Who could still slip onto the Championship Tour for 2019 with a win at the Vans World Cup?
Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii – it’s the end of the line for a couple of surfers who have been plugging away on the QS, and it’s also the end of the line for a few surfers who have succumbed to CT pressure and their lack of game in the premier leagues.
On the other hand though, it’s not all about sadness because there is also going to be a new batch of fresh-faced rookies, possibly somewhat naïve competitors heading out into the mainly unsponsored 11-event 2019 Championship Tour to either flourish or get spat out the other side.
Mainly unsponsored means that at this late stage there are only four events on the 2019 schedule that have headline sponsors – the Rip Curl Pro Bell Beach, the Oi Rio Pro, the Meo Pro Peniche and the Billabong Pipe Masters. No Quiksilver in the mix, or any sign of Corona. Still, the show must go on, and for the new crop it’s going to do just that.
But first there’s Sunset to deal with. The massive peaks, huge walls, big barrels and fierce hold-downs that make up the huge arena of Sunset Beach. The very reason why she is so heralded is that it takes so much effort to get to know her well, to understand her and to know where to sit on which swell and tide.
When Gary Elkerton ruled supreme and took control of his destiny by becoming a Sunset guru, he spent so much time out there on every single swell and tide and wind, and always went for a swim at Sunset every single day he was on the North Shore regardless of the weather and swell size. Sunset to him was a route to his dreams and he grappled with the dragon until he had her under control. These days its status is less glorious than when Kong was a rampant, hand-jiving bully out there. It’s only a QS venue and not a CT venue, but the waves haven’t changed. It is still a serious challenge to surf, intimidating and complex, and many a good surfer has buckled under the challenge of dealing with unruly Sunset Beach. There was a situation a few years ago when a QS surfer heard that there was a solid 12-foot swell bearing down on Sunset Beach and instead of figuring out his big wave equipment and his nerves, he figured out how to get to the airport and off The Rock as fast as he could. He never got close to qualifying, and now possibly works as a waiter. That’s what Sunset can do to you. It can make you a true champion or it can result in you serving tables, with all due respect to those marvelous waiters, waitresses and waitrons that are so good at their jobs at places like Lei Lei’s and similar North Shore restaurants.
So if you take away the double qualifiers (Igarashi and Colapinto) ‘Team North of 17,000’ (Moniz, Callinan, Silva Crisanto and Christie) there are five slots left, and boy are there some hungry surfers out there now for those slots. It’s late however, and these guys don’t want to be waiting tables next year, or going through another life-sapping QS grind.
Leonardo Fioravanti, Jadson Andre, Jorgann Couzinet, Mateus Herdy, Jesse Mendes, Patrick Gudauskas, Alejo Muniz and Soli Bailey are all in the running for one of those roughly five slots remaining to make the top ten on the QS.
To whittle it down further, Ethan Ewing is out of the Vans World Cup, along with Evan Geiselman. They are still high up on the QS rankings (10th, 18th respectively) but their chances are now slim, and slimmer. Out of the remainder, Leo, Jaddy, Gudang and to a slightly lesser extent Alejo are Sunset aficionados.
On paper it starts stacking up, but there are 10,000 points on offer, which means that if anyone who has 7,000 points at this stage and gets the win at Sunset should still qualify.
So we come to the following ‘persons of interest’, with everyone of these journeymen still in a position to qualify for the CT via the QS with a win at Sunset.
Mikey February is on 7,600, Jack Robinson is on 7740. And Matt Banting is on 7,850. Add a win of 10,000 and they all break Al Hunt’s 17,00 threshold. Probability says that Robinson could do it out of the three. He has the skill and the character to mongrel a win out there.
Other ‘persons of interest’ include the hard-hitting Tanner Gudauskas on 7950, the tenacious Stuart Kennedy holding onto 8,250 points, young South African Matt McGillivray on 8,750 points and Jack Freestone holding on to 11,450. Out of this crew Freestone probably has the best chance of a knock, but young McGillivray, who had the wildcard ticket at the Corona Open JBay this year, could also surprise all and sundry. He is always a standout when JBay starts heaving, is a brilliant tube rider, and is fit and strong.
Either way, it’s only over when it’s over, and right now it is still far from over.