COOLANGATTA, Australia (Thursday, August 2nd, 2007)
The WQS warriors are well and truly in the thick of their season in the coming weeks. The Honda US Open presented by O'Neill represents the opening salvo in a 6 week series of back to back events, featuring four 6 Stars, one 5 and a points rich Super Series event. This is the meat and potatoes of the tour; it is traditionally where the thrust and parry of qualifying goes down, although there has been some departure from this formula this year, which I will highlight later.
“The current Top 15 WQS represents a broad cross section of new age hotties, former champions, old warhorses and journeymen.”
This week the tour has winged its way to Japan for the 6 Star Yumeya Billabong Pro Tahara. With a major Typhoon swell on their hands, organisers have deployed the mobile unit, transporting the event to Sentan Point to maximize this swell event. This is the biggest event in Japan, the biggest in Asia, and a star studded field is vying for the winner's yield of 2500 ratings points.
The highest flyer in attendance is 2001 ASP World Champion CJ Hobgood, who while coming off a huge win at Huntington Beach last weekend, is making a good fist of putting some lustre back into a fairly ordinary season by his standards. CJ is languishing in 25th spot on the Foster's ASP World Tour, just two inside the cut at the mid year point on tour. CJ turned the corner with a 3rd in Chile but with a couple 33rds already on his score card, CJ has a full book of throwaways already used up and is wisely buying some qualifying insurance, the hard yards now may well avoid a stressful run home.
The real freaky thing is the near complete lack of major leaguers on the WQS this year. The trend of the past couple years has become rather extreme this year. For example, there are no current Top 27 Foster's ASP World Tour competitors in the Top 15 of the WQS. If this trend continued there would be zero double-ups at year end, meaning we would go no further down then #15 and all the CT guys ranked 28-45 would be gone. This probably won't happen, but with only CJ Hobgood and Adrian Buchan within cooee of the current WQS Top 40, this scenario is not beyond the realm of possibility.
The next closest is Jeremy Flores, who has come alive with runner-up placing's in Durban and HB, but at #12 in the World ratings he is most likely not going to call upon his WQS ranking to qualify. Of course, Neco Padaratz is sitting at a reasonably comfortable #6 on the WQS, but with a World ranking of 40 he is already counting too many 33rds to make the cut in the top tier, so I can't see a double-up situation on the Neco front. There are quite a few guys outside the Top 27 setting their sights on clambering up the totem pole over the coming month, including Troy Brooks, Gabe Kling, Shaun Cansdell, Greg Emslie, Leonardo Neves, Bernardo Miranda, Rodrigo Donnelles and Dayyan Neve.
The current Top 15 WQS represents a broad cross section of new age hotties, former champions, old warhorses and journeymen. It looks very much like Portugal will have its first ever debutante on the 2008 Foster's ASP World Tour. Tiago Pires, after a couple heartbreakingly close near misses is leading the field and looks well on track to qualify. South African wunderkind Jordy Smith has certainly gone on with the promise he showed in winning the ASP World Junior Championship this January. Following solid performances and flashy surfing around the globe the kid touted as “the next big thing” is hoarding impressive averages and looks set to secure favourable seeding next year.