Caio Vaz will challenge Kai Lenny for the 2014 Standup World Tour crown in France this weekend. Photo: Greg Panas

Caio Vaz will challenge Kai Lenny for the 2014 Standup World Tour crown in France this weekend. Photo: Greg Panas

The Standup World Tour will wrap up this weekend with the La Torche Pro in France and one of two men will walk away the 2014 World Champion. One is three-time Tour winner and reigning world champ Kai Lenny. The other is Brazilian powerhouse and 2013 runner-up Caio Vaz.

We predict that Izzi Gomez will win the Women’s title. Oh, wait, that already happened. So, the men.

Vaz and Lenny are alone at the top. One of them would have to not compete or stumble in the opening round to be caught by anyone else.

Lenny has a 1,500-point lead at this point over Vaz, which is pretty negligible. If they both make the final (they’ll be on opposite sides of the draw) and Vaz wins, he’ll take the title. Same for Lenny. For Vaz to win the title he has to finish one place higher than Lenny. That’s the long and short of it.

So what is the chance of one of these guys stumbling early? After watching them in person at the Huntington Beach Pro, we think it’s low. There is a good handful of guys on tour who are as talented as these two (more on that later). But talent isn’t just what sets them apart. The desire to win and manage heats are two things that these guys have are extremely good at.

We would give Lenny the nod in the desire-to-win-department. He just won his second BOP in a row with a controversial and gutsy performance. We know just how badly this guy wants to win. And he’s going for his fourth title and he knows exactly how to win one. He did bow out early in Brazil this year but that hardly matters at this stage.

We don’t really know what Vaz is capable of yet in terms of winning titles. He dominated the front end of the 2014 tour, winning the first two events and exciting in the semi-finals in the next two. His loss to Poenaiki Raioha in Huntington was a fluke: he had a 17.77 heat total that would have won any other heat in the contest before that. Taking nothing away from his performance, the Tahitian Raioha surfed the heat of his life (up to this point—we’re sure there’s more where that came from). Vaz’s relaxed and easy-going demeanor on the beach is the real deal but this guy is on tour to win. His performances this year say it all.

That said, there are plenty of guys who are going to try their damnedest to finish their own year on a high by playing spoiler in the title race. Sean Poynter, Raioha, Keahi de Aboitiz, Mo Freitas, Zane Schweitzer and Ian Vaz are all sitting in a pretty tight pack and have the skills and hunger to take Vaz and Lenny down. Not only does personal pride play into it but so does pride for country. Any of these guys could take down Vaz and Lenny if they surf a smart heat up to their skill potential. But with the title on the line, expect Vaz and Lenny to do everything in their power to win. That’s a powerful thing.

All that said, we’re going to have to give the edge to Lenny. He’s treading familiar ground, he’s won in La Torche before and, more than anything, he feels the need to win. Vaz is the underdog. And maybe he likes it that way.

No matter how it ends, expect it to be an exciting weekend.

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Current Rankings

1. Kai Lenny
2. Caio Vaz
3. Sean Poynter
4. Poenaiki Raioha
5. Keahi de Aboitiz
6. Mo Freitas
7. Zane Schweitzer
8. Ian Vaz
9. Leco Salazar
10. Giorgio Gomez
French Polynesia
28,000 points
26,500 points
18,500 points
18,000 points
17,750 points
17,000 points
16,500 points
16,500 points
13,500 points
12,000 points