Bruce Irons (HAW) has taken the initial steps to compete in eight Qualifying Series (QS) events in 2015. Contrary to various media reports, however, the former Championship Tour (CT) surfer's chance of qualifying for the Tour through these events is minimal.
"He is thinking of doing some events," said World Surf League (WSL) QS Tour Manager Al Hunt. "Unfortunately, the ones he wants are not available for him unless he is given wildcard spots. I don't see him wanting to start all over again doing QS1000-3000 events hoping for some ranking to set himself up for next year, not this year, to try and do the Tour."
Competitors get spots in QS events based on their 2014 rankings until this season's midpoint, when the 2015 rankings come into effect. Irons is currently No. 49 on the 2015 rankings, but he has no ranking for 2014. Therefore, it will be tough for him to qualify for some of the bigger contests unless he earns his entry as a wildcard. Wildcards are surfers who get to compete irrespective of their ranking either because the event organizers offer them a spot or they win a local trials contest to earn a spot in the event.
"Unless Bruce shows up at events where he is waitlisted or has a chance at the trials like in Newcastle [for the QS6000 Burton Automotive Pro] next week, he will not get a high enough ranking for the second half of the year," said Hunt. "He may be 49th but he has only been in one heat and lost straight up. Come the end of this week he will be 149th."
Irons' current rank is based on a 33rd-place finish at the Volcom Pipe Pro, an event he competed in as a local wildcard and where he set in motion a chain of speculation. Even before he paddled out at Pipe, Irons made it clear he intended to win the event and backed up his fervor when he scored a 9.60 on his first wave. Ultimately, he wasn't able to back up the nine and lost to fellow Hawaiians John John Florence and Seth Moniz. But the combination of his signature bravado and early high score would make it appear that he's taking another shot at making the elite Tour.
Five of the eight events for which Irons has filed paperwork are unlikely to include him: Two events are worth 6,000 points and three are QS10000s. The 10,000s, previously called Prime events, are worth more QS points and open only to surfers with higher rankings. Those events are crucial to build QS rankings, but top-ranked riders tend to fill up competitive spots first. If Irons neither gets a wildcard spot for those, nor wins their trials, he will not be able to accumulate a high enough ranking needed to qualify for the Triple Crown events in Hawaii, both QS10000s. The Hawaiian contests can be the tipping point for QS surfers working to leap to the CT (See: Dusty Payne (HAW)).
The WSL can confirm that Irons has submitted the initial paperwork for the following events: The Burton Automotive Pro, the Lowers Pro, the Local Motion Surf into Summer Pro, the Los Cabos Open of Surf, the Surf Open Acapulco, the Coastal Edge, the Reef Hawaiian Pro and the Vans World Cup.
Update: Irons will not compete in the Burton Automotive Pro.