COOLANGATTA, Australia (Tuesday, November 18, 2008) – We have reached a critical junctore in both the Men's & Women's ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS). The Reef Hawaiian Pro is poised at the Round of 64 in the Men's and the Quarterfinals of the Women's, and with so many points on offer there are a multitude of possibilities.
It is not the definitive season decider for the guys, we still have one more at Sunset, but with 3,000 points on the line, the stakes have been raised considerably. After enjoying a fruitful opening three day stanza, the Reef Hawaiian Pro is restive as a new NW swell builds in the North Pacific. The mood of the contenders is far from that. To put some meaningful perspective on this, Greg Emslie sits at #8 on the ratings with 11,463 points and Dustin Barca is just outside the qualifying bubble at #16 with 10,939 points.
There is literally 500 points separating these guys, and with 6,000 points on offer over the two lead-off events in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, guys could realistically come swooping in from way out, just like Pancho Sullivan did a few years back. After a torrid year of grappling for points, it has come down to a battle of attrition, where incrementals mean everything, but also, where quantum leaps are not to be discounted. This equates to sound game plans, execution of well laid plans, great wave choice and, well, it's Haleiwa so a dose of good luck will also come in handy.
The top seeds will now meet the best of the guys coming through those early rounds. On the North Shore, familiarity of the lineup is a key factor, so the guys coming through the draw will have built a bit of momentum. This next round will really provide the fireworks. The Vans Triple Crown is the most prestigous series in the world, it ranks second only to the ASP World Title chase, so the big hitters from the Dream Tour enter the fray to do battle with a blend of local specialists and mainstream ASP WQS campaigners, many with career aspirations riding on the next set.
Reigning ASP World Champion Mick Fanning opens proceedings, and straight away encounters two guys right there in the reckoning, Yadin Nicol and Brett Simpson. Not to be discounted is the other kid, rising star Tonino Benson. So right away, it's on. Another to watch is Heat 4, featuring former ASP World Champ C.J. Hobgood, Hawaiian contender Kekoa Bacalso and Aussie pair Jay Thompson and Nathan Hedge. Heat 6 is another doozy, incumbent Top 45er's Tom Whitaker and Kieren Perrow up against former ASP World Champ and Triple Crown dominator Sunny Garcia and Brazilian hopefull Hizunome Bettero.
Every heat's a cracker. They all tell a story, whether it's guys surfing for their existence, others looking to come from the clouds, while some guys are either looking for Triple Crown prestige or to gain North Shore experience. One things for sure, it's a phenomenal field of surf stars all seeking to gain an edge and book a berth at the business end of the Reef Hawaiian Pro. Good luck to all surf warriors.
How about what's happening with the girls? Stepping onto the world stage is a plethora of rising superstars about to bust open the women's ranks. We have been waiting to see what would happen when they all assembled at the one beach and wow, what a show. This is the shot in the arm Women's Pro surfing needs. Right now, there is unprecedented interest in checking how these girls rip.
Just gauging by my own reaction, and I may be forgiven for being a touch jaded after 2000 surf meets, but this is just sensational. The Quarterfinals of the ASP WQS 6-Star Reef Hawaiian Pro features a classic blend of established pros and wide-eyed young rippers. The girls enjoyed a fantastic day at Haleiwa in the Round of 32, with youngsters Laura Enever and Coco Ho dominating the headlines, and the stats.
The established starts will have a seige mentality going on come the Quarters. Samantha Cornish is surrounded by three hot young chargers in Coco Ho, Laura Enever and Courtney Cologne. This will provide such a great snapshot of the future, but Sam Cornish, like the guys waiting in ambush for Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds earlier this year, will not go quietly.
The round opens with reigning ASP Women's World Champion Stephanie Gilmore, who probably has bigger fish to fry in the upcoming Dream Tour events, against Bruna Schmitz, Claire Bevilacqua and Melanie Bartels. The Brazilian Schmitz is currently #6 on the ASP WQS, just inside the qualifying bubble, and will need a good run against this level of experience. Claire Bevilacqua probably needs to final to rise from #11, but with 2,500 big ones up for grabs she is mathematically in the frame.
Runaway ASP WQS #1 Sally Fitzgibbons really hurt Laurina McGrath's qualifying prospects in the Round of 32. The elimination of McGrath means she will need results to go her way to come through the back door on qualifying, relying on double-ups on the WT/QS qualifying as well as not being leap-frogged by others below her on the WQS. Sally also defeated seven-times ASP Women's World Champion Layne Beachley, however the North Shore veteran gets another crack at the teen idol, as does Kyla Langen.
The final Quarter is another of great significance. Hawaii's Alana Blanchard could wrap up a berth on next year's ASP World Tour with advancement deep into the tournament, but she will have to overcome a class line-up in Carissa Moore, Rosanne Hodge and Silvana Lima. Rosanne and Silvana are both assured berths and Carissa, having focussed on school in 2008, has rattled the cages of the staus quo pretty much every time she has contest major league events. So it's a big moment for Blanchard as she attempts to tie a nice bow on top of a so far very promising year.
A very high level of anticipation all round at Haleiwa.
Good luck to everyone still in.
Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew
ASP Intl President
Check out more Bugs Eye Views