As the 2015 surf season begins wind down, the race to qualify for the 2016 Championship Tour (CT) -- or, for some, to requalify -- is at a fever pitch. The SATA Azores Pro, the next Qualifying Series (QS) event, features 10,000 points on the line -- a massive boost for the winner's overall QS ranking.
With so many points on the line, this a crucial event for QS surfers on the cusp of reaching the elite ranks and CT surfers in danger of dropping below the cutoff on the Jeep Leaderboard. To qualify for the 2016 CT, athletes must either finish the year at No. 22 or better on the CT, or be ranked in the Top 10 or better on the QS rankings. If, however, a CT surfer qualifies with both their CT and QS ranks, then the QS pick goes to the next QS-only surfer who is one spot behind them.
With that in mind, this is a rundown of who needs what to make the CT for 2016:
There are two CT surfers, Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Jeremy Flores (FRA), in the QS Top 10 that will likely also requalify with their CT rankings. (They're ranked third and eighth on the elite CT, respectively). Kolohe Andino (USA), though, is No. 29 on the CT and No. 10 on the QS and needs his QS ranking at this stage.
Allowing for the spaces left vacant by Toledo and Flores, the current QS Top 10 stops at No. 12:
No. 1 Alejo Muniz (BRA)
No. 2 Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
No. 3 Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
No. 4 Filipe Toledo (BRA)
No. 5 Jeremy Flores (FRA)
No. 6 Caio Ibelli (BRA)
No. 7 Ryan Callinan (AUS)
No. 8 Joan Duru (FRA)
No. 9 Maxime Huscenot (FRA)
No. 10 Kolohe Andino (USA)
No. 11 Davey Cathels (AUS)
No. 12 Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
(See full rankings here.)
The last QS 10,000-level event was the Vans US Open in Huntington Beach, Calif., at the end of July. Some of the QS surfers who earned big there and made big moves on the rankings were Hiroto Ohhara (JPN), whose event win bumped him up from No. 80 to No. 13, and Tanner Hendrickson (HAW), whose runner-up finish took him from 51st to 14th. Not every surfer rose in the rankings: Stu Kennedy (AUS) -- down to 16th from eighth -- and Mitch Coleborn -- down to 18th from ninth -- will be looking to climb back into the top 12 if they want to join the 2016 Dream Tour.
Most of the QS surfers ranked below but in reach of No. 12 have low overall rankings points, ranging between 360 and 1,000. That means that any of those who place from ninth (3,700 points) or better in Azores will see a dramatic jump upwards. Anyone down to around No. 30 on the QS who can make it to the Semifinals in Azores can jump into the Top 10.
At this point, only Muniz can feel comfortable in the position he's in: With wins at a Prime event (Ballito) and a QS 6,000 (Burton Automotive), he is the only surfer who can be considered safe in his requalifying spot.
About Al Hunt:
Al Hunt is a former competitor who has helped develop the WSL since its inception. Hunt was Head Judge in 1983, the WSL's first year, and became Tour Manager in 1984. He has worked as WSL Tour Manager since then, attending more than 1,000 events. Hunt's Situation Room is designed to keep fans informed on QS rankings shifts throughout the 2015 WSL season.