CT surfers might not be able to win a Title in Hawaii this year, but could they lose one? With the CT season for men and women kicking off at Pipeline and Honolua Bay, we take a deep dive into the data from the last decade and see how crucial the first event is to finishing as No. 1.
For 2019 World Champion Italo Ferreira his title season couldn't have started any better. His win at the first event of the year, the Quik Pro on the Gold Coast, set the tone for his maiden World Title.
Of course, you don't have to clinch the first event to guarantee success, though it sure doesn't hurt. Gabriel Medina in 2014 and Kelly Slater in 2011 both kicked off the season with wins and never looked back.
If we look at the average placing of the eventual World Champion in the first CT event of the season over the last ten years it comes in at 4.4. Or close to a Semifinal finish. It was only Gabriel Medina in 2019, with a 13th at Snapper, and Kelly in 2010 with a 9th, who scored a non-counting result in their World Title points tally. In all the other years a good result proved crucial in winning surfing's ultimate prize.
However, it is worth noting that all these first events were held at Superbank. With the season now starting at Pipe, it could be said that recent history is largely irrelevant. Yet a look at the data reveals an even closer correlation between good results at Pipeline and a World Title.
The average Pipe finish across those ten years for the Word Champion drops down to 2.2, so let's call it a Final placing. In 2019 and 2018 Italo and Gabriel won both the Pipe Masters and the World Title, as did Adriano de Souza in 2015 and Joel Parkinson in 2012. John John Florence in 2017 and Medina in 2014 both made the Final at the Pipe Masters.
So history shows that you need a solid result at both Pipeline and the first event of the season to win a World Title. With this year those being one and the same, a good start has never been more crucial for any contenders.
In the Women's, there is even a higher connection between a good result in the season opener and World Title. Six out of the last ten World Champions have started with a victory, all though none since Tyler Wright in 2016. The average result is a tiny fraction just above second place for the decade.
The only surfers to recover from a slow start was Stephanie Gilmore in 2018 and Tyler Wright in 2017 when they both started with a fifth. Now, again, all these opening events were held at Snapper. Maui, which has hosted the finale since 2014, provides a different type of challenge.
However if history is anything to go by anyone with a real and credible desire to win a World Title will need to get to the back end of the events of both openers. It seems the stakes have never been higher.