Today appears to be finals day and despite the forecast showing fairly minimal surf, the alternatives look less promising. So the eight remaining competitors will be battling it out for the Tahiti Pro Teahupoo title. While all the participants have quite a bit to gain from the outcome, a few certainly have more than others.
Still in the field is current points leader Filipe Toledo. Without having to worry about heavy barrels, Toledo has put together one of the more complete performances to this point in the event. His opening-round win included a beautiful tube ride and he hacked the lip on his way to a win over Tikanui Smith in round three.
He has his hands full with a matchup against Michael February, as the wild card has his best Championship Tour result already secured. February stepped in for the still-injured Kelly Slater and has knocked out Conner Coffin, Jordy Smith and helped oust Ezekiel Lau in round four.
Toledo is guaranteed to hold on to the yellow jersey after this event and his lead will actually grow, no matter what else transpires. That’s a huge result for the Brazilian as he looks to win his first career world title. Teahupoo should have been a chance for the rest of the field to narrow that gap. Instead, he will have widened it.
However, there is a chance that Gabriel Medina is the man closest to him instead of Julian Wilson. Medina is also into the quarterfinals, having survived a tough battle with Wiggolly Dantas and then winning his fourth-round heat that saw Yago Dora eliminated in third. He’ll be taking on Italo Ferreira for a spot in the semifinals.
Medina still needs to reach the final heat just to pass Wilson for second place in the standings. Wilson was a second-round upset victim, but his edge over Medina was a little over 6,000 points before the event.
If Medina were to win the contest and Toledo were to lose now in the quarterfinals, Toledo would still hold a 4,960-point edge over Medina. His lead over Wilson before Teahupoo was 3,940 points.
Aussie Wade Carmichael has a chance to continue his superb season as he paddles into the final eight against Owen Wright. Carmichael entered the event in sixth place and has already reached two final heats this year. He’s one of just four surfers who can say that right now with Toledo, Wilson and Ferreira being the other three. One more big result could cement him into the top five and he’ll still have plenty of upward mobility with two second-round losses ready to be thrown away.
The last quarterfinal pits Kolohe Andino against Jeremy Flores. Flores, a two-time Pipe Master, comes in ranked 18th and looking to move up significantly. But on a smaller day, Andino has the definite edge between the two. It will probably take something out of the ordinary for Flores to advance, though we’ve seen him pull out some shockers in the past.
Toledo and Medina have the biggest spotlight on them, each having immediate world title implications at stake. Carmichael and Ferreira are lurking just behind, ready to take advantage if either slips up. Without Slater or John John in the mix and without the hulking barrels that typically comprise the Teahupoo lineup, a compelling finals day still awaits. A win for any of these eight will have an enormous ripple effect.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.