Surfing world champions to be crowned at 2022 WSL Finals: Preview, schedule and stars to watch

Olympic medallists Carissa Moore, Italo Ferreira and Kanoa Igarashi headline the event in San Clemente, California, as titles will be awarded on a single day between 8 - 16 September. 

By Ash Tulloch | Created 6 September
Picture by 2021 World Surf League

Let the surfing showdown begin.

After an eventful regular season, the World Surf League (WSL) finals are here.

Having accumulated Championship Tour (CT) points all year, the top 5 women and top five men are now preparing to go head-to-head in a one-day, winner-takes-all finale.

The 2022 surfing world champions will be crowned on a single day between 8-16 September.

The nine-day waiting period allows for the WSL to choose the best possible conditions to compete in. A promising forecast is ahead suggesting that the competition could be 'called on' in the first days of the event waiting window.

Lower Trestles in San Clemente, California will host the big event.

Will new champions be crowned? Will surfing icons add another title to illustrious careers? We explain the format and what to expect from this crucial event.

2022 WSL Finals: Five men and five women vying for the world crown

Here's who's in the running to become the undisputed 2022 world champs.

WOMEN'S WSL FINAL 5

1. Carissa Moore - HAW/ USA

2. Johanne Defay - FRA

3. Tatiana Weston-Webb - BRA

4. Brisa Hennessy - CRC

5. Stephanie Gilmore - AUS

MEN'S WSL FINAL 5

1. Filipe Toledo - BRA

2. Jack Robinson - AUS

3. Ethan Ewing - AUS

4. Italo Ferreira - BRA

5. Kanoa Igarashi - JPN

2022 WSL Finals: Format explained

The world's best surfers spent the regular reason competing worldwide, riding highs and lows and ultimately gathering points to help determine the top five women and top five men on the leaderboard.

With the names now locked and loaded, it all comes down to one final day of competition at Lower Trestles.

This single-day, winner-take-all format was introduced by the WSL for the very first time last year, when Carissa Moore claimed her fifth world title and Gabriel Medina won his third.

The format for the finals day is unique, but here's how it works:

  • The number one ranked woman (Carissa Moore) and man (Filipe Toledo) at the end of the regular season were awarded a ticket to the 'Title Match'. This is a best-of-three heats battle to decide the world champion. Their reward for finishing top of the leaderboard means they will only surf a maximum three times on finals day.

  • The other four women and four men will spend the earlier part of the day competing to make the 'Title Match'.
    This contest will be done based on their end-of-year rankings and within what is called 'WSL finals bracket.'

  • Women and men will alternate throughout the day, with the women starting first. E.g - Women match 1, Men match 1 etc.

  • Match 1: The fifth-ranked surfer (Stephanie Gilmore/ Kanoa Igarashi) will take on the fourth-ranked surfer (Brisa Hennessy/ Italo Ferreira) in the first match of the day.

  • Match 2: The winner of match 1 will face the third-ranked surfer (Tatiana Weston-Webb/Ethan Ewing).

  • Match 3: The winner of match 2 will face the second-ranked surfer (Johanne Defay/ Jack Robinson).

  • Title Match: The winner of match 3 will then move on to the 'Title Match' to face the world number 1 (Moore/Toledo). This a best-of-three heats contest so the first surfer to win two heats wins the world title.

The title prospects: Who to watch

Women's finals

Olympic champion Carissa Moore has had another stellar season in the women's competition. Out of 10 WSL events in 2022, the defending champion has been on the podium (finished first, second or third) six times.

In fact she's been ranked number one in the world for the last five CT events in a row. That success is what saw her be awarded a ticket straight to the 'Title Match.' With this in mind and the fact she's a proven five time world champion going for her sixth crown - the odds are truly in her favour.

The only other woman in the finals who knows what a world title tastes like is seven-time champion Stephanie Gilmore. The Australian was the final woman to qualify for the finals in fifth spot. This means her road to a record eighth world title will not be easy. She will need to defeat all four other women, including Moore twice if she is to succeed in her mission. But given her prowess as a strong, yet smooth surfer, with years of experience under her belt, there's no telling what this Aussie powerhouse will pull out on the day.

Second at the end of the regular season was French surfer Johanne Defay. While many are already looking to her as France's hot hope at the Paris 2024 Olympics, Defay has her mind on a first world title.

She's not the only one though. Tatiana Weston-Webb and Brisa Hennessy are yet to claim their first world crowns and both have impressive seasons. Brazil's Weston-Webb took on Moore in the best-of-three heats 'Title Match' last year. To win her first title she will need to do the same in the coming days.

Men's finals

Spicy. That's how the men's finals is looking.

Could this finally the year Filipe Toledo goes all the way? The Brazilian has bounced back from his heartbreak of missing out on qualifying for Tokyo 2020 and had a sensational 2022. With two event wins to his name, he will no doubt be keen to top off the year with his inaugural crown having got so close in the past. The 27-year-old has finished second, third and fourth (twice). It's also important to note that Trestles is his adopted home wave and his style of surfing is very suited to the location.

He won't be given the title without a fight though. Australian duo Jack Robinson and Ethan Ewing are looking to make their mark too. The pair from down-under are both 24 and both have nothing to loose. Robinson has been hot on Toledo's heels, especially after back-to-back wins in the middle of the CT season. One of those was a buzzer-beater in the dying seconds of the G-land final over none other than Toledo.

For Ewing, this season has been a coming of age. Much had been made of the Aussie from a young age and this year he really showed what all the hype was all about with three third place finishes and a victory at J-Bay.

Olympic champion Italo Ferreira is in an unusual position. For the first time since 2017, he hasn't won an event yet this year.

Speaking to Globo, he said, "Although I haven't won yet, this has been my best season." The 2019 world champion is never to be underestimated though and is sure to pull out something special from his bag of tricks on finals day. His explosive surfing style and huge aerials are no doubt going to be on display.

Japan's Kanoa Igarashi has been hungry for a world title shot for a long time. This is the closest he's ever gotten having finished eighth last year and not making the cut for the finals. Given he will need to win three heats before even facing Toledo in the 'Title Match', he has quite the task on his hands. But pressure is something he's proven he can handle. Winning Olympic silver at Tokyo 2020 on home soil, was no easy feat.

WHO WILL MASTER THE WAVES?

Surfing’s road to Paris 2024 starts now. Watch the world’s best surfers compete in the ISA World Surfing Games from 16-22 September!
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