Now that we’re done and dusted with the MYC, we can move on to the next brainchild of the WSL; the Final 5. Many quarrels have been had over this very topic – the entire idea, the location, the format (sudden death) etc. That is not what I am here to do today, most of us have accepted fate and moved on. Today I will predict who will be surfing for a chance at the 2023 World Title at Lower Trestles in September.
As you will recall, I made some in-depth predictions about the MYC before the year started. We just went over that here. What you might not have noticed was my Extra Early Final 5 Forecast. Here is what that looked like:
I did also include 2 additional surfers – Seth Moniz was titled as ‘Outside Chance’, and Ian Gentil was dubbed ‘Darkhorse’. Giving myself a little breathing room, you know? Thankfully all these guys made the cut.
It’s time to update this list, only this time with a little deep dive. Before we get to the renovated rendition, here are a couple of things to note.
- Kanoa snuck into Lowers in 5th place last year at 40,270 total points. He was ahead of Miguel Pupo by 85 points, and ahead of Griffin Colapinto by 150 points.
- The next closest surfer to these 3 was Caio Ibelli at 34,195. That’s a semi final finish (6,000+ points) difference.
- Kanoa was 4,020 points behind Ethan Ewing in 4th place. A quarterfinal finish or better would make up that distance.
- Griffin won 2 events last year and still did not make the Final 5.
The bottom line that I am getting at – consistency is key. And by consistency I mean consistently bagging results in the Quarters or better. Everyone in last year’s top 5 had a minimum of 5 QF or better finishes. The top 4 surfers were a solid result above the last 3 guys battling it out for the last spot. And those 3 guys were a huge result above anyone else threatening for the Final 5. I expect a similar scenario to pan out this year. There’s only 8 surfers who make the Quarters. The race should tighten up around a top 8.
As we know, only 5 will get to have their one day surf off for their moment in history; a shot at the title. Here are my picks.
JOAO CHIANCA – He’s already got 4 results in the Quarters or better. I’m willing to step on that ledge and say he will land one more somewhere between El Salvador, Brazil, J-Bay and Teahupoo. This, in theory, would land him in the Final 5. Of course all of this is unproven as he did not make the cut last year, so we don’t have any results to draw off of except for Brazil. He got 3rd at the Challenger Series held at Saquarema last year, losing only to event winner Gabe Medina. I’ve already said it, I can not wait to see this kid at The End Of The Road. If Kelly doesn’t win that one and ride off in the Sunset, Joao might take it out. The battle between him and Jack should be something to behold, though I think both of them have something to prove at the Wave Pool. Neither has the spark or flare to match Filipe or Gabe. Nonetheless, Joao will be waiting near the top of the rankings at Lowers. I wouldn’t mind seeing him cruise in at number 2. One heat before the actual final could give him some momentum, and he seems to be a conduit for positive energy. He’s nearly a lock already.
FILIPE TOLEDO – If not for the wave pool, I’m not sure if I would have Filipe on here as confidently. In the 3 events held at the Lemoore Ranch, Fil has two 2nd places, and one win. Chalk him up for at least 6,000 points there. That leaves him needing only one more result to follow. Between J-Bay and Brazil, he will get that done. I know he got runner-up to Griff in a debated final at El Salvador last year, but I feel that one is still a bit of a toss up. We don’t really know what that wave can produce. I have a feeling last year was a bit of an anomaly. Of course I am not expecting much from him at Teahupoo. He will shore up his spot before then. The consensus before this year even started was that Filipe would win back-to-back titles at Lowers. It could be his to lose.
ETHAN EWING – For whatever reason I feel like I’m taking the biggest risk on picking Ewing here. Actually, I know the reason. It’s because the Wave Pool, Brazil, and Teahupoo can all be viewed as wildcards for YEwing. The Surf Ranch is going to be tough for him because his backhand won’t be able to match Filipe or Gabes. Mix in some guys like Yago and Griff, it could be a complete throwaway for Ethan, though he did nab a 5th back in 2021. Brazil doesn’t seem like a spot to work out well for Ethan. If he could land a nice result there, it would put a lot of people on notice. Teahupoo is a bit of an unknown. He’s unproven in barreling lefts, only having one 9th place result at Pipe or Chopes in seven showings. So, I’m throwing all my chips at El Salvador and J-Bay to get it done for the most stylish surfer on tour. A QF finish at El Sal and a win at J-Bay last year have him looking like big favorites for those events. And thus far this year, he’s not let down in any waves we have expected him to excel – Sunset, Bells or Margs. He’s got his emotions under control and he knows he belongs at Lowers in September. Let’s see if he can get it done.
GABRIEL MEDINA – The Surf Ranch Pro is essentially a surf off between him and Filipe. Nobody can match these two. It’s almost a different sport (which is why Wave Pools will eventually have their own tour). So go ahead and write him in for 6,000+ points in this next event, that sets Gabby up nicely. His last 6 results at Teahupoo – 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd, 1st. So those two events alone should see him safely into the Finals. It’s a scary idea to have Medina just now getting into his stride, and I guarantee every other surfer is thinking that same thing. He’s never finished worse than Quarters at J-Bay, and he was in the Semi’s last year at El Sal. So you can add a couple more points there. Brazil is the one location Gabby hasn’t proven his eliteness. I’ll bet that he is chomping at the bit for at least a Final at home. If he goes into the Final ranked #1, everyone else is in trouble.
JACK ROBINSON – This last spot was so tough to fill, especially with Jack’s injury – we don’t know the timetable, the extent of the injury, etc. It’s all been a bit hush-hush. Yago Dora was the first one I heard actually say it was his meniscus, and not just an open ended “knee injury” label. Jack would presumably not be a favorite at the wave pool even if he does show up. And if you haven’t heard, his manager Matt Bemrose gave the thumbs up. Every other event, however, should work in his favor. He got 5th at El Sal last year, and 2nd at J-Bay. Even though we think there are other surfers who could and should outshine Robbo at locations like that, performance based, he has proven his cold blood through his consistency. Teahupoo will obviously be one we watch for him to win. I think the heavy beachbrakes of Brazil will actually welcome him as well. That, and it’s pretty much his second home now. It’s going to be an insanely tight race for this last spot between him, Griffin, and JJF. I chose Jack because he is dealing with and getting over his injury right now. It is not far out of the imagination of John getting hurt again, and spoiling our hopes at a JJF X Gabby true rivalry, as the past has proven. Griff needs a little more, something. I’m not sure. Maybe a little less of his puppy dog, happy-go-lucky attitude. He needs the cold blood with his warm heart (thanks to Joao Chianca for that phrase). Maybe next year. For now, Jack grits his way in again. And we wait another year for a possible JJF X Medina rekindling.
So there we have it. Some thoughts and opinions for you. It means nothing. It is enjoyable to banter about. If you have any thoughts or opinions, drop a comment below. Send an email. It’s fun to converse.