It’s a good time to be watching the World Tour these days, with a good mix of old salts still battling it out, along with a host of young blood giving them a good run for their money. Last year came down to the wire with a bit of a fairytale finish – that is if you like your fairies with Australian accents and big tongues. This year is set to be another humdinger and Zag’s predicting that it’s going to be tight at the top.
Who’ll be at the top of the pile come December is anyone’s guess, but a few names do spring to mind. On the tip of everyone’s tongue is naturally Kelly Slater – whose age begins to represent the demographic his native Florida is known for. It’s evident the eleven time champ has still got the burning desire to win, but he’s also always done it on his own terms. If he comes out swinging in the first few stops, then he might go the distance. Otherwise, expect to see him bunking to go chase swells, or focussing on creating his own. Maybe that’s added incentive to see him off to pasture then – it’s a win/win situation if his wavepools see the light of day.
Those best placed to do it are still the Aussie trifecta of Joel, Mick and Taj, but in a year, maybe two’s time, expect to see them dropping off the pace. The other contender is naturally John John, and it’s a big call, but at least one Brazzo is going to make an earnest bid for the title. Smart money goes on Medina or De Souza – should one of them actually win the championship, the claim will be beyond anything we can imagine. We’re also expecting big things from Owen Wright and Julian Wilson, but perhaps they need another year to really come into their own.
Are we forgetting anyone? Well, yes – definitely. Jordy. He had a bad year in 2012. But that was last year. And a lot of commentators call him the best surfer on tour not to have a title to his name. That’s a hell of a statement considering the company he’s in – those names mentioned above. His surfing is there, it’s the mental game he needs to succeed in. We’re going to call it: he will win a contest this year, and should that happen sooner rather than later, it will provide the spark to see him finish very high in the league. We can expect big things from Mr Smith, if not this year, then further down the line.
As for our other campaigner, Travis, he has his work cut out for him. A new rule has been put in place to create more changeover in the tour. The top 22 still re-qualify automatically, but the bottom 12 are left more exposed. Previously, campiagners would count 3 x world tour event points, and 5 x Prime or six stars for the One World Rankings. Now that has been changed to 2 x WT and 4 x QS points. The ASP reckons this gives a balanced opportunity to both current World Tourers and those aspiring. The logic is that advancing one heat on Tour yields the same points as making three heats in a Prime event. And being on tour you have 18 top-tier events in a year. As a QS’er, there are only 8. So, both reducing the ratio (from 3.75 to 3.33, if you do the maths) of WT events and decreasing the number of Prime events needed, should assist those not yet on tour. By how much? That remains to be seen. This year’s rookies are Irishman (but kinda Australian) Glenn Hall, Hawaiian Sebastian Zietz, Brazilian Filipe Toledo, and Californian Nat Young. They’ll be nice guinea pigs for this and we’ll see if they’re still around in a year’s time.
From a South African perspective, while it may make guys like Travis more vulnerable, it also gives a few others a better go at earning a ticket. Let’s be honest – if we could get another Saffa on tour in the next few years, even if it’s just for a year, we could call that an achievement. Dale Staples, Shaun Joubert, M-Feb, Beyrick De Vries, Sarah Baum – we’re looking at you.
The venues are pretty much the same as last year – swapping out Santa Cruz for Keramas and there’s a good mix of lefts, rights and beaches. They’re all great waves, with one glaring exception, and yes, we are going to carry on about it. Rio must voetsek. And as we often ask bands on tour: Is it really a world tour if you don’t come to Africa?
The tour kicks off as usual on the Gold Coast with the Quiksilver Pro on 2 March. The Women’s World Tour also starts then and there are 16 good reasons to pay attention to that, and one more excellent reason in Bianca Buitendag. It won’t be easy for her being the only rookie on tour, but she has shown she has what it takes to be beat those already there. Between herself, Jordy and Trav, there’s plenty to cheer for this 2013.