In 2019, the Margaret River Pro was only the fourth stop of the Championship Tour schedule, but as things turned out, it held plenty of World Title implications. From John John Florence and Lakey Peterson's memorable wins, to a terrifying run of swell at The Box and all the important moments in between, the comp truly was one for the books. Here are the five waves the Margaret River Pro changed the course of the World Title race last year:
John John Stays Hot
By the time he took the podium at Margaret River, John John Florence was in complete control of the World Title race. With two wins in four events to his credit, he was on pace to runaway with his third Title. In his return to competition after being sidelined with a knee injury in 2018, Florence got the ball rolling with a third-place finish the on the Gold Coast before a statement-making win in huge conditions at Bells. He stumbled in Bali, but snapped back into for in West Oz-a location he's long held in high regard.
The 2019 final was a replay of the 2017 Final in which Florence faced off against, and beat, lifelong rival Kolohe Andino. Clearly in form, Florence tallied a 9.50 and 9.0 in the heat.
Unfortunately, in the quarterfinals of the next event, Florence would re-injure his knee and his season would be over. He was so far ahead in the ratings at the time that he still managed to finished the season ranked seventh and qualify for the Olympic Games.
Lakey Gets Her Win
West Oz had been a location that Lakey Peterson had been trying to at for years, but it wasn't until 2019 that she enjoyed her breakthrough moment. Scoring her first win of the season, her performance at Main Break set her up for another epic, year-long World Title race.
The win at Margaret River was as much a mental accomplishment as it was a physical one. Peterson met power with power in the raw conditions, pushing her rail through impossible arcs. In the Quarters she took out Stephanie Gilmore, followed by Carissa Moore in the Semis, and by the time she took on Tatiana Weston-Webb in the Final her confidence was, as they say, over the moon.
Moore would get Peterson back in the Final at J-Bay. The next win of Peterson's 2019 campaign came at the Surf Ranch. She'd go on to put in a solid run in Europe, but ultimately ended the year ranked third in the world, one spot out of Olympic qualification.
Italo's First Wave
Italo Ferreira had admittedly never surfed The Box before paddling out for his Round of 32 heat against Soli Bailey in pulsing conditions. The first heat of the day, they would be the test pilots. Ferreira put all questions to rest on his very first wave.
Negotiating the offshore winds and the stair steps in the face of the wave on his backhand, he made the drop without having to lay a hand on his rail. Pulling up into the belly of the beast, he came flying out into the channel, pumping his fists in the air. The judges gave him an 8.17 for the ride, which probably would have been higher later in the day but they couldn't blow their scale on the first wave of the first heat of a day that was full of excellent scoring rides.
Carissa Finds Her Groove
Carissa Moore goes into every event expecting to win, and while she lost to Lakey Peterson in the Semifinals it was a by a mere 0.17 of a point. It was the kind of performance she could be proud of, and one that set her up to make her historic run at a fourth World Title.
Moore started the 2019 season with a runner-up finish to Caroline Marks on the Gold Coast, but by her standards, she struggled to find her footing at Bells and Bali. Finishing fifth in both events, she didn't come into the Margaret River comp as a clear World Title favorite - nor did she leave the favorite.
But then she went down to Brasil and finished second, followed by her first event win of the year at J-Bay. She was off to the races after that. Another event win and three more Semifinal appearances sealed the deal on her fourth title.
Jack Robinson Rises
Jack Robinson's reputation as one of the world's premier barrel riders had been cemented long before he got a wildcard into the Margaret River Pro, but never before had so many fans around the world seen what he was capable of in 30 minutes. With The Box firing, Robinson's local knowledge and comfort at the heaving slab served him well. He put together the heat of the round, earning an 18.57 score to Filipe Toledo's 6.73. It was the moment that Robinson had been waiting his whole life for. Against one of the best surfers in the world his mastery of The Box was indisputable.