Gabriel Medina became the first Brazilian to win the world title, Kelly Slater looked almost human for the first time and the gap between the veterans who had dominated the world tour for the past decade and the next generation was all but closed.
But as big as that shake up was it’s nothing compared to the cyclone that is ripping apart the collection of the world’s best waveriders in 2015.
That cyclone’s name is Filipe Toledo.
At 19 years of age, Toledo entered his third season in the newly-named World Surfing League as a potential star of the future but one who had produced unremarkable 15th and 17th place finishes in his first two years.
Like Medina and many of their fellow Brazilians, Toledo had a spectacular air game but he didn’t always land these high risk manoeuvres consistently and struggled in bigger, barrelling waves.
But in the space of one short off-season he’s transformed himself into a fringe top 10 contender to a legitimate world title threat.
Favoured by smallish conditions in the opening event of the Gold Coast last month, Toledo ripped apart the contest.
His ability to boost huge airs off waves that weren’t offering much help and an improved rail game allowed Toledo to shine where others sunk.
Julian Wilson — the man expected to carry Australia’s world title hopes once experienced trio Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Taj Burrow finally move on — couldn’t touch him in the final.
“He can turn a wave I can get a five on into a nine. There’s not much I can do about it,” Wilson said.
His performance was met with widespread adulation from the surfing community but there was also a quiet skepticism among some it wouldn’t continue at the next stop — the veteran-friendly Bells Beach in Victoria.
But riding the confidence gained from his first tour win Toledo has stolen the show again, cruising into the quarterfinals with ease.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone that confident, ever,” Burrow said. “He’s just walking around like he’s the man now — which he is.”
Surfing writers have been in awe of the efforts of the product of Ubatuba on Brazil’s southeast coast.
“Every single time he stands up is exciting,” Surfing Magazine’s Brendan Buckleywrote. “He’s got one of the best pull ratios in the history of the sport and his surfing could actually alter the landscape on tour — you just can’t score turns higher than the airs that he’s sticking. The worst he could finish at Bells is fifth. Smells like the beginning of a Title campaign to us.”
Surfer Mag’s Sean Doherty was equally glowing.
“The swagger on the kid is next level,” Doherty wrote. “As he did at Snapper, it was the space between the notes, his flow between turns, that made the whole wave sing and made the newest riffs on tour look totally natural in its oldest arena. It was pragmatic on one hand, but totally incandescent on the other.”