“Super Bowl of Surfing”: the best in the world prepare for the first finals of the WSL
Conner Coffin looked up at land from the pier in San Clemente, Calif., Pointing to the quaint hotel rooms at the Beachcomber Inn where he stayed decades ago competing at amateur surfing events in Lower Trestles, nearby.
Coffin, now 28, is back in the seaside town for another competition – this time a world championship title at stake.
And if the Santa Barbara surfer succeeds, he will become the first Californian surfer to win the prestigious World Men’s Surfing League world title in 30 years, a feat last conquered by Tom Curren in 1990 even before Coffin was born. .
“It’s an added motivation,” Coffin said of the possibility of following the legacy of his idol. “It would be foolish… I would be honored to carry the torch.
In his own way are four more of the best surfers in the world, all after the same goal.
The first-ever Rip Curl WSL Final prepares to hit the Lower Trestles – one of the continent’s best wave spots – and will feature the top five men and top five women going head to head in a one-on-one showdown. day that will crown the champion.
A rally on the San Clemente wooden pier on Tuesday brought these elite athletes together to talk about the upcoming finals – they are heralded as the “Super Bowl of Surfing” – which will take place in the week ahead.
The organizers carefully monitor the forecast models to determine the best day to hold the competition based on the waves and weather.
A “yellow alert” will be announced, giving 24 hours’ notice of when the event could take place, although the official roll call will take place the same day on the beach, the WSL competition manager said. , Jessi Miley-Dyer. Looking at the forecast, there are two swells they are watching, one for September 11-12 and another for September 13-15.
The rally also unveiled a new facility, the Walk of Champions, which runs along the pier and showcases former world champions.
Brazilians Italo Ferreira, world champion who just won gold in the very first Olympic surfing competition, current world number 1 Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo, who now lives in San Clemente, are part of the selection for the WSL men’s finals. WSL rookie Morgan Cibilic of Australia also clinched a berth in the final, along with Coffin.
The top five list includes France’s Johanne Defay, Australians Sally Fitzgibbons and seven-time champion Stephanie Gilmore, Brazilian Tatiana Weston-Webb, who lives in Kauai, and Hawaii’s Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion. Carissa Moore.
The event brings professional surfing back to San Clemente’s backyard for the first time in years – the Hurley Pro was retired from the World Tour in 2017.
Seven-time world champion Gilmore said the surf spot and the nearby town was one of his favorites to visit.
“It’s like a skatepark,” she said, noting that Lower Trestles has an ideal wave for everything from right to left, for doing big carves or tunes. “It’s a great place for fans to come and watch because it’s so close. Here in San Clemente the surfing is just a big part of the community, everyone I have spoken to in surfing is excited.
Gilmore’s world titles – which date back to her first victory in 2007 – are part of the new art installation, a chance for her to “relive those memories,” she said.
Coffin has spent his fair share of contests and free surfing at Lower Trestles.
“It’s really nice to be back here in San Clemente and competing here at home,” he said. “There’s so much rooted surfing in San Clemente and California it’s horrible not having an event here. It’s great, it’s now the biggest event of the year here and I’m delighted to be here.
Toledo has also had his share of practice on the world-famous surf spot, with the Brazilian and his family moving to San Clemente eight years ago.
And, with strict travel restrictions, his wife and two children aged 3 and 5 couldn’t see him compete in person. But many of his family will be showing up on the cobblestone beach to support him this week – a chance for them to see him at work doing what he loves and, hopefully, “being an example that we can do anything for.” what we want if we keep dreaming and fighting for it, ”he said.
The new Rip Curl WSL Finals is a radical departure from the long-standing format of professional surfing, crowning a champion on a day of surfing rather than on the basis of points accumulated throughout the year of competition.
Toledo said he believes the new format could take surfing to a higher level of popularity – attracting more viewers, fans and sponsors to help fuel the sport.
Moore, who just won gold for Team USA in Japan, spoke about how special it would be to win a world title this season, which would be his fifth.
“It has been an amazing season and year so far. I know I have my work cut out for me, there are four other amazing women in the showdown, ”she said. “I’m going to have to put my head down and work really hard for this one. If it works, it will be super special.
WSL CEO Erik Logan extended his heartfelt thanks to the community of San Clemente for hosting the event. It’s a place where renowned board shapers work, a city that produces “world superstars” and a place where the surf industry has support, he said.
“Lower Trestles, as we all know, is known worldwide as one of the best performing waves and we couldn’t think of a better site to serve as the battleground for the undisputed world champion,” he said. declared.
Bringing the contest to town has a ripple effect, adding surf tourism activities to local hotels and restaurants, said City Councilor Chris Duncan.
“Coming out of the pandemic, the timing couldn’t be better for us,” he said. “The timing is really good and we look forward to all of these benefits for our local businesses who have struggled through the pandemic and are looking to bounce back and come back even better than ever. “
San Clemente surfer and artist Jeff Lukasik, hired to do all of the artwork for the event, said it was exciting to see the world’s best in town and in the line-up.
“I like to see them in the water, it makes me want to surf harder, it makes me go out a little bit,” he said.
Australia’s Fitzgibbons, who has also competed in the Olympics this year, said this year has been a year of firsts – including the women’s competition which kicks off the year at Pipeline in Hawaii and the upcoming WSL Finals, where women can ride the same waves, on the same day, as men.
“Experiencing this, alongside these guys, it’s like we’ve had birthday parties all year round,” she said.
And she hopes it’s a chance for surf fans to celebrate – especially with the challenges of last year’s pandemic.
“The world has been through tough times so a big thank you to everyone involved that we can show up, put on these jerseys and hopefully everyone looking back home in Australia to support us or the world, maybe just a moment of joy and escape that they can just cheer on their favorite surfer and be a part of something as pure as riding waves, ”she said.
Connelly writes for the Orange County Register