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The Margaret River contest is the most crucial in the year's first half because it signifies 'the cut' where the field gets cut down to 22 top surfers, and 12 unlucky competitors lopped off. It is also one of the events where the swell size is often bigger, with the open-ocean reef copping plenty of swell from pretty much any direction. The last few years have seen some big wind-blown rights as the heat winners, with huge turns often coming into play for clutch moments.

Then there is always the option of going to The Box, a notorious reef that barrels hard but is tricky to negotiate and looks dauntingly shallow and fierce. Again, local knowledge is integral in waves of this caliber and the ability to throw yourself over the ledge of some seriously shallow and hollow waves. Margaret River provides the cliched 'agony and the ecstasy' as it can make heroes and cull surfers who might not deserve to be eliminated from the elite 22.

Apart from making heroes, it is also the one stop on the tour that ends careers. Returning to 'the grind' and working through the Qualifying and Challenger Series quagmire is just too much for some surfers. So, they bow out and turn their backs on professional surfing careers, looking elsewhere for a new career and a fresh start. All a bit dramatic, but let's look at the players.

John John Florence
4.24 - 4.25

After a reasonably sluggish start to the year, Florence is primed for a couple of big results and a run on the world title. He is also the surfer who redefined how Margaret River should be surfed. A few years ago, 2017 to be exact, Florence started that huge forehand down carve hack that has become synonymous with winning heats at Margaret's. He went on to win the event that year against Kolohe Andino. He repeated that same result in 2019 against the same competitor. Maybe Margaret's rights remind him of Sunset or Haleiwa. Still, he is the man who covers the most ground when it comes to power surfing at the break. He’s also one of the most popular surfers in the world and everyone loves to watch him surf. When he gets going, he is hard to stop.

Jack Robinson

Last year's winner currently has the look, feel, and smell of a world champion, and at the rate of wins and finals heats he is experiencing, there is nothing much that can stop him (except maybe a fresh-faced, young Brazilian rookie called Joao). He is a Margies local and knows every inch of Margaret’s reef and the reef at The Box, that vicious, tubing slab across the bay. Talking of The Box, he is undoubtedly the best surfer out there and, provided he gets his two waves, is pretty much unbeatable in those grinding right-hand barrels. It’s a very difficult wave to surf, but he treats it with utter disdain, weaving through shallow tubes with ease. This contest is his to lose. If he takes it, however, he is on track for his maiden world title.

Griffin Colapinto

The more we get to know Griff, the more we like what we see. He has a game plan and a big-match temperament that could intimidate any competitor. Still, he exudes general affableness that makes everyone like him. His surfing has been on point recently, and he has an undeniable will to win that is coming through more as he starts getting more at home on the CT. Griff is also good in the bigger conditions, so he has no disadvantage there, and his small wave game is one of the best in the world right now. A formidable combination and his time to really shine is on its way. His fifth-place finish at this event last year is a taste of what’s to come.

Italo Ferreira

We have mentioned Italo as a sleeper in these reports lately because we all know what he has and how easily he can unleash it. Unfortunately, he seems to have a little bit of a tether right now and is failing to find his groove in competition moments. But that shouldn't last much longer, and when the beast is unleashed, he is pretty much unstoppable. He really wants it more than most surfers on the championship tour. He just needs to relocate the keys that open the door. His fifth place last year at Margaret's is just a slight taste of what he can deliver. Still, if he fails to deliver, then he might just be a sleeper who is actually asleep.

Matt McGillivray
30.0 - 34.0

While he has had a languid start to the year and is currently placed 22nd and on the cusp, McGillivray has proven a few times that he has nerves of steel in clutch situations and loves Margarets, and knows how to surf it.

Maybe it reminds him of big and blustery JBay, or maybe there's another connection. Still, he turns into a different beast at Margaret's amongst the big sets. He always seems to find the magic waves out there. He has a formidable forehand hack that is same-same but different from Florence. McGillivray is not scared of the giant sets and is not shy of going off the top when he's on one of the big rights, regardless of the consequences.

Callum Robson
34.0 - 41.0

Before that one wave in Portugal, Robson wasn't really on the tip of anyone's tongue. Suddenly an absolutely brutal 10-point ride, a decent third-place finish in Portugal, and 7th on the ratings post-Portugal, and Robson is the flavour of the month. He is also a tube hound and shows no qualms about going late and great when it is nasty and heaving - the characteristics Margarets could throw at him. Apart from this, it was evident that he was incredibly stoked about his result and 10-point accolades. If he finds this applause and new-found respect and notoriety addictive, then he is set for greatness.


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