Over the course of the last two months, Championship Tour surfers have been challenged in Australia like never before. From the rippable, waist-high beach surf of Narrabeen to towering 20-footers at Margaret River, after four events unlike the Tour has ever seen, two names have endured and risen to the top: Gabriel Medina and Carissa Moore.
They emerge from the mega Aussie leg comfortably in yellow, both about 8,000 points ahead of their closest rivals. In a normal year they'd be running away with the World Title race, but 2021 is hardly a normal year.
With the introduction of the Rip Curl WSL Finals this September, the Title will be won on the cobblestones of Lower Trestles in a single day of surfing featuring the top five surfers on the leaderboard at end of season. When that time comes, it's Medina and Moore that have established themselves as the strongest, most consistent contenders.
For Medina's part, after his commanding win at the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona, he's now won two events this season and finished runner-up in two others. He had a slight bobble at Margs, but clearly got over that as he roared through Rottnest. Medina now sits 8,685 points ahead of Italo Ferreira, who appeared to finally run out of gas in their Semifinal superheat at Strickland Bay.
After her win at the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup presented by Corona, Moore has surfed her way to three straight Semifinal appearances. While her rivals on the leadboard continued to move up and down, Moore hasn't finished worse than third all year. Consistency is key, but as she pointed out after Rottnest, "I would have liked to do one or two spots better, there are things I can learn and improve upon from all this."
After Medina and Moore, there has been no shortage of movement in spots two through five of the Final 5. For the women, after Moore, the rest of the Final 5 spots remain up for grabs. There are only 3,540 points separating second from fifth -- and Johanne Defay and Stephanie Gilmore are knotted in a tie at the cut line for the moment.
The win at Rottnest served Sally Fitzgibbons well as she jumped up four spots on the leaderboard and is now sitting in second. Defay and Tyler Wright also made up some ground in the final event of the Australian leg, while Gilmore, Tatiana Weston-Webb and Caroline Marks all relinquished ground.
For the men, the race appears to be narrowing for the last three spots of the Final 5. Ferreira is in a pretty comfortable spot in second place right now, but after that it's anyone's guess what's going to happen. There's only 1,215 points separating Jordy Smith in third and surging rookie Morgan Cibilic in fifth.
Making the first Final of his short CT career, Cibilic is the big surprise in the Final 5. He shot up the leaderboard six spots, bumping the injured John John Florence out of the World Title conversation for the moment. Australia was good to Ciblic, who graduated to three Finals Day appearances. His only real bobble was at giant Margs.
After Cibilic, the Americans have a lot to be hopeful for as Conner Coffin and Griffin Colapinto are knocking on the door. Both surfers showed flashes of brilliance in Australia, but will have to put the foot on the gas during the back half of the season to move up into that Final 5.
Up next, the Tour moves into freshwater with the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro, which runs from June 18 to 20.
WSL Women's Championship Tour Leaderboard Final 5:
- Carissa Moore 36,055 pts
- Sally Fitzgibbons 28,185 pts
- Tatiana Weston-Webb 27,540 pts
- Tyler Wright 26,050 pts
- Stephanie Gilmore 24,645 pts
- Johanne Defay 24,645 pts
WSL Men's Championship Tour Leaderboard Final 5:
- Gabriel Medina: 38,920 pts
- Italo Ferreira: 30,235 pts
- Jordy Smith: 22,505 pts
- Filipe Toledo: 22,065 pts
- Morgan Cibilic: 21,290 pts