By Jake Howard
The fact of the business is that anyone on tour right now has the talent to win at Lowers if they get on a roll. That makes picking a winner a bit tricky, but obviously, there are some favorites.
Topping the list is South African Jordy Smith, who’s currently fronting the WSL Championship Tour ratings. Originally hailing from Durban, for the last few years Smith has called San Clemente home and Lowers his local spot. Perhaps the most powerful surfer on tour, he has the ability to manhandle the dainty cobblestone point while still weaving explosive, progressive maneuvers into his repertoire. A win at Lowers for Smith puts him in the driver’s seat in the race for the 2017 world title.
“I love this wave, it’s so rippable. It’s such a wide-open canvas that you can really be creative with your surfing. And living here for a while now, I feel like I’ve seen a lot of its different moods,” said Smith.
Another San Clemente transplant is Filipe Toledo. Considered by many to be the best small-wave surfer in the world, Toledo’s originally from Brazil but has taken up residence in town to be closer to Lowers and the Orange County-based surf industry. After a statement-making win at the J-Bay Open in South Africa, Toledo suffered an early-round loss at the last WSL contest in Tahiti. Coming into the Hurley Pro with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, our guess is that his heats will be among the most exciting of the entire contest.
Julian Wilson, winner of the Billabong Pro Tahiti, is also one to watch. The Hurley Pro is a contest the talented Australian probably should have won already given his abundance of talent, but somehow, it’s alluded him. Fresh off his win at Teahupoo, Wilson has momentum on his side and appears to be in a good rhythm at the moment. Currently ranked fifth in the world, a win at Lowers slingshots him into the world title conversation.
2016 world champion John John Florence, currently ranked second in the world, is best known for his outrageous tube-riding abilities at places like Pipeline and Teahupoo, but he’s also a freak in the smaller stuff. With his unique skate-inspired style and a penchant for drawing unique lines, his flyin’ Hawaiian’s approach is a perfect fit for Lowers.
“Lowers is a great event, I love that event. It’s like a skatepark out there. It’s going to be really exciting,” said Florence after his third-place finish in Tahiti last month.
Last, but certainly not least, keep a sharp eye trained on local boy Kolohe Andino. Growing up in San Clemente, essentially raised at Lowers, Andino’s currently doing some of the best surfing of his career and should be carrying a head full of confidence into Lowers. He just placed third in Tahiti and is on the cusp of breaking into the WSL’s Top Ten. Andino’s been riding surfboards shaped by …Lost’s Matt Biolos his whole life and it’s not a stretch to say that when it comes to equipment for Lowers, Andino will be the best prepared. He also probably has the best pit crew on the beach, from his family, friends and all the local groms, the support means the world to him.
“It’s epic to come down and have that kind support and feel that love. It’s inspiring,” said Andino.
This year the WSL world title race is more wide open than ever before, and thanks to Lowers’ unique A-frame setup and reputation as home to high-performance surfing, things are about to get even more interesting.
Read more of the Hurley Pro/Swatch Pro special section edition HERE: