The epic, four-stop Australia leg of the 2021 Championship Tour is in the rearview mirror, and after the upcoming freshwater sprint that is the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe, there will only be two more events before the end of the regular season and things progress to the Rip Curl WSL Finals where the 2021 World Champions will be crowned.
Gabriel Medina and Carissa Moore currently have an iron grip on the number one positions on the WSL Leaderboard and appear to be well on their way to punching their respective tickets to the Finals, the race for those the other men's and women's WSL Final 5 spots remains hotly contested.
And before things heat up in Lemoore, the WSL's Rosy Hodge and Kaipo Guerrero took a hot minute to look into the crystal ball and offer up their predictions for what the WSL Final 5 picture looks like as the CT goes on a brief Olympic break before entering the homestretch this August.
Rosy's Picks For The Men's WSL Final 5 Post-Surf Ranch
Gabby's pretty much a lock for the number one spot. I mean, how could he not be? He's coming off a win at the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona and he's undefeated in CT events at the Surf Ranch. His confidence has to be through the roof at this point. And he's so far out ahead of everyone at this point, the wheels would really have to come off for him not to be in the WSL Final 5 at seasons end. I'm sure we'll hear a lot about how close he is to clinching his spot during the event.
I can't wait to watch Italo at the Surf Ranch. He had an amazing run through Australia, but something tells me that he left a little bit hungry. And that means he's going to be bringing that passion and energy. And I'm interested to see what he's riding there too. I've noticed he's been hanging around San Clemente and working with Timmy Patterson. The two of them are such a good team and always seem to have a lock on his equipment at the Ranch. That's definitely something to keep an eye out for.
I want to see more of the Filipe we saw at Rumble at the Ranch. He was in another league at that event. There aren't many threats to Medina at this event, but Filipe's definitely one of them. He's so fast, surfs with such precision, while also having that X factor where, like we've seen, he can bust out three airs on one wave. It's all about progression and pushing the level of surfing, and with no 30-minute heat strategy to worry about, it really opens the door for Filipe to surf at his highest potential.
Griff's sitting in eighth on the leaderboard at the moment, but he's only about 3,000 points outside of the Final 5. I think he has a really good chance to make up some serious ground at Lemoore. You've got Morgan Cibilic there in fifth, then John John Florence, who's out, and then Conner Coffin, there's a path to success there for Griff. He's one of the surfers that can really bring an innovative approach to the Ranch and he has a lot of experience there. Plus, he's been ripping at Lowers ever since he got home. Just look at his Insta account, there's so much versatility in his surfing, and that's one of the things it takes to have a big result at the Ranch.
5. Jordy Smith
I'm so bummed that Jordy's out. He was getting on such a good roll. But I still think he's able to hang in that Final 5 spot after Surf Ranch. He's in third right now, so I'm expecting him to drop a couple spots, but still hang in there. Then, hopefully, he can be back for the Olympics and the last two stops. Both Mexico and Tahiti are ideal for him. I'm biased, of course, but I'd love to see him at Lowers.
Kaipo's Picks For The The Women's WSL Final 5 Post-Surf Ranch
I really feel like this is Carissa's year. Her consistency and focus carried her through Australia, and I think she would have liked to win another event down, which will ensure that she's hungry at the Surf Ranch. She's also one of the surfers in the draw with the most experience at this venue, and based on her 2018 performance where stayed atop the leaderboard the whole event, I don't see why we wouldn't see some version of that this year. Her boards are looking good, she's surfing better than ever, and she has to be pretty close to clinching her WSL Final 5 spot.
Sally's the full momentum play. Nobody's been better the last month. She won the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona, and then went to El Salvador and won the ISA World Surfing Games. She has to be feeding off of that energy. What's going to be a challenge for her at the Ranch is steadying herself since the format is different. She won't have those competitive juices to thrive off of, instead she'll have to focus on her pure performance. We know she has an air game, so we'll see what she can pull off on the end bowl.
Competing in the Basin is a mind game, and there aren't many with a stronger mind game than Tati. She comes ready to play, stays composed and has all those components in her surfing that will set her up for success. And keep an eye on what she's riding. She's been getting her boards from Sharp Eye, who also does Filipe Toledo's boards, so you know her equipment is going to be well-tuned and ready for freshwater ripping.
Marks gets the nod here on pure talent on both the forehand and backhand. As a goofy-footer, she's really going to be leverage the power of her backhand on the right. I think there can be a point of differentiation there. She's so strong and can hit it so vertical. And her forehand is sneaky good. Plus, she's a skilled barrel rider whichever way she's going, which is something else she'll be able to draw from. She's currently sitting in seventh on the WSL Leaderboard, but only about 2,000 points behind Tyler Wright in fourth, who's pulled out of the event.
Just based on Johanne's 2019 performance at the Surf Ranch where she finished runner-up, I think she comes out of this event holding onto her WSL Final 5 position. But then add to that how strong she looked in Australia and how consistent she was, she's a real threat here. She has that powerful layback gouge and ability to throw everything she has at the end section of a wave, and I think while we'll see other surfers taking to the air, she's going to be able to set herself apart with her power game.