One thing was clear as day this season: That 2019 World Champion Italo Ferreira desperately wanted to defend his Title. The desire was so strong it boiled over at times. At the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic presented by Corona, he was so incensed after losing to Conner Coffin that he broke his surfboard in half.
Italo -- who also managed to claim surfing's first-ever Olympic God Medal this year -- doesn't just desperately want to win, he absolutely despises losing.
But it's hardly surprising. Boundless enthusiasm and willingness to pour every ounce of his energy into a task have been his calling card throughout his career. This is someone who went from learning to surf on the foam lid of a cooler at home in Baía Formosa to securing a World Title with a win at firing Pipeline.
His run through this season was characterized by several scintillating battles with rival and countryman Gabriel Medina, who finished the year in the number one spot. Nowhere was this more apparent than their Final at the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic presented by Corona, which turned into a proper air-show, with each of the World Champions sparing with huge full rotations. On that occasion, it was Ferreira who took the win.
They met again in the Semifinal of the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona, and this time it was Medina who eliminated Ferreira. There's no animosity between the pair though -- it's a rivalry built on mutual respect, which has raised the performance bar on the Men's Championship Tour since it kicked off.
After a third-place finish at Pipeline, and a first at Newcastle, the third-place at Rottnest was Ferreira's next best result. He threw himself into his Title defense in such a way that he surfed every heat as if it was a Final, and sometimes this cost him. While he never finished lower than 9th place, Medina finished the year 11,800 points ahead due to his consistency.
At the last event of the year, the Corona Open Mexico presented by Quiksilver, Ferreira's almost-unmatchable backhand versatility was on display, but he was knocked out by a career-best performance from wildcard Mateus Herdy. It was another fellow Brazilian, Miguel Pupo who eliminated him in the CT event before that, the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe. In fact, considering Filipe Toledo eliminated Ferreira when he booked a 5th place finish at Margaret River, the only non-Brazilian to take him down all year was Conner Coffin.
What's more, that only two of the athletes who managed to eliminate Ferreira during this season did not end up in the WSL Final Five by year's end speaks to the level Ferreira was running at this year.
Still, however it played out, Ferreira is No. 2 in the world going into the first-ever Rip Curl WSL Finals, meaning there's every chance we're about to see the biggest dual yet between him and Medina. After a season marked by the fireworks between the pair, that would be a showdown for the ages.
Rip Curl WSL Finals runs from September 9-17, 2021 in San Clemente, California. A historic, one-day, winner-take-all race for the 2021 World Title, don't miss a second of the action right here on WorldSurfLeague.com.