With the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona wrapping up the Australian leg of the Championship Tour the race for the Final 5 is tightening up, but there are still some individuals who can shake up the established world order. Here we take a look at who might be the proverbial flies in the ointment in the lead up to the Rip Curl WSL Finals at Trestles this September:
For the Men, the current top four of Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira, Filipe Toledo, and Jordy Smith is identical to the WSL Leaderboard at the end of 2019. John John Florence and Kolohe Andino (who finished fifth in 2019) have injuries and are currently out of the equation.
Outside of these historic heavy hitters, it is currently Morgan Cibilic who stands as the biggest surprise threat. The rookie came from nowhere to make three Finals Days in Australia and rocket up to be the World No. 5. It's an incredible streak, but one that might be hard to sustain through events at the Surf Ranch, Tahiti, Mexico, and Rio.
Perhaps more likely are the established trio of Conner Coffin, Griffin Colapinto, and Ryan Callinan. While none of these have ever finished inside the top five before, in 2021 they have shown glimpses of the mix of brilliance and consistency required to make the Finals at Trestles.
Coffin made the Final at Narrabeen and finished fifth at both Newcastle and Rottnest. He proved that he can replicate, or indeed improve on, the form of 2018 when he finished as the World No. 7.
His compatriot Colapinto was more explosive, though his two Semifinals at Narrabeen and Margaret River were bookended by early Round losses. His current World No. 8 ranking is his highest yet, and with a talent ceiling that matches the high-flying Brazilian trio, this might be the year his potential energy turns kinetic. And no one will want to take on Griff at home at Trestles.
That leaves Callinan, whose mix of power and progressive surfing should be gaining better results. A Quarterfinal at home in Newcastle and in Margaret River were par results given his talent. However, bogeys at Narrabeen and Rottnest held him back. Yet his "Just For Now" clip might have set the template for a freesurfing edit for 2021. With that quality in his locker, it feels like one breakthrough result could propel him into the Finals mix.
For the Women, the established order is also firmly in place. Carissa Moore is streets ahead, though the next four surfers have only 3,540 points between them. That pack includes veteran Sally Fitzgibbons, plus former World Champions Tyler Wright and Stephanie Gilmore. Tatiana Weston-Webb's win at Margaret River and Final in Narrabeen has seen her move into her recent customary role in the top 5. Caroline Marks is the only contender missing from the usual line-up.
In terms of potential bolters Johanne Defay must be included, given her form and Final at Rottnest. She has only finished once in the top five in her seven years on the CT, but now seems ready and willing to bust down the door.
Lastly, Isabella Nichols, who started the Australian leg with a Final at Newcastle, must also be considered if we are swinging the net wider. If it wasn't for drawing Moore in the latter events, the rookie showed she had the talent and drive to break into the elite club.