By SurferToday.com (11/9/2023)
Filipe Toledo and Caroline Marks emerged as the newest World Surf League (WSL) champions during the riveting third-annual Rip Curl WSL Finals held at Lower Trestles, San Clemente, California.
Their wins were not without formidable contenders.
Five-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore and up-and-comer Ethan Ewing, who had fought valiantly past elite competitors, gracefully embraced their second-place finishes.
Marks, at just 21, entered the competition as the third seed.
By sunset, she had become the surfing world champion of 2023. Not bad for the young Boca Ratón surfer.
Such a victory for a mainland American hasn't been seen since Lisa Andersen clinched the title in 1997.
In a delightful twist, Marks is also the first goofy-footed female surfer to claim this honor since Chelsea Georgenson in 2005.
Moving from Florida to California, she seemed right at home at Lower Trestles, catching wave after wave with near perfection.
"It's just so inspiring to have my name up on that list," said Marks.
"This has just been a goal of mine. World champion - it's crazy. I went through a weird one last year and was doubting myself."
The championship match was nothing short of electrifying. Marks' backhand prowess was on full display, particularly against Moore.
A particular standout was when she scored an impressive 8.67, pushing Moore into a tight spot.
Moore retaliated, but Marks didn't waver, extending her lead with another fantastic score of 8.43.
Paying homage to her competition, Marks added, "Big ups to Carissa. She's been a massive inspiration to me growing up my whole life.
"I just had a great board, and I have a lot of good family and friends here. I really feel the support, and that goes a long way, so I was just in my flow today."
Back-to-Back History for Toledo
On the men's front, Toledo, 28, won his second world title, establishing himself as the surfer to beat.
His success story mirrors John John Florence's back-to-back wins in 2016 and 2017.
Hailing from Ubatuba, Brazil, Toledo's stellar performance in 2023 made him an unstoppable force.
Reflecting on his win, Toledo said, "It's so hard to put into words what it took for me to be here right now."
"So much sacrifice. A lot of sacrifice, to be honest. Seven years ago, I had my first kid. I wasn't at home too much to be there with my wife. Neither was I there for Koa as well."
"I knew in the long run, this was going to pay off. This is a dream come true. I don't think there's ever been a Brazilian that won back-to-back. We like to make history."
Toledo's intense match-up against Ethan Ewing was arguably the highlight of the season.
Ewing's power moves met Toledo's finesse in a battle for the title.
In the end, Toledo's combination of moves and a near-perfect 9.00 score proved too much for Ewing.
The WSL Finals Format
A few last words for the Rip Curl Finals format.
Although it can be a media-friendly formula crowning men's and women's world champions in a single day of surf-off-style competition, the competitive format does not mirror the uncertainty of the rankings changes that occur event after event.
It is also less fair than the former model because it automatically puts surfers below the top 5 out of the world title equation.
The same applies to the mid-season cut.
One could have a bad start and then a stellar second half of the season. The mid-season cut slashes those successful recovery stories.
So, the commercial fear of crowning world champions a couple of events - or more - before the end of the season is not compatible with the necessary fairness of a Championship Tour.
The road to a world title should be a marathon of consistency and competence and not a 100-meter sprint.
Title Match, Heat 2: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.27 DEF. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 12.37
Title Match, Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.97 DEF. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 17.23
Match 3: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 17.10 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 15.96
Match 2: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 17.60 DEF. Joao Chianca (BRA) 14.57
Match 1: Joao Chianca (BRA) 15.33 DEF. Jack Robinson (AUS) 11.87
Title Match, Heat 2: Caroline Marks (USA) 14.60 DEF. Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.53
Title Match, Heat 1: Caroline Marks (USA) 17.10 DEF. Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.97
Match 3: Caroline Marks (USA) 17.40 DEF. Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.70
Match 2: Caroline Marks (USA) 11.67 DEF. Caitlin Simmers (USA) 10.36
Match 1: Caitlin Simmers (USA) 15.17 DEF. Molly Picklum (AUS) 12.17