Banking on qualifying for the Championship Tour on the merit of a big result in Hawaii is hardly a smart plan. But this year, for Jack Robinson, it actually worked. Robinson started the year with a convincing win at the Volcom Pipe Pro in February, and bookended it with the most dominating performance in the history of Sunset Beach. Literally. His 19.07 heat total is the highest ever in a Sunset final.
As always, Sunset provided plenty of qualification drama. The day started with roughly a dozen surfers in ‘CT contention, and ended with only two making the jump: Robinson, and fellow finalist Ethan Ewing. Others, like Zeke Lau, fell just short during a pumping finals day. Lau needed the win to shore up his spot on tour for next year, but had no answer for an absolutely on-fire and in-rhythm Robinson, who made the end bowl at Sunset look like a playful day at 6-foot Backdoor, threading four tubes in the final alone. Lau would finish second. (Though he still has a shot at re-qualifiying at Pipe.)
“Yeah, we’re ready,” said a calm and confident Robinson after the final. “It was awhile coming. There was a lot of buildup to this. I wanted to get on there earlier [the ‘CT], but it happens when it happens. I’ve been working really hard this year, clearing up things in my mind, and I’m in a good place. I got the job done; that’s all I wanted to do.”
Of course, with Ewing and Robinson jumping to the right side of the bubble, a couple of surfers had their ‘CT dreams dashed, at least for now. Most notably Jake Marshall, who must’ve watched on in horror as he helplessly slid out of a qualification berth with Ewing’s final berth, and then Robinson’s dominating win. Going into Pipeline, this is the qualifying series Top 10:
Interestingly, of the Top 10, there are only two true rookies: Matthew McGillivray (who was safe after Haleiwa), and Jack Robinson. All of the other surfers have either been on the ‘CT before, or like Deivid Silva and Yago Dora, are on tour right now. Dora is currently sitting just outside of re-qualification on the ‘CT, and Silva is just inside. At the moment Silva is the only double qualifier.
If nothing changes at Pipe (which is highly unlikely), Silva won’t need his ‘QS spot, meaning Australian dark horse Morgan Ciblic (currently 11th) will have a spot on tour. If Dora also double qualifies, we’ll see Stu Kennedy reclaim his place on tour as well.
It’s a lot to unpack, and we’ll almost definitely see the rankings shaken up further when Pipe gets underway next week. With the Vans Triple Crown race (with Ewing leading), Olympic qualification and a World Title on the line, The Pipe Masters will be the comp of the year to watch. Let’s just hope Pipe has a few more pumping days for us in the next couple of weeks.
The big news in the meantime is Robinson is finally a Championship Tour surfer, and is no doubt going to do some major damage next year. If 2020 brings pumping surf to West OZ, as well as to Tahiti, Indonesia, Portugal and Pipeline, that’s five events Robinson could realistically win, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him, at the very least, shake things up at the top.