When Filipe Toledo defeated Frederico Morais to win the Corona Open J-Bay, he became the sixth winner of the six Championship Tour (CT) events that have run so far this year. Not only did this event provide arguably the best surfing ever seen in J-Bay, it has served to further tighten the screws on the tightest and widest World Title race in modern times.
Toledo joins Owen Wright, John John Florence, Jordy Smith, Adriano de Souza and Matt Wilkinson as 2017 CT winners and the victory pushed the Brazilian up into World No. 7. Performance aside, and we’ll talk about that later, he now lurks within striking distance of those contenders who are still incredibly bunched at the top.
The most disappointed surfer of that winner’s gang will be De Souza, whose Round Three loss sees him drop to World No 5. That gap between Adriano and the leader Matt Wilkinson now stands at 4050 points. Now that has blown out from the 500-point differential that existed between the contenders before J-Bay, but with five events remaining 4000 points across five surfers still, represents an incredibly tight race.
To that pack, we should now also include Toledo, whose points tally of 23,950 includes two 25ths. With Trestles and the beach-breaks of Europe to come, another event win would propel him straight into the mix. Like John John at Margaret River, this was a groundbreaking, dominating performance from the Brazilian. His vastly improved rail work proved to be better than any other surfer on Tour and his aerial surfing set yet another benchmark. On the flipside, those 25ths mean he can not afford any more early losses. That will add more scrutiny to his performances at Tahiti and Pipeline.
For the top five though, each will be relatively happy with their performance at Jeffreys Bays. Wilkinson’s Quarterfinal finish sees him keep his slender 250 point lead and the Yellow Jeep Leader Jersey. Smith, Florence, and Wright, while disappointed not to do better than 5th, will all feel a tinge of relief that it was the backbenchers, Morais and Toledo, who walked away with the biggest chunks of points on offer.
“I’ve stoked all those main guys lost in the Quarters,” John John said while watching the Final from the J-Bay channel. “The waves are pumping, it’s been an incredible week, there’s absolutely nothing to be bummed about right now.”
He’s got a point.