The 2017 Championship Tour was chock full of amazing moments and outstanding performances. This list was not singularly based on perfect rides or highest total heat scores, however. That list would look quite a bit different. Rather, this compilation took into consideration a number of factors, including but not limited to context, location, tactics and the World Title hunt. Here are the five best performances of 2017, with excerpts of recaps and reporting at the time from WSL staff.
1. Filipe Toledo - Corona Open J-Bay
Total Heat Score: 19.00
Round Four, Heat 3
Def. Jordy Smith and Julian Wilson
Toledo's overall performance at J-Bay was a seismic paradigm shift in postmodern professional surfing. Over the course of a single event, Toledo forced everyone to reconsider how to surf one of the world's best waves. Not to mention, in Round Four against Smith and Wilson, he somehow figured out how to package a perfect heat into a single ride.
"After four of the most incredible days of competition this year, the Corona Open J-Bay came to a remarkable conclusion in pumping surf at Supertubes on Thursday, with Filipe Toledo taking the win in firing, eight-foot rights. This 2017 edition of this classic event, with all the drama, upsets and unbelievable performances will undoubtedly lock it into the history books as one of the best J-Bay has ever seen.
Let's just take a little look back at the incredible week that was, shall we?
Toledo, sporting green hair and all, was undoubtedly the best surfer of the week. Even Mick Fanning, J-Bay's best ever, doesn't even blink when he tells you Toledo is the fastest surfer in the world. That's some seriously high praise from the 3x World Champion, who's been carrying that torch for most of the last decade.
Toledo's speed is only the half of it, however. There's a vicious rail game, absurd air game, and a heavy dose of creative genius. His lines are fresh and new. And while rookie Frederico Morais put on an incredible show this week as well, Toledo delivered the total package this week. At times, he made the rest of the field look almost old-fashioned.
'I can't believe it,' he said. 'J-Bay is always a contest that's been my dream to win. To surf perfect waves like this that we did the entire contest. I've got to thank god for the amazing week that we've had. I've got my entire family here and supporting me. It's unbelievable and I'm speechless. I think I might leave my hair like this for the rest of the year.''
2. John John Florence - Drug Aware Margaret River Pro
Total Heat Score: 19.27
Def. Jack Freestone
If Toledo's J-Bay performance was a groundbreaking moment in above-the-lip surfing, Florence's absolute dismantling of Margie's was a reckoning of what the wave face still has to offer in this modern age. Riding his trusty Pyzel Ghost model, the 2x World Champ used the board's extra width in the nose to bury his rail in ways never seen before. It was complete dominance and utter brilliance at a wave most Tour surfers have yet to understand, let alone embrace.
"Truth be told nobody knew what to expect of John John Florence heading into this season. After his incredible run in 2016 (winning the Eddie, The Triple Crown, and the World Title) he certainly deserved to exhale. John John Florence's historic run at Margaret River won't soon be forgotten. Here's why. It would have been perfectly understandable if the new World Champ took his foot off the gas this season -- in fact many expected it from the low-key Hawaiian.
Newsflash: it's not happening.
As good as John's title run was last year, he was never as dominant as he was this week at Margaret River, where his heat totals at Main Break are now the stuff of legend. Round Three: 19.27, Round Four: 19.16, Quarterfinals: 18.04, Semifinals: 19:27, and in the Final, a 19.03.
Nobody on Tour is more comfortable in open-ocean lineups than Florence. His mastery of the lumpy and bumpy, the rips and rivers, the deep stuff, it's untouchable. Main Break's moodiness was giving most surfers a headache. Not Florence. It was a giant playground for him, with an uncanny resemblance to Pupukea rights, the wave in his backyard.
The reigning World Champion delivered a jaw-dropping exhibition on Saturday. The twisting and torquing, the snapping and carving, it was simply beyond anything else we've seen, not just from Florence, but from anyone, ever."
3. Jordy Smith - Corona Open J-Bay
Total Heat Score: 20.00
Round Three, Heat 7
Def. Leonardo Fioravanti
The only thing keeping Jordy Smith's perfect heat from topping this list is that it came so early in the event. However, it would be imprudent not to keep it in the top three of the year. Smith joined an exclusive club made up of just a handful of surfers over the 40-plus years of pro surfing. That he did it in classic conditions on a world-class wave in front of his home nation -- on Nelson Mandela Day, no less -- makes it all the more special.
"The Corona Open J-Bay woke up to absolutely flawless conditions and ran through the all-important third round of competition and two heats of the fourth. Surfers once again raised the bar and delivered mind-boggling performances, including the seventh perfect heat in WSL history by none other than hometown hero Jordy Smith.
The action at Jeffreys Bay was almost too much to handle today, as 10-point rides came raining down. Smith took the lineup by storm in his Round Three matchup with rookie Leonardo Fioravanti. He started (relatively) slow, with a high 6 and two scores above 8 before finding perfection with a series of massive carves for his first 10. Clearly not satisfied yet, the South African continued and found another big set wave to perform his power carves for a second perfect 10-point ride, writing history as he dropped the first perfect heat ever surfed at Jeffreys Bay.
‘It feels absolutely phenomenal,' he said. 'Just be to here at J-Bay where the waves are firing and to have that opportunity is incredible. This heat I was just fortunate to get the bombs. I couldn't believe it and I was really fortunate to get that. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get a Perfect 20 and to get it here at J-Bay makes it extra special.'"
4. Julian Wilson - Billabong Pro Tahiti
Total Heat Score: 18.96
Def. Gabriel Medina
The best rivalry on Tour may be the one no one's really talking about: Wilson vs. Medina. And their Finals clash at Teahupo'o featured the year's most dramatic comeback -- a knockdown, drag-out, contentious barnburner. These two have a habit of meeting in the Final, and it typically makes for some compelling theater.
"Showing the grit, skill and determination of street fighter, Julian Wilson came back from combination to defeat Gabriel Medina in an epic Final at the 2017 Billabong Pro Tahiti. Wilson started his comeback with a late, air-drop-entry-to-tuberide that scored 9.23. He was back in the heat. After Medina caught three straight closeouts, Wilson found his opportunity. Typically, the Brazilian puts his opponents under intense pressure, squeezing the life out them like an Amazonian Anaconda. But he left the door ajar for Wilson this time, and the Aussie exploited it.
With five minutes remaining, he stroked into a solid set wave, pulled into a deep tube and emerged after the spit. For his effort he was awarded a 9.73. The score was more than enough to seal the win; he'd saved the best for last. Amazingly, Wilson's last two rides of the Final were his two highest-scoring rides of the entire event. Call it clutch, call it mana, call it whatever you want, Wilson was now a Billabong Pro Tahiti champion."
5. Gabriel Medina - Quiksilver Pro France
Total Heat Score: 16.40
Def. John John Florence
Gabriel Medina's total heat score is not particularly noteworthy, yet his performance against Florence stands out for one significant reason: context. It was a heat he absolutely had to win, over the World No. 1 and main Title rival, in order to keep any World Title dreams alive. It spoke volumes for his intent.
"The best rivalry on the Championship Tour was renewed today at the Quiksilver Pro France. For the third time in four years Medina eliminates John John Florence at Hossegor, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Gabriel Medina vs. John John Florence remains surfing's marquee matchup in this era. Aesthetically and professionally, of course, the chasm between the two is nearly imperceptible, both surfers at the top of the game technically and tactically, not to mention their otherworldly talent. And with Florence's position as the reigning World Champ, popular perception might put the Hawaiian out front.
But dive deeper and you'll find Medina has owned Florence in head-to-head matches since their Championship Tour arrival in 2011. Medina came firing out of the gate that year, earning the first of his three Quiksilver Pro wins as a rookie. Only three years later he was World Champion. And while John earned his first World Title last year heading into the 2017 season, Medina's owned Florence on paper with a 10-4 record."