On March 14 the world’s best surfers, surf sponsors and media will infiltrate Snapper Rocks to kick-start another World Surf League Championship tour.
The 2017 edition shapes as another cracking year with a stellar list of competitors vying for the world crown.
Aussie lads Matt Wilkinson, Julian Wilson, Joel Parkinson, Josh Kerr and Stuart Kennedy will return to the water after securing their top-22 finishes at the end of 2016.
Story Makers of 2016: Stu Kennedy’s Second Chance https://t.co/H7Zy4ONIJ7
— Stuart Kennedy (@StuKennedy_surf) January 9, 2017
No official word has come in from the Mick Fanning camp regarding his return to the tour. However, based on conversations Fanning had with media towards the end of last year, if 2017 is the year ‘White Lightning’ retires, we will still see him striking at Snapper and Bells in the coming months.
— Tourism Ireland Oz (@GoToIrelandOz) January 23, 2017
Australian fans were happy with the wildcard spots going to Bede Durbidge and Owen Wright, who both missed competing in 2016 due to injury. Wright’s return to the tour is contingent upon medical evaluation and approval.
Joining the Aussie contention is 2016 Men’s Junior World Champion Ethan Ewing, Billabong poster boy Jack Freestone, and No.1 on the 2016 QS leaderboard Connor O’Leary.
Soli Bailey and Connor O’Leary scored Southern Ocean gold, last Australian winter.
— Red Bull Surfing (@RedBull_Surfing) January 14, 2017
It is destined to be a highly competitive year with Kelly Slater announcing last year that he will “make a last run at a title” in 2017 before retiring from competitive surfing.
And then, of course, there is John John.
John John Florence will be looking to back up his enormously successful 2016.
WHO WE’RE WATCHING FOR IN 2017
If Owen Wright is cleared and returns to the CT tour this year, our eyes will be on this Aussie’s come back. Wright was in the running for a world title finish when he suffered a severe head injury at Pipe in 2015. We will be gunning for a fairytale result for the Australian favourite.
— Owen Wright (@RealOwenWright) February 1, 2017
Jordy Smith has been competing on tour for the past eight years, and 2016 saw him achieve a second runner-up finish, which came on the back of a knee injury. If Smith’s momentum of 2016 continues into this year, the South African may have a chance at what some had called his destiny many years ago.
After a remarkable 2016, John John Florence heads into 2017 as a favourite for the world title. Despite Kelly Slater firmly setting his eyes on preventing the young gun’s second title, we still believe the torch has been passed. Slater has pulled many tricks out of his hat over the years, but with age and other business ventures on the go, our money is on the new generation.
— john john florence (@johnjohnflorenc) February 1, 2017
After some controversial scoring in 2016, Gabriel Medina finished the year in third place. Many feel Medina was the subject of some biased scoring and was disadvantaged by the WSL. This year could go one of two ways for the young Brazilian, but with some more maturity under his belt than previous years he could come back stronger and stick it to the WSL…or it could go even further in the other direction.
— World Surf League (@wsl) January 30, 2017
Fresh to the CT tour, Ethan Ewing and Connor O’Leary will be one to watch. Hailing from North Stradbroke Island, Ewing took out the 2016 Junior World Championship last month. The 18-year-old finished second in the 2016 QS series after an impressive second-place finish at the Vans US Open of Surfing.
With less than six weeks until the season starts, we’re counting down to what’s sure to be a great year of professional surfing!
— World Surf League (@wsl) February 1, 2017