Sunset has never been an easy place to surf, so it’s only fitting that such a headstrong and unruly wave stands as the final challenge for QS warriors to conquer in their quest to qualify. And while Jordy Smith’s long overdue victory on Hawaiian soil was the big story to emerge out of the Vans World Cup of Surfing today, there were plenty of other competitors who left the hallowed venue with tales to tell, some sweet, some not so much. Here we take a look at a few of the highlights from an action-packed final day of the 2016 qualifying calendar.

What a run for the new prince of Portugal, Frederico Morais. Photo: WSL

Frederico Morais – The Pride of Portugal

Coming into the Hawaiian leg of the WQS, Frederico Morais was anything but a shoo-in for a world tour berth in 2017. But after backing up a runner-up finish at Haleiwa with an equally impressive result at Sunset yesterday, the powerful natural-footer not only became the second Portuguese surfer in history to graduate for the CT (after Tiago Pires), he also thrust himself into the Triple Crown ratings lead ahead of superstars like John John Florence, Kelly Slater and Jordy Smith. Formerly a Vans Triple Crown Rookie of the year, the heavy-footed underdog has cemented his reputation this season as one of the best Europeans to tackle Hawaii in years, and with a wildcard confirmed into the Billabong Pipe Masters, he’s now given himself a very good chance of becoming the continent’s first ever Triple Crown winner.

Jack Freestone and Zeke Lau now sit on either side of the QS cut-off. Photo: WSL

The Battle of Jack and Zeke

Back in 2012, Jack Freestone took down Ezekiel Law in the final of the World Junior Championships in Bali. Yesterday at Sunset, he handed the Hawaiian another heartbreaking defeat in the semi-finals of the Vans World Cup of Surfing. While neither surfer managed to progress through the heat into the finals, the fact that Jack finished third and Zeke finished fourth was enough to decide the final spot on the qualifying series ladder, meaning Jack qualified in tenth place and thus earned himself a second go at the WCT, while Zeke has to watch the Pipe Masters and pray that either Kanoa, Jeremy, Jadson or Jack double qualifies and grants him his ticket to the big league. It was a tough blow for the hardworking Hawaiian, and had he escaped from a runaway Sunset tube in the dying minutes of the semis, it was one that could’ve easily gone the other way.

Jadson Andre's fight for career survival was inspiring to watch. Photo: WSL

Jadson’s Survival Instincts

Since qualifying for the world tour back in 2010 and claiming his first and only CT victory that same year, Jadson Andre’s career hasn’t exactly gone smoothly. The likeable goofy-footer has had more than his fair share of injuries, tough losses, and sponsorship hiccups, but somehow he’s managed to keep his spot on tour whenever the going has gotten tough. Yesterday at Sunset, he once again engaged that fighting spirit by clawing his way through heat after dogged heat on his way to requalification and redemption. And while he may not be the most stylish surfer on tour, you’ve got to admire a man who can dig deep and deliver when he’s livelihood is on the line.

One fall is all it can take to miss the cut. Photo: WSL

Tanner Gudauskas and the pain of being all too close and yet not close enough

If there’s one man who’s more than proven he belongs on tour, it’s the youngest member of the smiling Gudauskas clan. With a rampaging run through the Hurley Pro at Lower Trestles this year that was only stopped by a wily Joel Parkinson in the semis, the powerful goofy-footer looked more than accomplished enough to regain his place on tour after losing it way back in 2010. Unfortunately, despite a blazing backhand run through the Sunset draw that brought him all the way to the finals yesterday, he fell on a crucial backhand belt that could’ve landed him the big score he needed to qualify. Still, Tanner was all smiles on the podium despite the agony of coming so close, and with an attitude like that, he could very well make it happen in 2017.