The four-stop Australian leg of the Championship Tour was always going to be more of a sprint than a marathon. And now, after two stops in New South Wales and two more in Western Australia, the great walkabout is wrapped up. Gabriel Medina and Carissa Moore is comfortably atop the WSL Leaderboard at the moment with all kinds of crazy scenarios playing out under them. In case you missed a minute of the action, here's what we've learned after eight weeks Down Under:
Medina Appears Unstoppable
"This has been my best year so far," Gabriel Medina said after his win at the Rip Curl Rottnest Search. "It feels good to be surfing the way I like. I am blessed to have these waves on tour, travel with my wife, and all these people around me. I want to enjoy this moment."
Given that Gabriel has a few good years in his career, including World Titles in 2014 and 2018, it seems incredible that this year may surpass all his achievements.
However, with his five events registering four Finals and two wins, he has looked unstoppable. A new wife and a new coach seemed to have added contentment to his competitive drive, making him all the harder to beat. John John's injury removed another obstacle and it is only Italo that seems to be operating anywhere near his orbit. We may look back at this Australian leg where Gabriel reasserted his extended dominance over the sport.
Carissa Moore Breaks From The Pack
In road cycling terms, it might the Australian leg where Carissa Moore made a successful breakaway from the peloton. The four-event leg that included a quarantine before eight weeks on the road was always going to be a grueling, uphill battle. By making the Semifinals in each stop, and winning at Margaret River, Moore put on the afterburners at the steepest section of the climb and has almost moved out of sight on the Jeep Leaderboard.
The consolation of the tightly grouped chasing pack, headed by Sally Fitzgibbons, but including previous World Champions Tyler Wright and Stephanie Gilmore, is that this year's race will finish with a sprint finish at Trestles. Moore's incredible consistency in Australia may have put her out of sight rankings-wise, but she'll be back with the pack on the starting line for the Finals Series.
Australian Men Fail To Capitalize On Home Turf
Going into the four-event leg, it was thought the Australians may have held a significant advantage over the international visitors. Their knowledge of the breaks at Merewether, Narrabeen, and Rottnest could, and should, have provided an edge. Not having to spend two weeks holed up in a hotel room before the start of the leg was also another headstart.
However in the Men's, except for Morgan Cibilic(more on him below) and to a lesser extent Ryan Callinan, none could wrestle control away from the Brazilians and the Americans. The last Australian man to claim a CT event was Owen Wright back in 2019, and as it stands, there's every chance the Finals series could not feature an Australian. For one of the sport's traditional powerhouses, the poor return on home soil is another cause for concern.
Morgan Cibilic Was The Breakout Star
Initially, it may have been the case that Cibilic's performance at Newcastle could have been put down to local knowledge. In hindsight though, the rookie's defeats of John John Florence and Callinan weren't down just to his experience at his homebreak. A Quarterfinal finish at Narrabeen, which featured another defeat of Florence, showed the Merewether result was no fluke.
By the time he stormed to the Final at Rottnest, the affable Aussie's mix of power surfing and ability to step up to the plate against any opposition had earned him a World No. 5 on the Jeep Leaderboard and had given him a real chance of making the Finals. More than that, the Australian leg had unearthed a new breakout star.
Brazilian Storm Downgraded To Prevailing Winds
If the rise of Brazilian surfing was once called the Brazilian Storm, we may need a re-classification. No longer a dynamic hurricane that caused chaos to the established order, it is now more of a high-pressure system that provides surfing's prevailing winds. For the men, all four of the Australian events were claimed by Brazilian surfers, and they now occupy three of the all-important top five spots.
Tatiana Weston-Webb's win in Margarets further bolstered the country's claim for superiority. Her shaper, the Brazilian Marcio Zouvio of Sharp Eye surfboards, also shaped the boards for both women's Finalists at Rottnest Island, as well as for Filipe Toledo at Margaret River. Johnny Cabianca, another Brazilian, provided Medina's sticks for his dominant display over all the events. The storm may have passed, but now Brazilian surfing is sailing under good winds and fair skies.