The 2022 Championship Tour is at hand and the race for the World Title starts at Pipeline.
Both the women's and men's sides of the draw are stacked with World Champions, cagey veterans and a new crop of fresh-faced rookies determined to make their mark on the biggest stage in surf. And history will be made in ‘22 as the women will compete in the first-ever, full-length CT event at Pipe.
Bringing their knowledge, experience and perspective to the conversation this season are the WSL's own Rosy Hodge and Kaipo Guerrero.
From the Billabong Pro Pipeline to start the season to the Rip Curl WSL Finals where the 2022 World Champions will be crowned, this dynamic duo will be analyzing the action and dishing hot takes on their favorites, the contenders and the sleeper picks who are capable of upsetting the Tour elite.
So ride shotgun with them all season long as they pick their post-event Final 5s and serve up a sprinkling of invaluable Fantasy advice along the way, after all Kaipo is the defending 2021 regular season WSL Fantasy champ.
Rosy's Pick To Win
This may be a bold call, especially considering the historic significance of this event, but I'm going with wildcard Moana Jones Wong to take the win at Pipe. She's dedicated herself to becoming a true Pipe specialist over the years and that could very well translate into her being a Pipe champion.
We just saw what she did at the Da Hui Shootout, and she won the HIC Pipe Pro back in December. She's the real deal in surfing's most real proving ground. And she may lack some of the competitive experience as some of the other girls in the draw, but she knows that wave better than anybody, she's put in more time and is more comfortable. Why couldn't she win it all?
Kaipo's Pick To Win
Based on what we've been seeing from him, you'd be a fool to bet against John John Florence at Pipe this year. He's skated to wins in his last two events there, he's coming off of a Vans Triple Crown win, his second in a row, and he's fully healthy and surfing better than ever.
With Gabe Medina out it's a golden opportunity for him to get a jump on the season. He may be humble about it all, but he's a competitor and he knows what it means to have Medina out of the draw. He's hungry, he's focused, and I think he's going to start the season with a bang.
Carissa Moore could very well win this thing. She seems to have reached a whole new level. There's so much joy in her surfing right now. She just swept the Triple Crown and she's been putting in a lot of time out at Pipe this winter. I think winning at Pipe is something that may motivate her. After winning so much and being so successful, sometimes finding the right motivation can be more difficult, but I think this is something that fires her up.
I also think if it's a little smaller, and the event comes down to Backdoor, Stephanie Gilmore enters the chat. She's won a couple of specialty events out there in the past and seems to feel pretty comfortable at Backdoor in those right-hand barrels.
And like Moana, I think Bettylou Sakura Johnson could go deep in this event. She's only a rookie, but she's spent a lot of time out here and is going to feel the support and comfort of starting the season at home in Hawaii. I was really impressed by how she finished the Challenger Series at Haleiwa last year. I think she's going to be a very dangerous competitor at Pipe and should have plenty of confidence out there.
Not having Medina in the draw could be the key for a few guys to come up with big results. We've seen the comfort and skill level of Jack Robinson and Seth Moniz out at Pipe, and without having to contend with the gnarliest competitor on the Tour could give them a little peace of mind to really win the thing. Jack had a great finish to his rookie campaign winning in Mexico, and Seth's pretty much grown up on the beach here at the Billabong house. Both have the talent and experience to really rise to the occasion this year.
And then there's Kelly Slater. Pipe is not a young man's wave. It takes so much time to really understand how to get the good waves out there, and Kelly's spent more time out there than anyone. Remember, he won his first Pipe event back in 1992, so he's been doing this for a full 30 years.
He told me at a dinner table in Mexico last year that he was going to go all in, no-holds barred this season. He's made the Semis three out of his last four starts at Pipe, so he certainly hasn't slowed down. If it's pumping and good Pipe, I don't see why he couldn't make the Final or win it.
Rosy's Sleeper Picks
I'm just going to keep going with the girls from Hawaii. Gabriela Bryan and Luana Silva have to feel good about where they're at. They came out of nowhere during the Challenger Season and now there's this whole crew of girls from Hawaii that have stormed the Tour. It's really inspiring. I hope they feed off that energy and empower one another. It's really a special moment.
And speaking of rookies, keep an eye on Molly Picklum. She just got the call up and is probably riding high on adrenaline. She's a quick learner and has been putting in time at the Rip Curl house recently getting tips from Kekoa Bacalso. I think she could surprise a lot of people.
Kaipo's Sleeper Picks
Barron Mamiya is the guy at Pipe right behind John John. He has to clean up his heat IQ, but he has the knowledge and talent at Pipe. The kid's whole act is really good out there. I think heat awareness and knowing how to surf for a six or seven instead of waiting for a ten will be his big hurdle.
Ivan Florence is in the mix now, and I think after surfing his way to the final of the HIC Pipe Pro in December he proved to himself that he can surf heats. He's already got a tremendous Pipe act. He could be dangerous.
Rosy's Post Pipeline Final 5
1) Moana Jones Wong
2) Carissa Moore
3) Stephanie Gilmore
4) Bettylou Sakura Johnson
5) Tyler Wright
Kaipo's Post Pipeline Final 5
1) John John Florence
2) Italo Ferreira
3) Griffin Colapinto
4) Kelly Slater
5) Seth Moniz
The waiting period for the Billabong Pro Pipeline gets underway on January 29. Keep it locked right here at WorldSurfLeague.com for the latest news and info as we countdown the start of the 2022 Championship Tour.