Hot off the press from the WSL's crack team is the latest 2017 World Title chase scenario. Following Gabriel Medina's win at the Quiksilver Pro France, leading into stop No. 10 of the Championship Tour, the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, here are the eight remaining World Title contenders: John John Florence, Jordy Smith, Gabriel Medina, Owen Wright, Matt Wilkinson, Julian Wilson, Adriano de Souza and Filipe Toledo.
Of those eight surfers listed, only defending World Champ John John Florence can clinch the '17 Title in Peniche, Portugal. After Smith's Round Three exit at the hands of local wildcard Marc Lacomare in France, a cagey Florence told the WSL, "I'm focused on myself, not him [Smith], it's good for me that he lost out."
That he's been focused on retaining his Title would be an understatement. Florence now has 36 heats this season with 9+ single wave scores, including four in France, three of which had multiple 9+ scores.
And still a back-to-back Title win remains in doubt, with Smith and Medina the most obvious threats to his crown. Smith, for his part, has an excellent track record at Supertubos, generally the location of the Meo Rip Curl Pro through the years. He finished third last year and runner-up in 2014. Medina, surprisingly, does not have an outstanding record at his main sponsor's event, but a breakout performance seems more than overdue.
If Florence emerges victorious in Peniche -- which he did last year to seal his first World Championship --Smith will require at least a fifth-place finish in order for the World Title decision to go the Billabong Pipe Masters. Again, this is a location that plays to Florence's strength, a place where it doesn't really require a litany of backstory to explain his advantage. The guy literally grew up on the beach there. Yet he's never won a CT event at Pipe. Julian Wilson has. So has Adriano de Souza. Now, that's a trivia question that could win a person a nice chunk of cash if applied correctly.
Digging even deeper, if Florence gets runner-up in Portugal, Smith needs to at least get into Round Five and walk with a 9th. Medina, Wright and Wilkinson would then need to win in Portugal to stay in the chase. Extrapolating even further, if Florence places third or worse at the Rip Curl Pro, the Title hunt goes to Hawaii even if Smith can't get out of Round Two.
So what does it all mean? If you're a Florence fan, you're rooting for John to win in Peniche. If you're a fan of any other Title chaser or just want it to all to shake out on the North Shore at the Banzai Pipeline, you'll be hoping John doesn't make the Final in Portugal.
In the end, no matter what side you're standing on, things are going to get nervy in Portugal.