Pat O'Connell, World Surf League Senior Vice President of Tours & Competition and former Championship Tour surfer, recently sat down with the host of the Lineup, Dave Prodan.

Here are Pat's five observations in regards to the 2021 season after watching the recent WSL Countdown Series, which provided a sneak peak of what's to come.

Italo Is Ready To Go

During the European leg of the Countdown Series Italo Ferreira was on fire.

"He has found a way to keep us entertained all of 2020" said O'Connell.

In fact, Pat says he's "probably the most interesting surfer in the world right now," regarding his latest edits and contest performances.

Italo dropped a string of hot edits over the extended offseason, blew up at the Onda do Bem in Brasil and then hopped on a plane, to Europe, where he continued to dominate in the European Countdown Series events.

ANGLET, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 23: WSL Champion Italo Ferreira of Brazil winning Heat 2 of the men's Elimination Round of the French Rendezvous of Surfing event on September 23, 2020 in Anglet, France. (Photo by Damien Poullenot/World Surf League via Getty Im WSL Champion Italo Ferreira of Brazil winning Heat 2 of the men's Elimination Round of the French Rendezvous of Surfing event on September 23, 2020 in Anglet, France. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

The Format Worked At The Ranch

During the Rumble at the Ranch last August, O'Connell found that the heat formats worked.

"Man-on-man heats with four waves a person and after every eight waves someone wins or looses," Pat says. "On the surfing side, one person that stood out was Caroline Marks, who looked fantastic. She looked really really tuned in. Kelly looked wild and amazing. Every time you watch him he is so flexible you forget that he is in his late 40s."

FRESNO, CA - AUGUST 9: Caroline Marks of the United States surfing in the semi-finals of the Michelob PURE Ultra Rumble at The Ranch at The Surf Ranch on August 9, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kenny Morris/World Surf League via Getty Images) Caroline Marks dominating a left at the 2020 Rumble at the Ranch specialty event in Lemoore, California. - WSL / Kenny Morris

Gabriel Medina Has Kept Us Waiting

Gabriel Medina has kept below the radar of the surf world for most of 2020.

"He's always playing a bit of a game. Him disconnecting for a bit has got a purpose" O'Connell said. "When we get things up and running again, it will be basically a year since we saw him last. He knows what he is doing. I just think that when he shows up, he's is going to drop some hammers."

He just dropped a new edit with Rip Curl earlier this week, and if it's anything to go off of, he's in prime form.

Gabriel Medina of Brazil won Heat 6 of Round 3 at the Billabong Pipe Masters at Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii. Gabriel Medina in the yellow Jeep Leader jersey at the Pipe Masters December of 2019. - WSL / Ed Sloane

Ewing Has Announced Himself As Someone To Watch

It was clear at the recent Tweed Coast Pro that Ethan Ewing's surfing had turned a corner.

"There is a lot of conversation around who the next Australians are. Ewing came in and said that he was in the conversation," Pat says.

Ewing has long been touted as one of the future stars of Australian surfing and it looks like he's primed to make good on the promise he's long shown when the Tour resumes.

Pat was also particularly impressed with the World Champions in the field, Stephanie Gilmore and Tyler Wright.

TWEED HEADS SOUTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Two-time WSL Champion Tyler Wright of Australia winning quarterfinal heat 3 of the Tweed Heads Pro to advance to the semifinals on September 14, 2020 in Tweed Heads South, Australia. (Photo by Matt Dunbar/World Australia's own Tyler Wright in support of the Black Lives Matter movement went on to win the 2020 Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast specialty event. - WSL / Matt Dunbar

The One Big Takeaway

Prodan had one final question for to Pat: What was your overall takeaway from the Countdown Series and the return of CT surfing?

"I would have liked to do more, but the way each region interacts with local authorities, some are harder to stand up than others. Leaning into what the Countdown Series was supposed to do: get us excited for the season starting. That was done."

And we couldn't agree more. Fans are excited for the return of the Championship Tour with high stakes and the world's best surfers competing on the worlds best waves. Listen to the entire episode of Pat O'Connell Talks About The Countdown Series Highlights On The Lineup below or wherever you get your podcasts.

Pat O'Connell Talks About The Countdown Series Highlights On The Lineup
08:06
Pat O'Connell breaks down the highlights and takeaways from the WSL Countdown events and plays the Time Machine from the '98 season.
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