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Header: Gabriel Medina in 2015 courtesy Leo za1
The final stop on the Men’s Surfing Championship Tour 2018 is almost here! Beginning tomorrow, not only will the victor of the Billabong Pipe Masters in Oahu, Hawaii be crowned but so will the World Title winner. WSL championship bragging rights are on the line—will one of the three title contenders take the competition, will Jeremy Flores repeat as a back-to-back champ, or will there be a surprise come December 20?
First, a little background on this now time-honored event. Held every year at Oahu’s Banzai Pipeline, Billabong Pipeline Masters has been attracting the greatest 45 surfers from the WSL ranks since 1970. It’s the final leg of the “Triple Crown of Surfing” that hooks up winners with a share of a $525,000 prize money pot. In short, it’s friggin’ awesome.
While Flores may be last year’s winner, there are three other names you really need to keep in mind coming into this one: Gabriel Medina, Julian Wilson, and Filipe Toledo. Each is positioned to secure the World Title for 2018.
Here’s how it breaks down: Medina—a former World Title winner and two-time Pipe Masters finalist—already sits atop the Jeep Leaderboard and only increased his lead at the previous WSL event, MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal. He needs to reach the finals (although he doesn’t have to win the event) in order to clinch the title, so you can expect him to make a heavy push deep into this contest. If Medina finishes third, Wilson or Toledo would grab World Champion bragging rights should either win the final. If, however, Medina falls short of the podium altogether, either Wilson or Toledo would simply need to make the final to crush the former’s hopes.
It should be noted that while Medina and Wilson are both former Pipe Master winners, Toledo’s history at this particular event is dimmer, with his best result a quarterfinal finish in 2014. Will he be able to outperform historical results in order to challenge for the world title? Or, will an unforeseen pro shake up the event altogether?
One other big pre-Pipe Masters note: John John Florence has elected to opt out of the event. An injury earlier in the season sidelined him for most of the 2018 Championship Tour, although some hoped he would be able to compete in Oahu. He recently announced he’d be refraining from the event in an effort to return to 100%, meaning that the 2x World Champion and the pro many consider the best when it comes to heavy reef break will not be making an appearance.
As such, here’s how Round 1 shapes up:
Following the conclusion of Billabong Pipeline Masters on the 20th, we’ll have a full recap of everything that went down. Keep it with us!