A tour dying of fatigue is stabbed with the pitchfork of excitement!

Gabriel Medina, standing tall© Ryan Miller

1. Gabriel Medina
Result: 2nd
ASP rating: 1

It might be reasonably suggested that pro surfing, pre-Pipeline, was dying of fatigue. A final in Portugal with one of its protagonists unable to catch two waves in three quarters of an hour? Only test cricket on the dullest of wickets is capable of such horrors. The worms were ready to descend. But the Pipeline Masters, as it always does, stabbed its pitchfork into the fire and gave us drama! And Gabriel Medina, still a few days short of his 21st birthday, and therefore little more than a child, became the second-youngest world champ in surfing (oh how Kelly relishes this title). So easy. Such a sleepwalk. Yet his defence won't be easy. The seal has been broken on the Mick-Kelly-Joel cork.

2. Julian Wilson
Result: Winner
ASP rating: 14th

In barely a breath, Julian went from the lowest of depths (failing to qualify), to his rightful position at the highest point of the podium. Two finals with Gabriel in his World Tour career for two wins. And yet Julian sits at an uncomfortable 14th position, while Gabriel is being immortalised in Brazilian novels, in the stained glass windows of Rio churches, on inn-signs, and as the lead character in erotic books with poor spelling. From his ruined rampart, Julian charged, won, and perhaps convinced himself that 2015 might be his.

3. Filipe Toledo
Result: 5th
ASP rating: 17th

Lessons in generational change don't come any faster than this. As I was being shown the ropes of top-level judging at the US Open at Huntington Beach, California, 18-year-old Brazilian Filipe Toledo stole a wave under priority, punched a first-section air, and then started pumping his board up and down to snatch something out of the reform.
"Is it worth a surfer's time all that pumping to the shore break?" I asked my handler.
"Nah, we've already got our scores locked in," he said, smiling. "It's just a waste of energy…unless, of course, they do something really crazy."
I thought of the commentators busy telling the wider audience that a surfer would be marked down if he blew his final shore break turn when suddenly Filipe hit the gas a metre from shore. and launched a perfect full-rotation air.
The handler smiled. "Like that."
Instead of a five, the kid stole an eight-and-a-half out of thin air. The following afternoon he would win the event. Filipe Toledo is that rare athlete that doesn't just shift the paradigm. He kicks it in the face. He will shape up for the title in 2015, and come very, very close.

 4. John John Florence
Result: 5th ASP rating: 3rd

If you'll excuse the cliche, John is the surfer's surfer – the critics' favourite but much too subtle for the mainstream fan. John has supernatural powers in any conditions, but because he is so easily bored, prefers to demonstrate only when there are oversized ramps or the barrels are 10-foot and over. Who else can yawn in a 12-foot tube that might easily kill? A world title contender, if he chooses.

5. Mick Fanning Result: 9th ASP rating: 2nd

The battle in the mind is as ferocious as the battle of men. Strength, patience, and a style of surfing reduced to its most basic expression defines this colossus. A classical wonder. Three world titles don't just happen. Three years younger than Taj; a decade under Slater means he'll exhibit until 2020.

The Emperor’s new cast© Ryan Miller

6. Kelly Slater
Result: 13th
ASP rating: 4th

More than a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. The history, the influence, the continual demonstration of what is possible is Kelly's legacy. It's a mark of the absurdity of Kelly's career that Gabriel Medina's world title will matter only because Kelly, already deep into middle-age, was there.

7. Joel Parkinson
Result: 9th
ASP rating: 6th

So harmonic and architectural. A bourgeois magic that isn't as apparent among the younger set. How privileged we are to observe Joel in waves such as Jeffreys Bay.

It’s showtime!© Trevor Moran


8. Michel Bourez
Result: 9th
ASP rating: 5th

Two World Tour wins and a late-season spike at Sunset makes three wins and the most successful season by a Tahitian, a Frenchman (if you can call him that), in history. It's scarcely the stuff of legend, of course, but what a start.

9. Josh Kerr
Result: 3rd
ASP rating: 9th

At a surf trip earlier in the year to Israel, Josh Kerr nailed, on film, one of the biggest frontside airs of the year. Amid a pool of freesurfing talent that included Craig Anderson and Creed McTaggart, Josh showed why he is top 10 in the world. In his green turtlenecks and white chinos Josh is the most unlikely of surf stars. And yet he is a man worth standing in line to see.

10. Alejo Muniz
Result: 5th
ASP rating: 26th

Oh, what cruelty. Despatching every contender to Gabriel's world title crown before falling on his own sword. The tour will miss Alejo, if only for his lemony sunshine.