We're only a few events away from the Final 5 being locked in for a World Title showdown at Lower Trestles. At this halfway mark of the season, it's unusual to see so many big names languishing despite their pedigree as genuine contenders in years gone by.
As we cast our attention towards the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro there are several surfers who can't afford another poor result if they want to stay within striking distance of the breakaway pack atop of the ratings.
In 2021, Griffin Colapinto has shown his consistency in Australia, chalking up third-place finishes at Narrabeen and Margaret River while maintaining his charismatic persona throughout. The affable American has won hearts and minds all over the world but a CT win still escape him. Dropping two spots after a poor performance at Rottnest, he sits at No. 8 on the rankings heading to Surf Ranch.
Colapinto's best result at Surf Ranch came in 2019 at the Freshwater Pro, where he dropped a pair of excellent scores on his way to a third-place finish. There is arguably no other surfer better suited for Finals Playoffs at Lower Trestles where he'll have the home ground advantage. If he wants it, Colapinto is going to have to pull out all the stops at Surf Ranch to rocket back into the Top Five.
Another surfer who has failed to launch this season is Japan's Kanoa Igarashi. The Olympic torchbearer for surfing's debut on the world stage has had a whirlwind couple of years.
His win at the Corona Bali Protected in 2019 shot him into the world title conversation. With supreme confidence on display in and out of the water, and a string of Finals Day appearances since it felt like a question of not if, but when.
However, his Australian leg was far from impressive. He produced the lowest heat total of any surfer in his Quarterfinal against Conner Coffin at Narrabeen. Then, made a strange priority mistake at Margaret River which saw him draw an interference against Matthew McGillivray thus eliminating him from the event.
He may have come into Australia with the wind in his sails but he left completely adrift slipping to No. 9 in the world. But as far as experience goes, Igarashi has clocked more hours at Surf Ranch than many of his peers on the CT. His best result, a third-place finish in 2018 shows he has form. He'll need a win at Lemoore if he wants to write himself back into the world title conversation.
Rookie Jack Robinson blew the doors off in his first hit out on the CT at the Pipe Masters. And while he showed signs he wasn't going to roll over with fierce performances against Julian Wilson in Newcastle, his Rookie year so far is well below expectations.
With an unproven record at Surf Ranch, he's a wildcard heading into the next event. He has the lethal air game to mix it with the world's best. He's also a tube pig of the highest order and we know how hollow those waves can be on tap. But holding his nerve under pressure will be his greatest test.
Future Aussie Olympian Owen Wright failed to capitalize on the four-event leg on home turf. Even with supreme knowledge of the breaks and the advantage of not having to spend two weeks holed up in a hotel room before the start of the leg, Wright was likely expecting bigger things from himself.
It's hard to believe, but Wright was the last Australian male CT athlete to win an event, way back in 2019. As one of the sport's traditional powerhouses, it's an unnerving reality that has seen Brazilians and Americans wrestle back control.