The waves are pumping and the contest is officially on.
The world’s best surfers are set to battle it out in a one-day surf off, with the world championships on the line, a first-ever in professional surfing’s 45-year history.
And it is happening at Orange County’s Lower Trestles, a top surf spot on the mainland.
Surf fans showed up pre-dawn to nab a space on the small sliver of sand or on the cobblestone rocks that line the remote beach just south of San Clemente.
Big waves and perfect peaks showed up for the day, in the 6-foot to 10-foot range. Plenty of pre-contest surfers paddled out to get a few waves before the world’s best took over.
“We have the officially call, the event is on with history in the making,” announcer Jeff Baldwin said over the loudspeaker, the crowd on the beach cheering.
While the cloud cover was thick Tuesday morning, the dense fog that showed up the previous day was staying just south of the contest, with organizers at 7:30 a.m. making the call to proceed.
Competing in the World Surf League men’s finals are Brazilians Italo Ferreira, a world champion who just won gold at the first-ever Olympics surf contest, current world No. 1 Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo, who now calls San Clemente home. WSL rookie Morgan Cibilic, of Australia, also grabbed a finals spot, along with Santa Barbara’s Conner Coffin.
The line up for the top five women include France’s Johanne Defay, Australians Sally Fitzgibbons and seven-time champ Stephanie Gilmore, Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb and Hawaiian Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion Carissa Moore.
First in the water: Australia’s Gilmore verses France’s Defay, followed by Coffin matched up against Cibilic.
If Coffin nabs the championship, he will be the first Californian to claim a title in 30 years since fellow Santa Barbara surfer Tom Curren.
The surfers with the lowest point totals from the year must battle it out through the day, with the winners of each heat moving to the next round. The top point-holders, Medina and Moore, must hold off their competitors at the end of the day.
The event is bringing professional surfing back to San Clemente’s backyard for the first time in years – the Hurley Pro was taken off the World Tour back in 2017.
The new Rip Curl WSL Finals is a drastic change to professional surfing’s longtime format, which historically has crowned a champ based on points accumulated throughout the competitive year – sometimes in a very un-climatic finish.
The WSL is hoping the new format will bring a new level of excitement to the sport and capture an audience who will tune in for the showdown.
The Rip Curl WSL Finals Match-Ups:
Women’s Match 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs Johanne Defay (FRA)
Men’s Match 1: Conner Coffin (USA) vs Morgan Cibilic (AUS)
Women’s Match 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs Match 1 Winner
Men’s Match 2: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs Match 1 Winner
Women’s Match 3: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs Match 1 Winner
Men’s Match 3: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs Match 2 Winner
Women’s Title Match, Heat 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs Match 3 Winner
Men’s Title Match, Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs Match 3 Winner
Women’s Title Match, Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs Match 3 Winner
Men’s Title Match, Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs Match 3 Winner
Women’s Title Match, Heat 3 (if necessary): Carissa Moore (HAW) vs Match 3 Winner
Men’s Title Match, Heat 3 (if necessary): Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs Match 3 Winner
For more information or to watch it live, go to worldsurfleague.com.
Source: Orange County Register