Lucky country loses its grip
AS THE action heats up at Supertubos, Peniche, "Portugal's Pipeline”, for the Meo Rip Curl Pro this week, defending champion John John Florence is on fire and could very well claim the 2017 world title there after another disappointing early round loss from his nearest rival, Jordy Smith.
The world title scenario is as follows: if Florence wins the event, Smith will need a fifth or better to stop him and now that Jordy is out, the way is open for Florence.
If Florence finishes second, Gabriel Medina, who at time of going to press was still in, would need to win to force a world title showdown at Pipeline.
Aussie contenders Owen Wright and Matt Wilkinson had their hopes dashed with a round two and round three exits respectively, leaving Julian Wilson as the only outside Aussie chance who would need to win Portugal and Pipeline - and for Florence to fail - and that's unlikely.
"The Portugal event is always a really exciting event coming at the end of the year,” said Florence, who claimed his maiden WSL title at this event in 2016 and managed to avoid elimination in round three.
"Last year was one of my best memories in my competitive career.”
Revered as the world's most influential surfer today, Florence continued to blow minds at Hossegor with his out-the-water dynamic aerial surfing together with power, speed and spontaneity.
Brazil's Filipe Toledo had a golden opportunity to break into the top three but suffered a back injury and early round-two loss.
This left the door open for Brazil's first world champion, Medina, to put Brazil back in the title hunt with his third Quiksilver Pro France victory.
Medina is 23 and Florence is 24, with millions of social media fans. It begs the question, where are the Australian challengers from the next generation coming from?
When Mick, Joel, Ace, Wilko and Owen are gone, who is left? Will it only be Julian? What has gone wrong? Has the rest of the world caught up and overtaken the once dominant Australians?
Perhaps the current crop of young Australians are over-coached with far too many events before they reach the world tour. More free-surfing trips might be the answer to keep it fresh and set the sights early on the high-rated WQS events.
On the World Qualifying Series, Central Coast's Wade Carmichael will be the only Aussie to qualify for next year's World Tour.
It's unthinkable that if Australia doesn't produce some new firebrand talent, the World Tour could conceivably be without any Australians as Brazil, Europe, California, Hawaii, and Japan get stronger. That is a wake-up call for young Aussies to break through and follow in the great tradition of our world champions.
The same can't be said of the Australian women like Sally Fitzgibbons and Tyler Wright, who are holding down the top two spots respectively, with both reaching the semi-finals at Hossegor.
Despite Carissa Moore winning her first WT event for the year and another runner-up position for California's Lakey Peterson at the Roxy Pro, the women's world title will be decided in the final event at Honolua Bay, Maui. And it will be either Wright or Fitzgibbons.