Tomorrow marks the start of the 2017 Qualifying Series (QS) season with the Shoe City Pro QS1,000. With the opening horn, a plethora of talent will be getting ready to light up the southside break of Huntington Beach, California.
One of those talents is 2016 North America Regional QS Champion Kilian Garland, who is focusing this year on some of the higher-ranked events, which have QS ratings of 6,000 and 10,000 points (think: Ballito and the Vans Triple Crown). But, the Santa Barbara native knows the importance of a strong start and will be hoping to find his form early on to set the pace for this season.
"I'm feeling good and definitely pumped to put the jersey back on with the Shoe City Pro event really getting things going for the year," Garland said. "It is great that we have an event in California to kick things off. The first contest is always important to find your groove and I think a win here would definitely help me going into the bigger events -- and down the road at the US Open."
Ian Crane finished the 2016 season with an impressive showing at the Vans World Cup, the Triple Crown contest at Sunset Beach, on Oahu's North Shore, which boosted him to the No. 54 spot on the QS. The San Clemente native wasn't quite satisfied with his overall performance last year, and has a new mental edge in the making.
"I'm really excited to get the new season going after placing just out of the top 50 last year," Crane said. "I did pretty bad all year up until the last event at Sunset which pushed me way up the ratings. It definitely helped my confidence and put the thought in my mind that I can get results in the big QS events. The 1,000 events are cool, especially the Shoe City Pro in Huntington just because it's close to home and a good way to get back in the groove."
While many of the names on this year's entry list are familiar to fans, the event wildcard Tyler Muth will be competing in his first-ever WSL event. Chosen as the wildcard by contest director Scott Waring, Muth hails from the breaks of Agate Beach, Oregon and may be one to watch as a possible spoiler in the Round of 64. The 24-year-old will have his work cut out for him contesting against a stacked draw.
"This is what I've been dreaming of since I was kid growing up surfing," Muth said. "It's hard to even get close to a position like this, so this is a dream come true. I'm going to come in guns blazing and not hold back. I have nothing to loose and everything to gain -- I've just been telling myself that knowing that these guys have a bit more on the line surfing against a guy they've never heard of. But at the same time I'm not trying to think like that too hard and just come into this with an open mind, meet some new people, and just have fun."