Given the level of talent found in the WSL Final 5, it's safe to say that come the Rip Curl WSL Finals anybody in the draw can beat anybody else if they can put themselves on the right waves at Lower Trestles.
Of course, No. 1 seeds Carissa Moore and Gabriel Medina will have the advantage of watching everyone underneath them battle it out for a chance to challenge them for the World Title, but there are no easy match-ups when it comes to this one-day, winner-take-all affair.
Before the action gets underway in San Clemente, the WSL's Rosy Hodge and Kaipo Guerrero share their predictions for the end-of-the-season WSL Final 5 rankings:
Rosy's Picks For The Women's WSL Final 5 Rip Curl WSL Finals
Carissa Moore won Olympic gold. She won an event this year. She was dominant all season long, and I think the World Title is hers to lose. For the women this year there have been seven different winners in seven different events, and she was right there in all of them.
For Carissa, it's going to be about holding it together on Finals day. She knows what she's capable of. She knows what her opponents are capable of. She'll be fresh and have the benefit of watching everyone surf all day, as well as watching the conditions. She knows the wave. She's won at the wave. If she shows up and does her best surfing we'll be looking at the first back-to-back Titles of her career.
Stephanie Gilmore's track record at Lowers is impeccable. She has the best winning percentage there of any of the women in the WSL Final 5, plus, she's won an event there and beat Carissa there. She has to take some confidence out of that. I think she finally clicked into gear in Mexico and was doing some of her best surfing there. Plus, she knows this is a golden opportunity to win that eighth Title and break her tie with Layne [Beachley]. It would also create more space between here and Carissa -- remember, if Riss wins this she's only two Titles away from Steph and Layne. Steph knows how this dance works and I think she relishes the opportunity to let her surfing do the talking.
Big Lowers on her backhand, the way she belts it, she could really stir things up if she gets into a good groove. Look at what she did at Margs earlier this year, especially her commitment on the end section. If the forecast holds and the surf delivers, that could really play to her advantage. And I think she's the most dangerous when she has nothing to lose, and it's all or nothing in the Finals, there's no holding back. She feeds off the energy of being an underdog. It gives her the chip on her shoulder she thrives on. It's funny, because she's so sweet and such a nice person, but she has the switch that she's able to flip and go into full comp mode. If there's size she's a threat.
This is Sally Fitzgibbons' biggest opportunity to win the Title. She's really well suited for the Finals format. The fact that it's a one-day event and endurance and mental fortitude will definitely factor plays perfectly to some of her main strengths. She is the consummate professional and will come into the Finals fully prepared. We've seen her take out the ISA World Games this year, win a CT event and represent Australia in the Olympics, but I think the World Title is really what she's after and could really break away from the field if she can get a little momentum going early.
If you look at Johanne Defay and Steph Gilmore's performances this year they've been pretty much equal. They're even equal in the ratings. That makes that first match of the Finals a really hard one to call. Either surfer could win it, and Defay is dropping some big scores on the Lowers left, which could be a point of differentiation between her and Steph. In the end, Steph probably wins the match and moves on based on her experience and based on her successes at Lowers, but never count Johanne out. We saw what she did at the Surf Ranch, and she could bring that same attack to Lowers, for sure.
Kaipo's Picks For The The Men's WSL Final 5 Post-Rip Curl WSL Finals
Based on what we saw from him this year, Gabriel Medina deserves the World Title and I think, given the gravity of the situation, he's going to make that happen. I mean, after his two throwaway results this season he's keeping five Finals appearances. It's been a tough year for everyone and all the surfers have had to adapt, but I think Gabe's consistency speaks to how good of a competitor he really is. His close heats and buzzer beaters this year are just so clutch. Kelly Slater had the art of war and the mental warfare. Medina has a deep understanding of the rulebook and how to perform in clutch situations. His vulnerability is that he can let his emotions get the best of him at times and sometimes has a hard time settling into a heat if he doesn't get a quick start. That said, who's going to beat him two out of three times?
So, I'm going to be a little biased here, but I'm going for the goofy-footer. I have nothing else to support my take here other than the fact that Italo is a goofy-footer and will make it to the Title Match against Medina. Honestly, Filipe is probably the favorite given his record at Lowers and it's pretty much in his backyard, but I've got to show my allegiance to my goofy-footed tribe.
Watch out for Filipe Toledo. He's basically a local at Lowers, won there in 2017 and probably spends more time in the water there than any of the other WSL Final 5. And it's not just a small-wave thing. We've seen how he redefined riding sizable J-Bay, and if Lowers is big, I think he's capable of doing that all over again. He's had some up and down results this season and I think there's some fire in his belly, that he wants to prove he's right there with Gabby and Italo. He'll also have the comfort and familiarity of being at home, which will help as Finals day is going to be as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge.
There's a hunger in Conner Coffin that I think is often overlooked. He fought his ass off in Mexico to get to where he's at. He's had to battle and earn it. He has a lifetime of experience competing at Lowers and I think he's going to be hungry and ready to go come game time. With his rail game the forecast plays into his favor as well. The bigger Lowers is more he can really lean into his power. And he could be the first world champ from California since Curren, which would be really cool to see.
I'd have to say that Morgan Cibilic is rubbing his eyes and pinching himself that he's here right now. What a dream season for the Rookie. To be on this stage with Gabe, Italo and everyone else, it is really amazing what he's accomplished this season. And as we saw him beat John John Florence twice in Australia, he's not intimidated by the big guns on Tour. The weight of the moment may get to him, but then again, he's surprised us all this year and who knows, his dream run could keep going.