Another Men's Championship Tour event and another Brazilian win. Filipe Toledo's win at the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe was his second of the year and means a Brazilian has taken five of the six CT events held this year. Gabriel Medina has two, Italo Ferreira one, with only John John Florence's win at Pipe thwarting a clean sweep.
The trio is now firmly ensconced as the front-runners on the WSL Leaderboard, with Medina having already amassed enough points to qualify for the Rip Curl WSL Finals at Trestles. World Champ Ferreira and Toledo aren't there yet, but it seems only a matter of time. Injuries to Florence and Kolohe Andino have further cemented the gulf between the three best, and the rest.
And so, despite upcoming events in Mexico and Tahiti, and the small matter of the Olympics, we can start to allow ourselves to think of the World Title showdown at Trestles. And the biggest question of the moment is who is the most dangerous on the Trestles cobblestones?
Starting with the current World No. 1, Medina, a mine of the historical competitive data reveals a potential, and surprising, weak spot. This was the location where the 17-year-old Medina made his official CT debut. It was an inauspicious one at that. His early-round loss would be the start of series of poor results at Trestles that continued, almost unabated until 2017, the last time a CT event was held there.
Medina's best result was a Semifinal finish in 2015, the rest a rare sequence of non-keepers, perhaps his worst return of any location on Tour. Is Trestles the Brazilian's equivalent of the Death Star's thermal exhaust port? A single internal flaw where a precise shot can trigger a chain reaction that destroys the station's entire infrastructure?
Perhaps. But it's worth noting, he won the Nike Lowers Pro in 2012, a Qualifying Series event. Enroute to the podium he beat Glenn Hall, Ace Buchan, Dane Reynolds and Brett Simpson, so he'll have that to draw from. Nevertheless, a QS win nearly a decade ago maybe be hard to pull motivation from.
And, of course, Toledo and Ferreira will be fully aware that there is a huge discrepancy between historical data and his current form. Medina has finished first or second in five of the six events this year. He is surfing better than at any stage in his career, including his World Title years. And Trestles is ideally suited to his mix of power and progression. He will also thrive under the pressure. If it was any other wave apart from Trestles, he'd be the unbackable favorite.
That he is isn't is due to the presence of Toledo. Trestles is the Brazilian's adopted local wave and his style and speed of surfing are perfectly suited to its rare dynamics. He won the event the last time a CT event was held here in 2017 and is widely regarded as one of the best surfers at surfing's most famous skate park.
Allied to his local knowledge and competitive history is his current form. He has won two of the last three events, and after a relatively slow start, is building momentum at the right time. The only question mark, his own internal thermal exhaust pipe, his ability to handle the pressure. Gabriel Medina has two World Titles, both won under immense tension. Toledo hasn't. The move from Pipe to Trestles gives him a better hand, but can he play it?
That leaves Ferreira, who doesn't have quite the form of Medina at the moment, nor the Trestles muscle memory of Toledo. What he does have though is a World Title and an incredible desire to defend it. Surprisingly, like Medina, his competitive record at Trestles is poor.
Yet the surfer that last competed here in 2017 is a very different beast from the one we see now. Since then Ferreira's unpredictable and explosive surfing has been welded to competitive steel and incredible focus. And Trestles should provide an ideal platform from which to launch his mix of huge aerials and whiplash fin release turns. If you know, to a degree, what Medina and Toledo bring to the Trestles table, Ferreira still has an X-Factor that he can deliver at speed and under pressure.
As for picking a winner, well, that's a madmen's game. Yet given the trio's complete lock on the Jeep Leaderboard right now, you'd be a madman to bet against a Brazilian World Champ. Thoughts below, please.