Forget Slater’s and John John’s return and ignore the new rookie firepower. As the CT calendar kicks off with the Quiksilver Pro we drill deep into one of the most fascinating aspects in all professional surfing; the seeding process. 

The Original Seeding 

The pre-event seeding continues as per previous years with seeds 1 to 22 reflecting the 2018 CT ratings. The only exception is the wildcard John John Florence whose seeding of 13 is based on 2018 rating from the first six events. Seeding positions 23 to 33 are based on the 2018 QS rankings. That just leaves a certain Kelly Slater, whose wildcard gives him a seed of 34. The two event wildcards get the last two remaining seeds in the draw. These seeds are further broken into brackets. 1 to 12, 13 to 22 and 23 to 36. In Round 1 a surfer is chosen from each bracket to make the three-man heats. Surfers keep their seeds throughout the event with one, new, exception. 

Number one seed, Gabriel Medina, was impressive in his round one encounter. Photo: WSL/Dunbar

A New Performance Reward For Round 1

One of the major changes that has come with the new CT format is a new performance reward for Round 1. Winners of Round 1 not only advance straight to Round 3, but also move up to the top of their seed bracket. Take Jack Freestone, who was one of the only lowest bracket seeds to win in Round 1 at D-bah. He’ll now get a higher seed (potentially as high as 23 if those above him drop out) in Round 3 meaning theoretically he’ll face lower seeds in the first sudden death round. This Round 1 reward also means that if a Wildcard wins, he won’t face the highest seeds again in Round 3, which used to happen regularly in previous years. 

How Long Does The Seed Last Event To Event 

Seedings are based on a formula that takes one's previous season rank into consideration, albeit less and less for each event. So the Quiksilver Pro seedings are 100 per cent based on the 2018 rankings. At each subsequent event that proportion decreases by 16.67%. After the sixth event at J-Bay base seed points from 2018 will be zero and seeding will based entirely on the 2019 results.

As an injury wildcard with minimal recent contest results, Kelly starts the year with the lowest seed in the top 34.


Protecting The Big Four 

After the six event cut off the top four seeds are “protected.” That means they could only meet in the Semifinals of the event. The seeding is structured so that happens even if they use the overlapping “Kelly” heat format. So, after the sixth event, the top four seeds can never be in the water at the same time unless it’s for a semi-final. This is designed to maximise the World Title showdown aspect. It also means getting in that top four by the end of J-Bay could be quite important for any World Title challenge. 

Any Other Questions?

Glad you asked. One of the more obvious flaws in the seedings in Round 1 in the Quiksilver Pro was that the highest QS seeds, Seth Moniz and Ryan Callinan, drew the highest CT seeds, Julian Wilson and Ryan Callinan, plus the two wildcards. That meant that finishing high up the QS rankings was a massive disadvantage, not an incentive as often touted. Now it wasn’t a biggie for Moniz who won his Round 1 heat and got his new performance reward (if you’ve been following this, you’ll know what this is). However Callinan posted the third highest heat score of the whole round, but was still defeated by the World Champ. Moniz and Callinan will now need to get a good result at the Quiksilver Pro (or hope the top seeds get a bad one) to avoid the same seeding fate at Bells. 

And if you’ve made it this far, well done! Award yourself a high seed.