- WSL / Kirstin
- WSL / Kirstin

Like so many a world title race, it will all come down to Pipeline in 2018.

World No. 1 Gabriel Medina will barrel into Hawaii with a head full of steam, while Julian Wilson and Filipe Toledo, locked in a tie for second, are in control of their destinies.

The scenario isn't overly complicated. It will be decided at surfing's most venerated proving ground, and ostensibly, one of the three title contenders needs to win the contest to hoist the trophy.

If Medina finishes 1st or 2nd in the Pipe Masters, he will win his second world title. Only if Medina finishes third or worse will Toledo or Wilson have a shot. If Medina finishes 3rd, one of them needs to win the contest to win the title. And if Medina finishes 5th or worse, Toledo or Wilson need to finish 1st or 2nd to claim the title. That's it.

Post Show Report: Title Race Not Over
Italo Ferreira claims his first-ever MEO Rip Curl Pro win in 2018. The WSL desk crew breaks down Finals day from Peniche.

Medina had the title in his grasp in Portugal, but after the aerial heroics of World No. 4 Italo Ferreira, he has more work to do before he can join John John Florence as the only other two-time men's world champion in contemporary surfing.

"Hopefully I can keep the rhythm," said Medina after falling to Ferreira in the semifinals at Supertubos. "Pipe is a wave that I really like, so I will focus on that. I'll go back home, relax a little bit, train, and go to Pipe."

Medina, Toledo and Wilson are certainly no strangers to having it all on the line on going into the North Shore season. In 2015, the trio were caught up in a six-surfer race for the title, which eventually went to Adriano de Souza.

Julian Wilson (AUS), the winner of the 2014 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. In 2014, Wilson became a Pipe Master and Triple Crown champ, while Gabriel Medina secured his first World Title. - WSL / Kirstin Scholtz

The year prior, in 2014, Medina won his first title, but Wilson was right there with him in the spotlight. The Sunny Coast surfer tempered the Brazilian festivities when we won the Pipe Masters and the Triple Crown the same day Medina was distinguished as the Brazil's first world champion. In flexing Pipe conditions, they went toe-to-toe against one another in the final. Splitting a peak in the dying moments of the heat, Wilson swooped the Hawaiian victory from Medina.

"It's the best day of my life, the best competitive day of my life," said Wilson.

To be sure, all three have had their hiccups. Going back to 2011, when Medina and Wilson first surfed the Pipe Masters, the Brazilian world champ is the most consistent. Besides two runner-up finishes, he's also holding a pair of quarterfinal appearances in his record. But the fact that he finished 13th in 2016 and 2013 may give Wilson and Toledo a glimmer of hope.

Highlights: Drama, Triumph at the 2014 Billabong Pipe Masters
The biggest moments from the big show at Pipe -- Wilson a Pipe Master, Medina a World Champ.

Both Wilson and Toledo have quarterfinal experience as well, but Wilson is carrying four 13th-place finishes, which is hard to ignore. And Toledo's record presents the biggest question mark. He first surfed the Pipe Masters in 2013, where he finished 25th. He didn't make it out of Round 2 last year either. His best finish to date is a 5th in 2014 -- the year Wilson and Medina stole the show.

Every world title race is different, and every showdown at Pipe comes with its own drama. But when the final sprint for the 2018 title goes down, Medina may have the edge. Toledo and Wilson are most definitely still in the hunt, but will require peak performances to prevail.

World Surf League
Download it for free on the App store. Download it for free on Google Play.