Italo Ferreira won his first title at the 2019 World Surf League World Championship Tour. The WSL World Championship Tour is a multi-stage event with stops in eleven cities across the world. Surfers earn points based on their performance with the top nine performances counting towards their overall ranking. In terms of Olympic qualification, the top ten eligible surfers qualify to the Olympics. In this context, Hawaiian athletes will be referred to as being from the United States as that is the National Olympic Committee they are eligible to qualify in. The WSL World Championship Tour began in April and the final competition was completed on December 19th 2019.
The World Title was decided on the final stage in Oahu, United States. In total, six athletes all had a chance at winning the crown including three Brazilians. The event and title was decided in the final where two Brazilians went up against each other. In the end, it was Italo Ferreira whom outscored Gabriel Medina to win his first World Surf League championship. In addition, both Brazilians qualified to the Olympics, leaving fourth place finisher Filipe Toledo as the odd man out due to a nation only being allowed to send two athletes to the Olympics.
Along with the Oahu event, Ferreira won two other stages this year including Gold Coast, Australia and Peniche, Portugal. Only Medina (Jeffreys Bay, South Africa and Lemoore, United States) and United States’ John John Florence (Bells Beach, Australia and Margaret River, Australia) were also able to win multiple stages. The other stages were won by Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi (Keramas, Indonesia), Toledo (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Australia’s Owen Wright (Teahupo’o, Tahiti) and France’s Jeremy Flores (Hossegor, France).
In addition to Brazil, other nations also had intra-national competition to decided which two athletes will represent the nation. For the United States, Kolohe Audino secured his spot during the penultimate stage while the final spot was decided during the final stage between three athletes. John John Florence, returning from injury was able to reach the quarterfinals which ended up being enough as Kelly Slater failed to reach the finals while Seth Moniz lost earlier in the competition.
For France, the first quota was won by Jeremy Flores during the penultimate round while the second one came down to Michel Bourez and Joan Duru going into the final leg. Duru needed a big result in order to surpass Bourez and was unable to get it as he lost in the second round.
The two Australian quotas were a bit more complicated as both quotas were up for grabs going into the final stage with six athletes all having a chance to secure their spot to the Olympics. Owen Wright held a bit of a lead over his compatriots and despite losing in the second round he was able to qualify to the Olympics as only one Australian was able to reach the quarterfinals. Despite going the furthest in the final stage, Jack Freestone was unable to close the gap between himself and Julian Wilson as the former would go on to lose in the quarterfinals.
The other two quota places were won by third place finisher Jordy Smith of South Africa and Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi. The final opportunity for athletes to qualify in men’s shortboard as the sport makes its Olympic debut will be at the 2020 Surfing Games.
Update: Due to an injury by South Africa’s Jordy Smith, the quota has been reallocated to the next highest ranked athlete, Italy’s Leonardo Fioravanti.