Whether you're ready or not only one event remains until the historic chopping of the 2010 ASP World Title Race's Top 45. Following the Billabong Pro Tahiti, which runs August 23-September 8, the first phase of the revamped World Tour (now being called the World Title Race) will be instituted: The top 32 surfers following Teahupoo will remain on tour for the second half of the season while the rest are sent packing (if there's a tie at 32 they will use who placed higher in an event this year and then onto last year's final rankings, if need be).
The ultimate goal in this is to streamline the rankings system, inevitably doing away with the WCT and WQS all together. From now on there will be the ASP World Title Race (previously the WCT) and there will be the One World Rankings System. This will allow for the bottom rung of the Top 32 to be replaced throughout the year, giving top performing surfers in PRIMEs, six-stars, and beyond an opportunity to shine—sort of like getting called up to the major leagues from the minors during the season in baseball.
The multiple call ups next year keep those being chopped off midway this year hopeful that it isn't the end of their careers on tour. Someone like Tanner Gudauskas (sitting tied for 33rd) knows it is just the beginning: "This year seems to be a transition year. Personally I think the sport should be expanding instead of contracting. It seems more popular and fun to be a part of now more than ever, so when they are ‘trimming off the fat’ of the tour it seems hard to digest. But you can’t keep a good man down, so whatever happens after Teahupoo its all pistons firing."
Theoretically speaking, anyone with 12,000 points or more will be one of the Top 32 to continue the season. The bottom two surfers of the Top 45, Marco Polo and Blake Thornton, sit with 2,000 points apiece. If one of them were to win in Tahiti (that's a big if) they'd end up with 12,000 points. Ultimately meaning anyone above that total would still be on.
That also means that no one is mathematically unable to make the cut either. If Marco or Blake were to win there would be a slew of surfers well below 12,000 that would be chopped, meaning both Marco and Blake have a shot at staying on for the second half. Does it seem likely? No, but that doesn't mean it isn't possible.
Currently, Kieren Perrow sitting at equal 30th is the 32nd ranked surfer. If the axe were to swing now names like Kekoa Bacalso, Tom Whitaker, Pat and Tanner Gudauskas, and Dean Morrison would be left scratching their heads. Coming up big in Tahiti is what a guy like Tanner knows he needs to do: "I'm looking forward to Teahupoo—whatever it throws at us this year I can’t wait to be right in the slot with all the circus in the channel."
But there's also the argument that not everyone has had an opportunity to adjust to life on tour yet. As Tanner points out, "I am sitting tied for 33rd and am questioning if I have had the full acclimation effect after four events. To a certain extent I feel three right pointbreaks suit regular footers better, but personally I feel like my backside surfing has really improved since the beginning of the year."
Solid results at J-Bay by Adam Melling, Dusty Payne, Matt Wilkinson, and Brett Simpson put these rookies in much better positions to make the cut. But if they falter at Teahupoo (which is quite possible considering they've never surfed the contest) and receive a 33rd, there is the chance that they could be leaving Tahiti for home and not Lower Trestles.
Needing a result to stay on tour heading to Teahupoo is not the most conducive situation for surfers who've never been in the contest, or those who have either. But then again, that sharp axe doesn't match that sharp reef anywhere better in the world.—Ryan Brower
Stay tuned to transworldsurf.com for a full preview and our annual extended coverage of the Billabong Pro Tahiti as surfers battle to stay on the Dream Tour.
We wanna hear your thoughts: Who are the guys going to make the cut? Is this shrinking going to help surfing? Let us know what you think in the comments below.