With his second contest win of the season, Filipe Toledo has claimed the No. 1 spot on the men’s Championship Tour rankings, pulling off the victory at Jeffreys Bay. The result moves him ahead of Julian Wilson and he’ll take the yellow jersey into the next stop at Teahupoo.
Two wins and three other quarterfinal appearances have given Toledo a substantial points edge over most of the other contenders. He leads Wilson by just under 4,000 points and has a solid 10,000-point cushion over Gabriel Medina, who sits in third place. There is a lot that can still happen and we have seen Toledo in this position before, but he was tremendous from start to finish at J-Bay and is certainly deserving of the top spot for the moment.
Sebastian Zietz offered up his best result thus far this season with a quarterfinal showing. It required a major effort in round four as he kept himself in the heat and came from behind with his final wave to advance with Toledo, jumping ahead of Adriano de Souza. It was a high-scoring heat for all three and Zietz stayed composed through some adversity, first breaking his board and needing to find a score against the two Brazilian greats on his backup. He took full advantage of his best opportunity, punishing the lip and looking as smooth as can be on the long drawn-out wave for an 8.23 and a 16.13 total to reach the final eight.
Zietz came up short at that stage to Kanoa Igarashi, who was on fire throughout the event. But the fifth-place result for Seabass pushes him into 21st for the season. He still has some of his best events remaining and a pair of minimum scores to replace, so there is a lot of room for upward momentum.
Wade Carmichael reached the final for the second time this season. He was the biggest mover of the week, jumping up eight spots to sixth in the rankings.
Now the big story is the women’s tour, which is receiving its first crack at Jeffreys Bay since 2000. It’s been a very strong start so far, though a pair of championship hopefuls have not had the initiation they had hoped.
Tyler Wright came to South Africa in fourth for the season, but the two-time defending world champ had to pull out of the event before it began with the flu. Her brother Owen had to do the same before his third-round heat against Zietz. But for Tyler, it’s a major blow to her world title chances. She was already almost 11,000 points behind current leader Lakey Peterson and she’ll need a major effort the rest of the way to get back in the hunt.
It was also a blow to Sally Fitzgibbons, who lost a second-round matchup with Coco Ho to slip a bit further down the leaderboard. Fitzgibbons came into the event in eighth place, hoping to jump back towards the upper region that she’s more used to. It won’t happen now and some of the leaders are going to increase their advantages.
The top three are all still in the mix, with Peterson, Stephanie Gilmore and Tatiana Weston-Webb into the third round of action. Malia Manuel also advanced as her second-round opponent, Silvana Lima, had to pull out of the event with a knee injury she suffered in round one.
It’s already been an exciting start to this returning event and the women should put on a show the rest of the way, showcasing their style and skill on the long rides that make J-Bay such an attraction.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.