Italo Ferreira wins maiden WSL Championship Tour title

December 20, 2019 | Surfing
Italo Ferreira: the Brazilian surfer won his maiden WSL Men's Championship Tour title | Photo: WSL

Italo Ferreira has taken out the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour title at Banzai Pipeline, on the North Shore of Oahu, in Hawaii.

The 2019 CT season is over. But there was a lot at stake for the finals day of the Billabong Pipe Masters In Memory of Andy Irons.

The last event of the year decided the world title, the 2020 CT roster, a couple of Tokyo 2020 spots, the Triple Crown of Surfing champion, and the rookie of the year.

Italo Ferreira and Kolohe Andino had hopes of clinching a maiden world surfing title. Gabriel Medina had the opportunity to secure his third world title.

After eight lay days, the organization rolled the dice in offshore winds and small, yet clean wave conditions. Early in the morning, Backdoor was a smart option.

Athletes had to be selective, readjust their position constantly, and pick the best waves in order to capitalize and advance through their heats.

Italo Ferreira: he beat Gabriel Medina in the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters final | Photo: WSL

Round of 16: Man Down

Ferreira was the first to hit the water. And despite the tricky conditions, he found the scores he needed to secure a spot in the quarterfinals.

The consequence? Kolohe Andino was automatically out of the world title race. It would all be decided between the Brazilian Stormtroopers.

And Seth Moniz won Rookie of the Year.

Immediately after, Julian Wilson, a former Pipe Master, lost to Yago Dora and left the Olympic door open to Jack Freestone.

Freestone, who had to win the event to earn a ticket to Tokyo 2020 and win the Triple Crown of Surfing, won his heat against Ricardo Christie and kept the dream alive.

Up next: Mr. Kelly Slater. The legend was fighting for a spot in the Olympic plane.

But the Floridian was also trying to write his name for the third time in the list of winners of the prestigious three-event Hawaiian series.

Despite a last-minute mistake, Slater was able to progress through to the quarterfinals. John John Florence followed his footsteps.

Kelly Slater: he had a dream heat against Jack Freestone | Photo: Sloane/WSL

A Tactical Priority Interference

And then, the unexpected happened. Once again, Medina dropped in on a Caio Ibelli priority wave. Just like at Supertubos, in Portugal. But, this time, it wasn't a mistake.

Did he know what he was doing? Yes. A strategy to stop his opponent from riding a high-scoring wave? No doubt.

Unbelievable tactics. Gabriel Medina heard his stepfather telling him to burn Ibelli. Losing his second score was better than letting Ibelli surf that wave.

No one had ever seen anything like that. In the end, Medina won the heat with 4.23 points, leaving Caio with 1.13 points - magic math.

"I just played the game. I wasn't sure if he was getting the score, so I went for it. Sometimes, if it's within the rules, you go to play the game," Medina explained later.

Caio Ibelli revealed he wants revenge.

Gabriel Medina: he wasn't able to lock in a third world title | Photo: WSL

Quarterfinals: Not Cracking Under Pressure

In an exciting Ferreira versus Dora matchup, Italo was blessed with the highest single of the event after a successful exit from a deep tube ride.

The man in the yellow jersey advanced through to the semifinals and put extra pressure on Gabriel Medina.

On quarterfinal number two, Slater, who was looking sharp and relaxed, failed to complete six consecutive rides. On the other hand, Jack Freestone kept adding points to his tally.

On the seventh attempt, Kelly earned 6.67 for a good-looking barrel, leaving him chasing a 2.60-point wave.

With 30 seconds on the clock, the greatest surfer of all time found what he needed at Backdoor. Absolutely incredible.

This result automatically qualified Julian Wilson for Tokyo 2020.

It was time for a critical heat: Medina vs. Florence. A world title on the line, and a spot in the upcoming Olympic Games representing the United States.

The Brazilian started strong, but Florence answered back. Medina replied with a 9.23. What a heat.

With 10 minutes to go, Gabriel had the Hawaiian comboed and easily made it to the semifinals.

In the last quarterfinal, Griffin Colapinto defeated Michel Bourez and put an end to the Tahitian's Triple Crown title hopes.

The immediate result? Slater added the third Triple Crown of Surfing title to his trophy room - the first since 1998.

Kelly Slater: he won the Triple Crown of Surfing for the third time | Photo: Cestari/WSL

Semifinals: Do or Die

Kelly Slater had the opportunity to play spoiler in the world title race as he paddled out to surf against Italo Ferreira.

The Brazilian opened his account with two important waves and put the 11-time world champion in combo land. The time was ticking down, Ferreira sealed the deal with one last barrel.

It was game over for Kelly Slater and, as a result, Florence secured his spot in the Olympic USA Surfing team.

On the second semifinal, Gabriel Medina knew he had to beat Griffin Colapinto to have a shot at a third world title.

The American was looking forward to winning the first CT event of his career. But the Brazilian had other plans - he wanted to challenge Italo in an all-Brazilian final.

Medina cruised through his semifinal heat and got ready for one of the most nerve-wracking Pipe Masters showdowns of the century.

John John Florence: he will represent the USA Surfing Team in Tokyo 2020 | Photo: Cestari/WSL

The Grand Finale

For the second consecutive year, the world surfing title was decided on the last heat of the season.

Italo Ferreira and Gabriel Medina paddled out for a historical 40-minute battle.

In the first few seconds, Ferreira found a perfect Backdoor barrel to take the lead. An impressive start. A couple of minutes later, he repeated the feat and rode a Pipe barrel under Medina's priority.

But the two-time world champion answered back with nerves of steel with a 7.77-point wave. The world title was up for grabs.

With ten minutes on the clock, Ferreira found the decisive gem - a deep barrel followed by an air reverse. Italo had been crowned the 2019 World Surf League champion.

"It always my dream. I wanted so much just to win one title. I believed in myself. I knew Gabriel is hard to beat, but this is my moment. Thank you, God," expressed a very emotional Italo Ferreira.

The newly crowned 2019 WSL world champion dedicated his maiden title to his uncle and grandmother who passed away recently.

In the end, it is fair to say that every heat was history.

Italo Ferreira: the stand-out surfer of the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters | Photo: WSL

Italo Ferreira: Living The Brazilian Dream

Italo Ferreira was born on May 6, 1994, in Baía Formosa, a coastal resort in the state of Rio Grande do Norte.

He grew up in a humble neighborhood and had to borrow surfboards from his cousins to ride his first waves.

Ferreira joined the elite of surfing in 2015 and won rookie of the year.

The high-flying Brazilian won five CT events in his career - three in 2018 (Bells Beach, Bali, and Peniche), and two in 2019 (Gold Coast and Peniche).

The 25-year-old became the third Brazilian to win a WSL world title, after Gabriel Medina (2014 and 2018) and Adriano de Souza (2015).

Check out the list of qualified surfers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Italo Ferreira: the third Brazilian to win a world surfing title | Photo: Cestari/WSL

2019 Billabong Pipe Masters | Final

1. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.56
2. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.94

2019 Championship Tour | Top 22

1. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
2. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
3. Jordy Smith (RSA)
4. Filipe Toledo (BRA)
5. Kolohe Andino (USA)
6. Kanoa Igarashi (JAP)
7. John John Florence (HAW)
8. Kelly Slater (USA)
9. Owen Wright (AUS)
10. Jeremy Flores (FRA)
11. Julian Wilson (AUS)
12. Seth Moniz (HAW)
13. Michel Bourez (PYF)
14. Jack Freestone (AUS)
14. Ryan Callinan (AUS)
16. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
17. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
18. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
19. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
20. Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
20. Conner Coffin (USA)
22. Yago Dora (BRA)*

2019 Qualifying Series | Top 11

1. Frederico Morais (POR)
2. Jadson Andre (BRA)
3. Yago Dora (BRA)*
4. Matthew McGillivray (RSA)
5. Jack Robinson (AUS)
6. Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
7. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
8. Ethan Ewing (AUS)
9. Connor O'Leary (AUS)
10. Deivid Silva (BRA)
11. Morgan Cibilic (AUS)

2019 Triple Crown of Surfing Champion

Kelly Slater (USA)

2019 CT Rookie of the Year

Seth Moniz (HAW)

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