With the 2017 Championship Tour (CT) rapidly approaching, it's time to take an inventory of our current men's CT crop which, by any measure, is about as impressive a group that's ever been assembled. With six World Champions, seven highly-touted rookies, and a massive amount of A-list talent smashed in between, this could be the most competitive year ever.
While each of the Champs are in different places in their careers, all are heading into this season with batteries recharged. Kelly Slater has openly declared 2017 to be his last full-throttle attempt at Title number 12. Joel "Parko" Parkinson has found his happy place balancing the Tour and family life. Mick Fanning never arrives at an event without 100 percent focus. Gabriel Medina will be breathing fire after last year's close race. Adriano de Souza will always remain a stealth threat, and John John Florence is hoping he can become the first champ since Andy Irons to defend his first Title.
While Slater's 11 titles represent the lion's share, among the six Champs on this year's Tour, they have collectively won 18 of the 40 World Titles that have been contested.
This year's rookie class is as likely to make an impact on the rankings as last year's group, where five of seven retained their CT seeds. The 2017 class is also seven strong, with Connor O'Leary, Ethan Ewing, Frederico Morais, Leo Fioravanti, Joan Duru, Ian Gouveia and Zeke Lau joining the ranks.
Along with the Champs and the rookie class, there's also a growing list of Title contenders that includes Jordy Smith and Julian Wilson, Filipe Toledo and Matt Wilkinson, Michel Bourez and Kolohe Andino.
But the bulk of the tour roster is comprised of incredible talents famous for being disruptors. Every one of them is a huge threat, ready to do damage. Last year it was guys like Sebastian Zietz, Josh Kerr, Ace Buchan and Italo Ferreira. This year, sophomores like Jack Freestone, Conner Coffin, Caio Ibelli and Stu Kennedy are also in the mix, looking build on their 2016 successes. And returning stars like Owen Wright and Bede Durbidge won't need any motivational pep talks.
This entire collection has a combined total of 132 Championship Tour victories, the most of any since the formation of the CT.
Of course, pro surfing's history has enjoyed several great eras and comparing them is always tough. But based purely on the numbers, this one stacks up nicely against the rest.