A tour dying of fatigue is stabbed with the pitchfork of excitement!
1. Gabriel Medina
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
ASP rating: 1
2. Julian Wilson
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.
ASP rating: 14th
3. Filipe Toledo
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.
ASP rating: 17th
"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
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.
ASP rating: 3rd
5. Mick Fanning Result: 9th ASP rating: 2ndThe 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.
6. Kelly Slater
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
ASP rating: 4th
7. Joel Parkinson
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.
ASP rating: 6th
8. Michel Bourez
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.
ASP rating: 5th
9. Josh Kerr
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.
ASP rating: 9th
10. Alejo Muniz
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.
ASP rating: 26th