A curious mix of rookies and some familiar faces are in contention for 2020, WCT glory
At this the very sharp end of the qualification year there is much excitement at the last QS event for 2019, and there is a phrase that is coming up a few times a day that needs to be unpacked. This phrase of the day is ‘mathematical possibility’ and it attends to the fact that on paper someone can still be beaten, or knocked off his or her rankings pedestal. No matter the reality of it all, if there is still a chance that is greater than zero, it means that there is a mathematical possibility.
Sitting at number 6 and with 20,040 points behind his name, 22-year-old Matthew McGillivray from JBay, South Africa should be celebrating his inclusion into the coveted 2020 Championship Tour. He will be joining Jordy Smith next year for his first year on the elite tour. The Rip Curl rider will be filling the void left by Mikey February who dotted the WSL landscape two years ago when he qualified for the tour. The fact that Matt can’t start celebrating yet is just part of the ‘mathematical possibility’ conversation at WSL HQ, but from all accounts, McGillivray will be a starter at the Corona Open Gold Coast on 26 March 2020.
Cronulla goofy-footer Connor O’Leary is set to make a return to the CT and rightfully so. He was on the tour in 2017 and totally ripped throughout the year, but didn't do enough to requalify for the 2018 season. Now it looks like he’s back, and will need just a few heats more to totally solidify his slot.
Deivid Silva is requalifying on the lower rungs of the CT and on the lower rungs of the QS. One of them should let him in. Silva is a popular journeyman who is one of the happiest men on the tour, whichever tour it is.
Jake Marshall and Barron Mamiya are two young surfers amping to get onto their rookie year on the CT. Both surf with flair, and have some dynamic hooks and turns, with Mamiya particularly impressive when the waves get solid, treacherous and downright scary. Like at Pipe.
Jorgann Couzinet is the great Frenchman who cannot get across the line. In 2018 he was ranked 16th on the QS end of year ratings; and the year before he finished at 18th spot on the QS tour. Hugely popular, a nice guy and an absolute ripper, Couzinet needs one big finish at a big event, and it could not be bigger or better than the Vans World Cup Of Surfing. Let’s hope he qualifies and puts us all out of our misery, after watching someone getting so close so often. Not quite the drama of Cheyne Horan’s four world title runner-ups or Kong getting multiple world titles stolen from him left right and center, but similar. The CT will be a better place with this fighter on board. He’s still in the Sunset event and just needs to get through a few heats to qualify.
Then there are a number of surfers who are on the cusp of qualifying, who have all been on the CT for a one-year period at least, and they’re not the centre of attention right now. The outlanders are the interesting ones. The surfers further down the line who have nothing to lose are the ones who are going to do exciting stuff.
Carlos Munoz from Costa Rica has been battling on the QS on and off for the best part of a decade, and this could be his final big push to get onto the coveted CT. He has competitive nous and experience and looks dead-set desperate to qualify, a veritable ball of energy whenever he paddles out at any of the breaks or events in Hawaii. At 15th on the rankings, he can smell his place on tour.
Morgan Cibilic is another Australian who is making the big push forward and has been doing it with pleasing surfing, powerful turns, speed power, and flow and some huge airs in the mix. He has a third, a fifth and a ninth as his best results this year so far but will need to up the ante at his final result to get over the 20k points barrier of qualification that Al Hunt has loosely put out there this year. Cibilic has the potential to let loose the dogs of war at Sunset, but cannot let inexperience climb all over his brain. His round three heat is a real doozy and has Griffin Colapinto, defending event champion Ezekiel Lau, and Liam O’Brien in it, which could make it a final at most QS events.
Speaking of O’Brien, he is another Aussie battler making good on the QS. He is within reach of qualifying but has an equal chance of fading back into the QS for a year or two to gain experience in his quest for a coveted spot. He has all the markings of a CT surfer except maybe needing a little bit of polish on his style, and has an ounce too many nerves, but those will settle very quickly.
Jack Robinson will be on the Championship Tour at some stage as well, we just don't know when. It might be in a few days, it might be in a year. Jack is popular, great to watch when the waves start getting serious and is a major asset to the WSL and to what they are aiming to achieve from a content generation and story-telling point of view, which is what they do best these days, apparently.