For seven-time World Champion Gilmore, it's her first victory of the 2021 season and the 32nd of her career. The win also solidifies her spot in the WSL Final 5 and gives her a clear path to winning a record-setting eighth World Title.
"Best feeling ever! I haven't won a contest in a long time," Gilmore smiled back on the beach.
For rookie Robinson, this marks the first CT victory of his much-heralded young career and the first win for a rookie since 2018. It's the only Tour win for an Australian male this season, and for the effort, Robinson moves up to 12th on the WSL Leaderboard and will now safely requalify for the 2022 season.
Letting out a howl of relief in his post heat interview, all week long Robinson had done a remarkable job of staying within himself and taking it one wave at a time. He finally let himself smile and soak in the moment when it was all done.
"I don't even know where to start...it's the feeling I got when I qualified," Robinson said. "I was trying to carry this energy all week and stay to myself. I felt like I was in the zone."
Gilmore's win came after a hard-fought day of surfing that started with a battle against Carissa Moore in the Semifinals. With 11 World Titles between them, it was a clash of the two most dominant women over the last decade, and potentially a preview of what we may see at Lower Trestles at the upcoming Rip Curl WSL Finals.
In the Final, Gilmore went toe to toe with Hawaii's Malia Manuel, who donned the words "AI Forever" on her jersey in honor of the 2006 Barra champ and fellow surfer from Kauai Andy Irons. It went down to the wire, but in the end, the Queen of Snapper Rocks was simply too good on Finals Day. Manuel needed to win the event to requalify for the 2022 CT season.
Robinson kicked off his journey to the top of the podium today by going ham in the Semis against Mateus Herdy. He opened up with a 7.33 alley oop, then elevated his score even higher with an 8.67 for the barrel of the event and probably the heaviest wave we saw ridden all week long.
That set up a clash of two different styles featuring Robinson and Deivid Silva. The Brazilian goofy-footer had been dropping backside hammers all event long, but it was the variety of Robinson's surfing, from airs, to barrels, to big wrapping carves, that put him over the top in the Final.
It's been a brilliant week of surfing down in Mexico, and like that, the wild and crazy ride that has been the 2021 Championship Tour regular season is done and dusted. The surf world's collective attention will now shift its gaze to San Clemente, California, where we will see World Champions crowned at the inaugural Rip Curl WSL Finals.
WSL Final 5 Seeds Locked In
For the first time, surfing is about to enter the post season. The 2021 World Champions will be crowned at Lower Trestles this September in the debut of the Rip Curl WSL Finals. With the regular season now in the rearview mirror, the seeds have been locked in. Here's the breakdown:
Women's WSL Final 5 Seeds
Men's WSL Final 5 Seeds
The number one seeds, Moore and Medina, will both receive a bid directly into the Title Match, a best-of-three showdown to determine the World Champion.
The remaining surfers will enter the Rip Curl WSL Finals bracket based on their year-end rankings. For more on how this one-day, winner-take-all affair is going to go down, check out our handy 2021 Rip Curl WSL Finals Format explainer.
WSL Final 5 Locked After High-Stakes Day Of Surfing In Mexico
It's been a big day of news down in Mexico as Finals Day of the Corona Open Mexico presented by Quiksilver is locked, we've seen each WSL Final 5 spot clinched. But unfortunately, due to healthy and safety precautions in Tahiti, it was announced the event at Barra De La Cruz will conclude the 2021 Championship Tour. It's a lot to unpack. Let's dive in:
Race For WSL Final 5 Reaches The Finish Line
It's been a wild ride this season, but the lineup for the first-ever WSL Final 5 has been decided with the entirety of the men's and women's WSL Final 5 picture now complete. These are the surfers we will see when the inaugural Rip Curl WSL Finals land at Lower Trestles in San Clemente, California, this September:
2021 Women's WSL Final 5
Final Seeding Announced After Conclusion Of 2021 Regular Season
2021 Men's WSL Final 5
Final Seeding Announced After Conclusion Of 2021 Regular Season
Moore and Medina have largely been unstoppable all season long. Both surfers clinched their WSL Final 5 spots back at the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe. For everyone else, it's been an intense few days as every heat in Mexico has mattered.
For Gilmore, by clinching her spot in the WSL Final 5 she will now have the opportunity to make history as she competes for a record-breaking eighth World Title.
"Once we heard Tahiti was canceled I was like, this is it, don't let the foot off the gas," a beaming Gilmore said. "All I wanted to was make sure I had a shot in the Finals ... that's all I wanted."
Defay, who came into Mexico sitting third on the leaderboard, will be looking to claim her maiden World Title.
"The goal for this year was just for me to step back in and put on the rashie. I am super happy to be apart of that top five for the first ever. It's pretty cool," said Defay, who's run in Mexico came to an end after a loss to Malia Manuel in the Quarterfinals.
For Fitzgibbons, her clinch came after dispatching Courtney Conlogue in the Quarters.
"Since the start of the year I believed that was possible," Fitzgibbons explained. "I've worked really hard on trying to grow and evolve my game. Looking at the five is super hard to make that cut. That is just the first step."
For the men, gold medalist Ferreira and Toledo will join Medina as the Brazilian Storm descends on Lowers. Meanwhile, the hometown crowd will have a lot to cheer about in Santa Barbara native Coffin, the only Californian surfer to vie for a World Title.
"I'm so stoked to make the Finals," said an elated Coffin.
The last men's WSL Final 5 spot was awarded to Australian phenom Morgan Cibilic, as the dream run continues for the rookie out of Merewether, New South Wales.
Finals Day Locked At Barra
Of course, there was a lot more going on today than just the race for the WSL Final 5. For the third straight day the surf at Barra De La Cruz was overhead and flawless and we've whittled our way down to Finals Day tomorrow.
The biggest upset of the day came in the Quarterfinals when Deivid Silva put together the heat of his life to beat Medina and earn himself a spot in the Semifinals. He'll face Leonardo Fioravanti, who has quietly been taking care of business all event long.
"It's pretty insane. I'm trying to surf smart and make the right choices," Fioravanti said. "Surfing waves like this is what we grew up watching Kelly [Slater] and Andy [Irons] do, it's a dream. It's a dream come true."
For the women, Moore started the day dropping nine-point rides and kept her roll going all day long. Clearly the in-form surfer of the event, she's been surfing pressure-free at a wave that completely suits her style.
In a battle of the two most dominant women in surfing over the last decade, Moore will face Stephanie Gilmore in a Semifinal for the ages.
"I think Carissa and I have pretty different styles. She lays into everything and I am a bit more precise and carvey," Gilmore explained. "Hopefully will be a good match up and that the waves don't stop, she's definitely the one to beat."
Implications Of Tahiti Cancellation
The 2021 CT was always going to be a challenge given the pandemic. Unfortunately, as regulations and protocols in Tahiti have changed in recent days, there was no option but to cancel the Outerknown Tahiti Pro Presented by Shiseido and wrap things up in Mexico.
What that means is, first, making history is going to have to wait another year. The women were slated to make their return to Teahupoo, but unfortunately, that's not going to be possible at the moment. Thankfully, the infamous reef break is back on the schedule for the women and men in 2022 and we'll look to brighter horizons then.
Race For WSL Final 5 Upended As Upsets Abound On Day 2 In Mexico
For the world's best surfer, there's nowhere to hide on a perfect right-hand pointbreak. It exposes every strength and weakness, and with flawless lines running down the sandbank at Barra De La Cruz, day two of the Corona Open Mexico presented by Quiksilver provided no shortage of drama. The race for the WSL Final 5 continues to tighten with every passing heat and today we some inspired, statement-making performances, as well as a few heartbreaking upsets. Here's what you need to know:
Medina, Ferreira Continue To Set The Pace
Nobody on the Championship Tour today is more clutch than Gabriel Medina. With time ticking down, needing a mid six-point score to turn his heat against Michel Bourez, somehow Medina found exactly what he was looking for.
He launched a rodeo flip into the flats, stuck the landing and kept hammering turns all the way to the beach. Game, set, match.
With his spot on the WSL Final 5 already locked in, from here on out, Medina will be looking to solidify his spot as the Number One seed. But he'll have his work cut out for him as he faces Ethan Ewing in the Round of 16.
Ewing has been the form surfer of the event. For two days in a row now he's posted the high wave score and high heat score of the day. Channeling 2006 Barra champ Andy Irons, he topped 18 points in the Round of 32, and unless he peaked too early, he's going to be a handful for Medina.
In the Round of 16 we'll get treated to another super heat when Ferreira takes on Kelly Slater, who was in fine form today.
Wildcards Rattle Cages Of Filipe Toledo And Griffin Colapinto
A pair of five-point rides was all it took for Indonesia's Rio Waida to take out World Number Three Filipe Toledo. It was the upset of the Corona Mexico Open until Mateus Herdy beat Griffin Colapinto in the final heat of the day.
Not only did Waida and Herdy just blow up everybody's Fantasy teams, they blew up Toledo and Colapinto's hopes of cruising into the WSL Final 5. Now, both surfers will be have to battle for a shot at the 2021 World Title at the last event of the year at Teahupoo.
For Waida, who recently represented his island archipelago in the Olympics, he'll face Jack Robinson in the Round of 16. Robinson's been quietly taking care of business ... and the bigger the surf the more of a threat he becomes. Herdy will take on Brazilan countryman Jadson Andre.
Kolohe Andino vs Kanoa Igarashi: Heat Of The Year?
The hits just kept coming all day for WSL Final 5 hopefuls. In one of the best heats of the entire season, a rejuvenated Kolohe Andino went toe to toe with Olympic silver medalist Kanoa Igarashi, and with a big, old smile on his face, took the win.
"I was really nervous coming into this event, I've been such a fan of watching the events this year," said Andino, who missed the entirety of the Australian leg with an ankle injury.
Going back to the Olympics, Andino has faced Igarashi in the last three heats he's surfed. But more than a grudge match, with his early exit, Igarashi's road to the WSL Final 5 is now considerably more difficult.
Morgan Cibilic's Dream Run Continues
If there was any question about whether rookie Morgan Cibilic is the real deal you can shut the door on all that. In a day that saw two surfers in the WSL Final 5 bow out early, Morgs was his happy-go-lucky self, making heats and loving every minute of the ride.
"Really I'm just happy that I get to keep surfing out there, it's so good," Cibilic said after eliminating Peruvian Olympian Lucca Mesinas.
Nichols, Erickson Dodge Elimination
Isabella Nichols and Sage Erickson both have a bounty of experience at right pointbreaks, and it came as a bit of a surprise when they landed in the Elimination Round yesterday. But getting back on the good foot, in a brief day of action for the women in which only two heats were surfed, the Australian and the Californian snapped back into rhythm.
Nichols advanced along with fellow Aussie Macy Callaghan, while Erickson moved on with Keely Andrew. Unfortunately, Shelby Detmers and Regina Pioli -- the first two Mexican women to compete in a CT event -- have been eliminated from the draw.
Race For WSL Final 5 Is On As Qualification Scenarios Become Clear In Mexico
Back in the old saddle in Mexico and it feels amazing. Warm water, sand bottom, a perfect right point -- the vibes have been up all week and the Corona Open Mexico presented by Quiksilver is officially underway.
Today was the first day of a month-long, two-event sprint that will charge through Mexico and Tahiti and culminate with the Rip Curl WSL Finals in San Clemente, California, on September 9. After a full day of action, here's where we're at so far:
Who Can Clinch In Mexico?
With the ability to clinch a spot in the inaugural Rip Curl WSL Finals, for a handful of surfers the stakes in Mexico couldn't be higher.
Men's WSL Final 5 Clinch Scenarios
- Toledo needs to finish at least third in this event to clinch his spot in the Finals.
- Ferreira needs to finish second or better to lock in his spot.
Keep an eye on Toledo this week and don't be suprised if he wins this contest for his third victory of the season. Rocking a fresh head of blond hair, he looked fast, smooth and right at home in his Seeding Round win against Jeremy Flores and Jhony Corzo.
Ferreira also looked comfortable in first heat since winning surfing's first Olympic gold medal. He advanced in second place along with countryman Mateus Herdy, who won the heat.
On the women's side, like Medina, Carissa Moore is already bound for Lowers. And with her gold medal, she's surfing completely pressure free at the moment. With an eight-point ride in her scoreline, Moore made short work of her Seeding Round heat to advance directly into Round 3.
Women's WSL Final 5 Clinch Scenarios
- Defay and Weston-Webb will clinch if they finish at least second.
- Fitzgibbons will need to win the event in order to clinch.
All three surfers took a step in the right direction today as they collectively advanced. Fitzgibbons appeared especially savvy with a 14.27 heat score.
Dawn Patrol Super Heat
There's nothing like kicking off an event with an old fashioned super heat. And thanks to Andino's inspired return, Slater's greatness and Igarashi's intrigue, the huevos con chorizo were plenty spicy this morning.
Andino pushed himself to get his body back in form for the Olympics, and while his Quarterfinal finish may not have been the result he longed for, he did prove to himself that he was game ready. And he looked tack sharp in his CT return today.
Changing the number on his jersey up to 24 in honor of the late Kobe Bryant, has been itching to get down to this part of Mexico ever since the doctors told him he could surf again, and he's got a serious hunger right now. He took his first trip down here when he was 12, and who knows, it could be where he wins his first CT?
Of course, anytime Slater is in the draw he's a threat. And he proved today that he can still make a run at it. The waves are supposed to improve a little over the next few days, which will benefit the GOAT, who does his best surfing when the conditions are firing.
Mikey Wright Decides To Hang It Up
After a turbulent season as a wildcard on the CT, Mikey Wright has decided to step out of the competitve arena for the time being. After a heat with his brother Owen, the second Seeding Round heat they've shared this year, Mikey made his announcement during his post-heat interview.
"This is actually going to be my last event," Wright explained. "I'm going back to freesurfing, going to chase swells again ... I left competing when I was younger because it just wasn't me, I had more fun surfing more hours in the day rather than trying to surf heats. I am going to go back to doing that."
Flores Starts His Last Lap
Another surfer who is going to be hanging up the jersey in the not-too-distant future is France's Jeremy Flores. After 15 years on the Championship Tour, earlier this week Flores announced that he will be stepping away from full-time competition on the Championship Tour at the conclusion of the 2021 regular season.
"I don't like the word ‘retiring' because i don't feel like i'm retiring at all, I'm moving on to the next chapter," Flores said on Instagram.
Now living in Tahiti with his partner Hinarani de Longeau and young daughter, Hinahei, the 33-year-old Tour veteran will be focusing on his family, freesurfing, and supporting the next generation of francophone surfers.
"I dedicated most of my life to Surfing competition. It's been a rollercoaster, lots of ups & downs but damn i lived it to the fullest. Some epic moments. I tried to stay real the whole time, maybe too much sometimes? But it was all worth it! If someone told me, when I was a kid, the success, the life i would have, I wouldn't of believed it. Because of professional surfing i am now lucky enough to live a happy life & provide for my whole family."
Who Went High?
Locking in both the highest single wave score, an 8.83, and the highest total heat score of the day, a 15.16, was Ethan Ewing. Ewing's precise, snappy surfing fits the wave at Barra perfectly, and based on what we saw today, he's going to be hard to beat as we move through this event. With the Olympics and the World Title race, he's not been getting all the shine on Tour at the moment, but that may make him even more dangerous.
For the women, Caroline Marks was also on point and broke the 15-point barrier. Surfing on her backhand, she's definitely leveraging her Olympic experience and momentum in the right direction. It'll be interesting to see how far the goofy-footer can go at a break that favors the regular-footers so heavily, but if anyone can do it, it's the 19-year-old phenom.
In a nod to the last CT winner in Mexico, Andy Irons, Kauai's Malia Manuel paid tribute with the words "AI Forever" emblazoned across the shoulders of her jersey.
"This week's for you," Manuel wrote on Instagram.
Manuel looked solid in her opener, defeating Defay and Shelby Detmers, who incidentally became the first woman from Mexico to surf a CT heat today. Hopefully the jersey brings Manuel good luck ... and we see a few waves like we did back in 2006.