Questions ahead of the World Surf League Championship Tour 2018

Phil Wishart Roar Rookie

By Phil Wishart, Phil Wishart is a Roar Rookie

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    Kelly Slater's shown he's still got it, landing the first ever 540 aerial. (Pedro Szekely / Wiki Commons)

    March is not just the start of NRL and AFL season.

    The WSL Championship Tour season will kick off with the Quiksilver and Roxy Pros on the Gold Coast this Sunday, with eight Australian men and six Australian women representing our beach laden country against the world’s best.

    2018 will be a landmark year for the World Surf League as they create history by holding the first ever CT event at Kelly Slater’s wave pool.

    With the added excitement of surfing being added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, many athletes will see this year as a chance to stake their claim to represent their country on the world stage.

    The 2018 CT will consist of 11 stops for the men and ten for the women, including iconic locations such as Snapper Rocks, Bells Beach, the infamous J-Bay, finishing up in the home of surfing ,Hawaii. In addition to the wave pool Keramas, Indonesia has also been added to the schedule, replacing Fiji.

    Who are the contenders?
    NSW local Tyler Wright and Hawaiian John John Florence are coming off back to back titles and based on their off-season training look hard to beat. During the off season, Tyler has fully recovered from her MCL injury and looks stronger than ever.

    John John has had a less documented off season, but clips from his strike mission to the Gold Coast for board testing in January showed that he will hard to beat.

    (Mitt Nathwani/Photocrowd.com)

    There are a number of contenders hoping to break the streak of Florence and Wright, led by no other than the GOAT – eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater and six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore. Throw in some hungry competitors searching for their maiden WSL titles such as Sally Fitzgibbons, Courtney Conlogue and Jordy Smith and we’re bound to see the 2018 title race come down to the wire.

    Can Mick Fanning pull off a fairytale finish?
    Three time world champion Mick Fanning has announced his retirement from full time competition, with his last event scheduled for Bells Beach this Easter.

    β€œThe tour has given me so much but I need a fresh challenge. I still love the game but can’t find the motivation and dedication required to compete for World Titles anymore,” Fanning posted on his Instagram account last week.

    Tributes have flooded in from around the world for Fanning and there is no doubt fans would love to see him ring the bell one last time at the location where he started his career.

    Will Kelly’s Wave Pool event be a success?

    The announcement of the Surf Ranch Open last year was met with mixed emotions from fans. Some loved it, some hated it and some believe it is the necessary step for the progression of the sport.

    The test event in 2016 and highlights clips drip fed out to the public continue to build excitement about the inaugural CT event. With speculation in the industry that Japan may need a wave pool for the Olympics due to lack of surf during the event period, I’m tipping that the wave pool will bring with it some innovative manoeuvres during competition, especially on the women’s side of the draw.

    How will the rookies fare?
    The age-old question in any sport.

    Seven men will join the CT for the first time, led by 2017 Vans Triple Crown winner Griffin Colapinto. 15-year-old Caroline Marks has already made history by becoming the youngest ever to qualify – the sole rookie in the women’s competition.

    With 32 competitors on tour only 22 automatic qualification spots for the men and 16 competitors and ten spots for the women, the key to success for the rookie class of 2018 will be consistency. Get through Round 2, make a few quarter finals and you’re likely to be safe. Fail to do so and you’ll be back on the Qualifying Series.

    After a summer of pumping swell on the east coast of Australia it’s now time to sit back, lock in your fantasy surfing athletes and see how it all unfolds on the Gold Coast next week.

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