When it comes the United States and winning World Titles, over the last 30 years it's been a lot of feast or famine. To find the last time a surfer from the U.S. other than Kelly Slater won a World Title one has to dive all the way back to C.J. Hobgood's Title in 2001. Before that it was Tom Curren way back in 1990.
Sure, Slater's got his record 11 Titles, which at the moment appears untouchable by anyone currently on Tour, but we're looking at two decades now since anyone other than the GOAT hoisted the cup.
And while the story of the 2021 Championship Tour has largely been dominated by three Brazilian men: Gabriel Medina, who has already clinched his Rip Curl WSL Finals spot, Italo Ferreira, who's sitting in second, and a resurgent Filipe Toledo, who is coming off of his second win of the season and is comfortably in third. But now, after a third-place finish at the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe, California's Griffin Colapinto has cracked the WSL Final 5 and is in a prime position to qualify for the season-ending, winner-take-all Finals at his home break of Lower Trestles.
Sitting less than 400 points behind rookie sensation Morgan Cibilic, with two events left before the post-season World Title-crowning extravaganza in San Clemente, Colapinto could potentially move up even further on the WSL Final 5 leaderboard if he can string together a couple of events.
The next event in Mexico is right in his wheelhouse. A warm-water, right-hand point that he's relatively familiar with seems like a prime opportunity for him to possibly go the distance and win his first CT event. He's surely studied the footage of Andy Irons' path to victory at the 2006 Rip Curl Search event that put Barra De La Cruz on the map.
Obviously, Colapinto's rail game and ability to go above the lip will serve him well, but his biggest strength down in Mex will be his forehand tube riding if the swell is pumping and the sand is good. We saw Colapinto put in some serious sessions at Backdoor and Off The Wall last winter, and lest we forget what he did at thumping Kirra in 2018.
After that, the Tour's off to Tahiti, where again, Colapinto's barrel-riding skills could serve him very well. He's had mixed results at Teahupo'o, losing in the Seeding Round his rookie year in 2018 but coming back strong in 2019 with a respectable ninth-place finish. Given his current confidence level and how much his surfing continues to progress, anything worse than a Quarterfinal finish would be a disappointment.
But Colapinto is not the only U.S. surfer that could make it to the big dance at the end of the year. For the sake of argument, Kanoa Igarashi sits right behind Colapinto in sixth on the WSL Leaderboard. Yes, he competes with the Japanese flag on his shoulder, but Igarashi did a lot of his surfing as an amateur in American waters and largely grew up in Huntington Beach. Should he make the WSL Final 5 and figure out a way to win the World Title at Lowers, Surf City U.S.A. would be raging.
Then, sitting in eighth on the WSL Leaderboard, is Conner Coffin. He's only a couple thousand points out of that critical fifth position, and like Colapinto, the final two events of the CT season favor him. Growing up at Rincon, there are few surfers on Tour better at a right pointbreak than Coffin. He could very easily run the table in Mexico, especially with Medina and Ferreira both on their backhand.
Coffin's results at Teahupoo are surprisingly not that great, but it's not for lack of talent in South Pacific left-handers. Coffin cut his teeth as a grom at Tavarua and has spent plenty of heavy days out at Cloudbreak and Restaurants. If he can tap into a good rhythm and get hot, Tahiti is somewhere he has the opportunity to make up some ground.
Colapino, Igarashi and Coffin all grew up competing for national and junior titles at Lowers and know what it takes to win at the cobblestone point. If they can crack the WSL Final 5 and make it to the Rip Curl WSL Finals, they've all got legitimate shots at winning the Title. And who knows, anything could happen on Finals day.
Stay tuned for the Corona Open Mexico presented by Quiksilver kicking off August 10, 2021.