Tomorrow, the waiting period for the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro France will kick off in Hossegor, a resort town north of Biarritz. With major Title implications on the line, and only two more events of the season remaining, nerves and anxieties are growing apparent. On the men's side, Filipe Toledo currently holds the Jeep Leader Jersey but he is being closely followed (and hunted) by fellow Brazilian Gabriel Medina. On the women's side, Stephanie Gilmore holds the No.1 spot and if she continues on track, she could claim the Title in the coming weeks.
"There's a World Title on the line which is scary but it fires me up. I thrive off of that," said Gilmore. "France is where a lot of things culminate. I've found a type of clarity this year that's allowed me to really enjoy what I do. I get a kick out of going to contests and dragging my stuff around the world. Lakey thinks that I have all the pressure on me this event but I don't see it that way. If I win another World Title that would be sick but it's all icing on the cake at this point."
World No. 2 Lakey Peterson is the only surfer currently in a position to stop Stephanie Gilmore from claiming her 7th World Title in France. The Californian sits 6,915 points below Gilmore.
"This event always gets set apart because there's a lot of pressure," said current Word No. 2 Lakey Peterson. "France seems to have this intensity about it, similar to Snapper. At this point though, I don't feel like I have that much to lose. Steph has a lot to lose because she's trying to maintain that No.1 position. I was talking about it with Mike Parsons (coach) the other day and it's pretty crazy because if you would've told me last year that I would be in this position going into France, I would've been so excited about it. So I'm just trying to keep that in mind and enjoy it."
"My strategy right now is just to stay ahead of everyone," said World No. 1 Filipe Toledo. This late in the year, the Title race has taken shape so you just want to do better than the other guys in the top 5. I'm in a good position right now. I waited a long time to get hold of the Jeep Leader Jersey and I don't want to let it go."
While Toledo is handling the pressure with ease, Medina is looking fired up after winning the last two events - at the Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o and Surf Ranch Pro. He also was ranked World No. 2 at the end of last year and is no stranger to the Title race pressure.
"I won the last two competitions and that inspires me even now," said Gabriel Medina. "It gets me fired up. And I love the waves here. I'm not putting a lot of pressure on myself, I just want to surf well. The last 4 years, I've been fighting for the title. Last year I was in Hawaii fighting for the Title, so I'm used to this type of pressure. I'm trying to stay in the zone and not think about any of the other competitors. I want to surf smart and take it easy. If I do the same thing I've done in the last few comps...I'll make it to the top."
While having somewhat inconsistent results this year, Frenchwoman Johanne Defay is currently ranked No. 6 on the Championship Tour, which is already better than her 2017 campaign. She also won an event back in June, at the Uluwatu CT.
"This time of the year is always exciting," said Defay. "And to be in France with everyone speaking French...it makes me feel good. This year has been a bit weird, results wise, but mentally I'm feeling really strong. I'm learning how to accept winning or losing and it takes me less time to recover from it."
Jeremy Flores has been visiting Hossegor all his life and has a massive fan base backing him here. And despite the ever-changing conditions, Flores is looking to break the Quarterfinal barrier in the coming weeks.
"The banks here are always changing," said Jeremy Flores. I came here right after Surf Ranch so I've been here for a few weeks and it's been different every day. That's why I think guys like Medina are so successful here. They're able to adapt to the changes really quickly. For me, and a lot of other guys, it's the hardest event on Tour. This is the only event that I've never been able to make it to the Quarterfinals. But then again I grew up here and I love it here."
While the seasoned veterans prepare for tomorrows start, a few wildcards are set to make their debut.
The WSL wildcard for France will be Jorgann Couzinet, who is now the highest French surfer on the Qualifying Series after the EDP Ericeira QS 10,000 last week. The Quiksilver wildcard will be Australian Mikey Wright.
The injury replacements will be Miguel Pupo, Wiggolly Dantas and Ryan Callinan, who after his first place finish at the EDP Ericeira QS 10,000 is now the highest ranked QS surfer not in the event.
The Roxy wildcard is the current World Junior Champ Vahine Fierro. Injury replacements are Frenchwoman Pauline Ado and Australian Macy Callaghan.
Check back tomorrow for the call at 7:45 am. CEST and watch live daily on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.