the shadows.

The Wright Family Shares Their Amazing "Australian Story"
A leading news magazine show Down Under pulls the curtain back on the famous siblings.

No. 3 Owen Wright

2016 points: Injured
2017 points: 26,150
Differental: +26,150
There's really not much more that can be said about the incredible feat that this man has pulled off. At this point last year, Owen Wright was learning how to surf all over again. Though he could barely stand up during his first few sessions, nobody could wipe the smile off his face. While family, friends, doctors and sponsors were more consumed with his longterm well-being and pleading with Owen to take things slow, something inside him clicked. The surfing was helping the healing, and vice-versa. The rest is one of the greatest comeback stories in surfing history. Given what Owen Wright has lived through, and how well he's surfing these days, you'd be crazy to bet against him.

The Corona Open J-Bay runs from July 12-23.

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