- WSL / Brent Bielmann

A significant shakeup has taken place in the WSL Final Five rankings after the first event of the 2022 Championship Tour season, the Billabong Pro Pipeline. Though perhaps that's hardly surprising given what a challenging wave Pipe is, especially when its 6-10 feet and feathering on Second Reef.

Moving Pipe from the end of the year to the beginning was a calculated decision. It throws athletes right into the frying pan of a new season without the chance to ease into the swing of things. Now, they'll be heading to another challenging North Shore venue for the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach which begins 11 February.

To put the shakeup into perspective, there isn't a single male athlete who competed for a World Title as part of the WSL Final Five at the 2021 Rip Curl WSL Finals in the current WSL Final Five. There's a women's Wildcard in Moana Jones Wong now no.1 in the world. And there are several Rookies (Samuel Pupo and Lucca Mesinas) and an injury replacement (Caio Ibelli) in the mix.

Kelly Slater Will he or won't he? Retirement speculation has followed Kelly Slater around for more than a decade, but rarely has the question had the potential to have such a big impact on the outcome of the Championship Tour season. Slater is currently no.1 in the world after securing his 8th CT win at Pipeline - WSL / Tony Heff

Most notably perhaps, we also have the resurgence of the sport's greatest Athlete in Kelly Slater, the current men's rankings leader.

Where Slater is concerned, the biggest implication for the rankings is what he does next.

"This may be it for me, I'm going to have to have a talk with myself before Sunset," Slater said during the awards ceremony. Sunset may not be Slater's favorite wave in the world, but it's a big, powerful right-hand reef break, which is his bread and butter.

It has long been speculated that Slater might call time on his career with a final CT victory. For the time being though, he's weighing his options. He's just won a CT event days away from his 50th birthday, and with Sunset, G-Land and Teahupoo also on the schedule, he could make a serious run at a 12th World Title. The temporary absence of Gabriel Medina only widens the door of possibility, as it does for all the men on Tour.

Carissa Moore Carissa Moore may have lost the Yellow Jersey to Wildcard Moana Jones Wong after being defeated in the Final of the 2022 Billabong Pro Pipeline, but she is still in a very solid position to continue her campaign for a sixth World Title - WSL / Brent Bielmann

It's early days, and things are going to change significantly as the season progresses. It's hard to imagine the likes of Stephanie Gilmore or Italo Ferreira won't be back in the WSL Final FIve soon, or that John John Florence won't move higher than his currently 5th place.

And It's important to keep in mind that across the men's and women's rankings there are four equal-fifth place holders and two equal-second place holders, which shows how tight the points are.

But it speaks to an exciting season in which some of the old order of things is bound to be shaken up. And Sunset is a wave that lends itself to drama. It's a big, shifty open water wave that will test all the paddling ability and positioning skills surfers posses, and which can catch even the best in the world off guard.

Carissa Moore was defeated by Jones Wong at Pipe, but realistically it doesn't hurt her chances of a sixth World Title. Jones Wong probably doesn't not have the competitive experience to mount a Title campaign across an entire season of Wildcard appearances, and Moore still has a lead over her biggest threats such as Tyler Wright, Stephanie Gilmore and Tatiana Weston-Webb heading into the next stop at Sunset.

Seth Moniz After a runner-up finish at Pipeline, Seth Moniz is one of the athletes in the WSL Final Five who have every chance of putting together a career-defining seasoon and potentially competing for a World Title - WSL / Brent Bielmann

Considering the surfing we've seen Moore do in powerful rights such as Haleiewa, or Honolua Bay, she is a strong favorite to reclaim the yellow jersey. But equally, athletes such as Johanne Defay or a back-from-injury Lakey Peterson are in a good position to mount a campaign for their first Titles, in 3rd and 5th place respectively.

RIght now, we have two dominant, proven Title winners at or near the top of the rankings. But underneath them, there is a sea of opportunity, a wave that hasn't been a regular fixture on the Championship Tour for several years, and which could give some of these newer names an advantage.

Take for example Seth Moniz who is now no.2 in the world, with another stop on the North Shore ahead of him, and then stops at G-Land and Teahupoo where he will be a favorite. He's no slouch in high-performance waves either. The surfer from Hawaii has a clear path to a Title, as do any number of athletes we aren't used to seeing atop the rankings.

Early this season, it's looking like we'll either see legends of the sport cement their legacies, or a new face burst onto the scene. All we know for sure is that it's going to be exciting.

WSL Women's Championship Tour Leaderboard Final 5:

1) Moana Jones Wong
2) Carissa Moore
3) Tyler Wright
3) Lakey Peterson
5) Johanne Defay
5) Isabella Nichols
5) Brisa Hennessey
5) Malia Manuel

WSL Women's Championship Tour Leaderboard Final 5:

1) Kelly Slater
2) Seth Moniz
3) Miguel Pupo
3)Caio Ibelli
5)Kanoa Igarashi
5)John John Florence
5) Lucca Mesinas
5) Samuel Pupo

World Surf League
Download it for free on the App store. Download it for free on Google Play.