The Tahiti Pro, as with most of the Championship Tour events this year, has witnessed a massive changing of the guard as the usual suspects for one of the most coveted titles on the Championship Tour have either been injured or fallen by the wayside at Teahupo’o this week.
With world champions Kelly Slater and John John Florence on the injury list, Mick Fanning’s recent retirement and world title front runners Julian Wilson and Jordy Smith upset in early round eliminations, Filipe Toledo’s world title bid has gained momentum.
As Toledo stormed through to the Quarter-Finals of the Tahiti Pro, the 23-year-old Brazilian is just one heat away from a third podium finish in seven events this season which will further strengthen his lead in the world title race.
Having won his home event in May, the Oi Rio Pro, and successfully defended his Corona Open J-Bay title in July, Toledo and compatriot Italo Ferreira are the only surfers with two wins to their names this season.
Julian Wilson’s unexpected departure from the Tahiti Pro in Round Two, by Tahitian wildcard surfer Tikanui Smith, will see a shake-up in the top five in the world rankings as Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira also progressed through to the Quarter-Finals.
Unfortunately for the South African duo in the event, Jordy Smith and Michael February, they clashed early, in Round Three, and one of them had to fall. Former world No2 Smith, surprisingly fell to February as the rookie made the most of the tricky left handers breaking over the razor-sharp reef.
February then went on to post the highest wave score of the day in Round 4 with a racy backhand tube that netted him 8.93 points.
The lanky natural footer’s backhand barrel in the dying minutes of his heat with Australian Wade Carmichael and Hawaiian Ezekiel Lau instantly moved him from third to first in the heat.
“More of those would be nice,” said February after his heat. “That’s the best wave I’ve ever caught at Teahupo’o.”
February, currently ranked 31st on the world rankings, is now matched with Toledo in Quarter-Final 1 and, win or lose, the result will help his chances of re-qualifying for next year’s Championship Tour. If he can re-qualify, February will be aiming to break into the top 22 in the rankings.
The remaining Quarter-Finals will see Owen Wright (Australia) v Wade Carmichael (Australia) in QF2, Gabriel Medina (Brazil) v Italo Ferreira (Brazil) in QF3 and Jeremy Flores (France) v Kolohe Andino (US) in QF4.
Current WSL World Top Ten Rankings:
1. Filipe Toledo (Brazil) 35 900
2. Julian Wilson (Australia) 31 960
3. Gabriel Medina (Brazil) 25 685
4. Italo Ferreira (Brazil) 25 415
5. Jordy Smith (South Africa) 21 910
6. Wade Carmichael (Australia) 21 805
7. Willian Cardoso (Brazil) 21 405
8. Michel Bourez (French Polynesia) 21 040
9. Mikey Wright (Australia) 19 200
10. Griffin Colapinto (US) 18 280