Lower Trestles is sacred ground for surfers. The wave itself is one of the best in the world for highlighting state of the art high performance surfing. That’s why victories here, at any level, carry a significant degree of prestige. While Lowers plays host to a variety of surfing tournaments each year: the NSSA National Titles, a World Qualifying Series (WQS) event and an full blown ASP World Tour stop that brings the world title race into play.
In years past, the WQS event has been the least publicized of the three. That’s due mainly to the fact that it didn’t carry a whole lot of weight in the overall meaning of things. The WQS, which is surfing’s version of the minor leagues, is comprised of hundreds and hundreds of surfers all vying for a shot at making the cut for the ASP World Tour. But unlike Minor League Baseball, where players are broken into segregated leagues, like Single- A, Double-A and Triple-A, in surfing the climb is a bit more complicated. Surfers with enough points can enter any contest they wish on the WQS schedule, which is comprised of roughly 40 events. Those events are broken into a tier system, ranked from 1-Star, which have very little points and prize money, all the way to 6-Star PRIME, which provide top dollars and enough points that they are basically can’t miss events for any surfer hoping to make a serious run at the ASP World Tour.
6-Star PRIME events are rare birds indeed. There are only eight in 2009. And the only one on the U.S. Mainland, the 6.0 Lowers Pro, is underway this week at Trestles. Because 6-Star PRIME events are so important, several of the surfers who enter are ASP World Tour surfers aiming to protect their coveted spots by requalifying through the WQS again just in case they don’t make the big league cutoff.
So how do the surfers feel about having such an important event at Lowers now?
“It’s about time,” says Ben Bourgeois, last year’s winner. “This is by far the best wave in California for a surf contest, so it’s nice to have something on the WQS level that really matters. I think we’re going to see a lot higher level this year.”
If the first few days of action are any indication, Bourgeois is right.