The Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach is looming large for two young surfers, Hawaiian Ezekiel Lau and Floridian Evan Geiseleman. Their careers have been linked since they were pre-teens, pegged early by surf magazines as future forces along with their peers John John Florence, Carissa Moore and Kolohe Andino.
While the climb has taken a bit longer for Lau and Geiselman, both are now sitting just outside the qualification cutoff. Making the jump to the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour in 2017 hinges entirely on their performances at Sunset.
Lau is currently ranked No. 15 on the QS, and needs to make the Quarterfinals at Sunset just to keep his qualifying hopes alive. Since he won the Vans World Cup in 2013 there's no doubt he has what it takes to get there, but Sunset dishes out plenty of pain. The very next year Lau suffered a devastating Round Two loss. Fortunately for Lau he's already seeded into Round Three, along with Matt Wilkinson. Two more surfers from Round Two will join them. The Quarterfinals are two heats away.
Geiselman is sitting one spot above Lau, at No. 14, and as a result his hurdle to gain ground is a little lower. A 17th-place or better will move him up the ladder, but then again he'll want more to secure a spot. The tougher part for Geiselman is he's starting in Round Two, where he and Brazilian Yago Dora are awaiting to see what two surfers they draw out of Round One. The lanky goofyfooter has great technique and a vertical attack, but he will need to draw on every ounce of experience at Sunset Beach to get a big result.
It's been less than a year since Geiselman suffered a near-drowning experience surfing at Pipeline. Following a wipeout, he was knocked unconscious, survived a multiple-wave hold down and was rescued by the heroic actions of ex-pro bodyboarder Andre Botha, who pulled him to safety.
"After what happened at Pipe, I'm so lucky to be surfing at all," Geiselman told the WSL earlier this season. He responded with two 2016 QS Tour wins (Japan and Virginia Beach), setting the stage for a litmus test at Sunset Beach.
Tune in daily to see a potential start for the Vans World Cup. The event window runs through December 6.