While the Word Title race will be heating up again later this week in Tahiti, the huge battle for spots on next year's Championship Tour (CT) just took a major turn at the Vans US Open of Surfing - Men's QS. The Huntington Beach event is one of only five QS 10,000 events, the most heavily weighted on the Qualifying Series (QS).
CT surfers who don't finish in the Top 22 on the Jeep Leaderboard at the end of the year lose their coveted seeds unless they "requalify" through the QS. To do that, they must finish in the Top 10 on the QS rankings. QS hopefuls, meanwhile, are hoping to fill those 10 spots themselves, and they were doing a good job of it heading into Huntington Beach. Jordy Smith was the only CT surfer in the Top 10 before the Vans US Open of Surfing.
Jordy, however, is in very little danger of not making the Top 22. On the contrary, he's smack in the World Title race. Kanoa Igarashi, however, is in quite a dangerous situation with his current spot on the Jeep Leaderboard. At No. 29, he's enduring a bit of a sophomore slump. But a bigger concern for Kanoa was that he was ranked No. 69 on the QS, a long way from requalifying...until yesterday.
With the win, Igarashi jumped 66 spots up the QS rankings, to No. 3, putting him right back in the mix. Here's a list of the other big QS movers.
Current QS Rank: No. 2
Climbed: Up two spots from No. 4
The South African earned 5,200 points for his 5th-place finish. It was a strong backup to his 3rd-place finish at the first QS10,000 event of the year in his home country of South Africa. While he's not a lock for next year's CT, he's certainly bolstered his case.
Current QS Rank: No. 3
Climbed: Up 66 spots from No. 69
The hero of Huntington Beach just did himself a huge favor with his emotional win on Sunday. He's been struggling on the CT this year, and at this stage he's one of many CT stars looking to hedge their bets on the QS. His win was a huge help.
Current QS Rank: No. 4
Climbed: Up 33 spots from No. 37
The Brazilian battler has been on the cusp of CT qualification twice before. He finished No. 18 on the QS in 2016, and No. 17 in 2014. He's been around long enough to know he's far from the finish line. At 30 years old, he knows the clock is ticking, and it seems to be fueling his fire this year.
Current QS Rank: No. 9
Climbed: Up 17 spots from No. 26
The big man from New Zealand is a former CT surfer who's looking to get back into the big leagues. He ended up No. 31 on the CT in 2015, and was No. 21 the same year on the QS. While he slid all the way down to No. 57 last year he's hungry for another shot.
Current QS Rank: No. 10
Climbed: Up 17 spots from No. 27
Gudauskas is also another former CT competitor who would like to get back onto the center stage. He finished No. 27 on the CT in 2014, while finishing No. 33 on the QS the same season. He's been lurking in the back 20s for the past two seasons, but with his strong finish in Huntington Beach he's on his best pace in years.
Current QS Rank: 35
Climbed: Up 217 spots from No. 252
The amazing Australian juggernaut is having a bit of a shocker on this year's CT, which is all the more surprising being 2016 was one of his best year's ever. He's advanced out of only one heat so far on the CT, which is why he's No. 35 on the Jeep Leaderboard. His performance at the Vans US Open, where he finished 5th, gives him hope. He's only surfed two QS events so far, so climbing is still easy. Qualifying, however, could be a nail-biter.