You probably saw Kelly Slater win the Hurley Pro Trestles last week, or at least heard the news. If you watched the event, you saw some of the best surfing we’ve ever seen in competition—giant air reverses weren’t even getting out of the mediocre score range, if that’s any clue.
But perhaps more importantly, the Hurley Pro Trestles set the stage for the end-of-the-season world title race. Going into the final four events, we now have a pretty clear picture of what the race looks like, at least by the numbers.
Quick refresher on the scoring system for the world-title race: first place gets 10,000 points, second gets 8,000, third gets 6,500, etc. There are ten events, but only your top eight scores get counted—you in effect get to drop two scores. If you look at the current ASP rankings, the low scores haven’t been dropped yet, so those rankings might not give you the best idea of what the race actually looks like.
Consider Kelly Slater. He sat out Brazil with a dubious injury, and fizzled out early in Fiji. He thus sits in third place in the rankings. But if you drop those two scores—which Kelly likely will at the end of year—he has a total of 33,200 points. If you drop Mick Fanning’s lowest scores, he has a total of 33,000. So even though Kelly sits in third place on the rankings, he actually has a slight advantage in points over first-place Mick Fanning right now.
Unless someone further down the rankings makes an amazing late-season run—which can always happen—it looks like a three-horse race between Kelly, Mick, and Joel Parkinson, with John John Florence within striking range. If you drop the two lowest scores, Joel’s less than 3,000 points behind Kelly and Mick, and John John’s 3,600 points behind him.
The numbers might look close, but it seems like this would be a tough one for Joel to win, since, despite his consistency, he hasn’t yet won an event. It’d be hard for Joel to pull ahead of Mick or Kelly without a 10,000-point win or two—because whoever wins the title will probably win at least one more event, if not two or more. It’d be different for Joel if he only had one guy to catch, but he can’t really count on both Kelly and Mick fizzling out at the end of the year. A series of second places will probably earn Joel just that: second place.
We might be biased, but John John might have a chance at this thing. Not only has he improved over the season—after starting with a thirteenth and a ninth he hasn’t placed worse than fifth—but he’s shown that he’s capable of winning events. Plus, Pipeline is the last stop of the tour, and John John might’ve surfed there more than anyone else (despite being one of the youngest surfers on tour). So if he can stay within striking range over the European leg and at Santa Cruz, we could see John John make a big move at Pipe. If we could dream up the perfect scenario, we’d have the title race come down to Kelly and John John at Pipe—could anything be better than that?
The waiting period for the France event starts on September 28. After that, we’ll probably have an even clearer picture of the title race. We suspect, though, that it’ll be a close one, and it’ll be fun to watch.