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A highly successful running of the Sri Lankan Airlines Pro in the Maldives has resulted in some interesting developments in WQS/Land. The super strong field, a full house at 144 and counting, were treated to Pasta Point perfection, the 6 star Prime living up to this lofty status by serving up day after day of rippable, clean as a whistle Pasta 'handers, and the cream rose to the top as the event progressed through the rounds.

There is certainly no lack of interest in qualifying spots on next years Dream Tour. The top dogs all rolled up for this Maldivian delight, and when the top seeds chimed into the action in the Rd of 96, every heat was the equivalent of Quarter Final calibre a couple years back. This was an awesome assemblage of talent, from the raw kids attempting to emulate the feat of Jordy Smith/Dane Reynolds in qualifying at their first serious crack, to wily veterans on the comeback trail, to current Top 45 candidates looking to shore up the boarding after a leaky commencement of hostilities in the major league.

This was a watershed round, it was the one each contender must get through to justify the effort to get there. Forget the fact that advancement also assured great surf with only three other blokes out, this was the business round, where professional aspirations went on the line. It might not guarantee a keeper result in the final wash, but it is for sure a throwaway if one heads south at this juncture. There were tons of gritty battles on this day, the victors and survivors lived to fight another round, the vanquished rounded up their kit bags and made the lonely journey homeward.

The next big crossroads comes in the Round of 24. This is a three man format offering a 67% advancement. Not bad odds considering that participants had already amassed a valuable 1350 WQS points yield. But to go on means a bevy of points, upwards of 1650 towards the winners scoop of a whopping 3000 points. It also guarantees passage to man on man format. The beauty about this is that not only are you garnering major qualifying points but also invaluable man on man mileage in case one actually friggin makes it.

This is where the Hawaiian contingent pressed the field. If it wasn't the old one/two, as in Kekoa Bacalso and Makuakai Rothman in Heat 2, it was resounding heat wins from the likes of the venerable Sunny Garcia, Joel Centeio and Dustin Cuizon. With Dustin Barca slipstreaming California's Nathan Yeoman in heat 5, the result was a {{{100}}}% success rate for the Island surfers in this round. Onward and upward, the next round actually pitted Sunny and Makuakai against each other, with Rothman taking line honours enroute to a respectable 5th place finish.

The entire Aussie flotilla bit the dust in this crucial man on man round, however the 1650 points accrued offered a mixed blessing for Mick Campbell, Phillip MacDonald, Nathan Hedge, Adam Robertson and Drew Courtney. Courtney and Robertson made significant leaps on the ratings, lifting their averages to 1122 & 1088 respectively. The averages at this point in time are not a true reflection of qualifying potential, but are still a much better pointer then positions on the WQS ratings. For the first half of the tour it is a foot race, those with 7 or 8 events under the belt head the listings, but you have to dig for the gold and a better reflection are the four digit nuggets in the results column.

The averages column really kicks in after the European leg. Most guys have 6 or 7 keepers and are trying to incrementally up the ante by displacing the bottom scores with something of more substance. Making Quarter Finals or even Rd of 16 at 6 Star Primes does the trick. To give an example of this irregularity, US surfer Brett Simpson holds down 7th position on the ladder. He has a reasonable average of 1011 points, definitely a good platform to build on however Brett only has one cache of points in excess of 1200. He will not be able to hold his ground unless significant results roll on in.

Tiago Pires, Raoni Monteiro, Josh Kerr and Pablo Paulino are potential sleeper cells in the biog equation. None are currently within the Top 30 but they sit on awesome averages and could zoom up the ratings once they lock the veritable magic 7 in. Another US pair, Patrick Gudauskas and Austin Ware head the ratings, they have decent averages of 1128 & 1120 respectively, but they too will struggle to maintain the high ground unless they can establish depth to their campaigns.

The big firmers are Brazil's Hizunome Bettero and Hawaii's Sunny Garcia. Both jagged a pocketful of points in the Sri Lankan Airlines Pro, Huzunome flush with a bountiful booty of 1500 points average. Garcia is hell-bent on reclaiming Top 45 status, the 2000 ASP World Champion racking up another keeper at Pasta Point, and although the 1023 average appears modest compared to some, the misleading aspect of this number due to Sunny having a couple super low point yields in his seven. When one considers the fact that he has Haleiwa and Sunset at the finish, those {{{200}}} pointers will be long gone and his average will have a rocket under it.

Great effort by Kekoa Bacalso to win in the Maldives. This breakthrough victory launches a serious quest for qualifying. Kekoa netted 3000 big ones to appear at #5 from nowhere. In an all Hawaiian final, Kekoa defeated Dustin Barca, who himself took out heavyweights Nathan Hedge, Nathan Yeomans and Leonardo Neves to reach the final. The Pipeline regular thrived at Pasta Point, volleying himself up to a career high #19, just outside the bubble.

Kekoa Bacalso burst onto the international scene with a command performance in another all Hawaiian Final to be crowned ASP World Junior Champion. Kekoa, Dustin Cuizon and Hank Gaskell came to Narrabeen to conquer that year, and did it with style. I had never heard of Kekoa Bacalso, but by the end of that tournament the stocky regular had made an imprint on all who witnessed the classy display. After slogging his way up the seeding order in 2007, Kekoa has focused his efforts on qualifying in 08, and this triumph marks an important threshold in his campaign.

It has been a while since a crop of new Hawaiian blood reached skyward for greatness, and with five making the Top 8 in the Sri Lankan Airlines Pro this could herald the opening of a new chapter. With Sunny Garcia on a collision course with his old sparring partners in the Top 45, he would dearly love to take some young guns with him on the ride.

On a respectful note, we were all saddened by the passing of Maldives pioneer Tony Hinde the week preceding the event. Tony was the true pioneer of surfing in the Maldives and many, many surfers enjoyed wonderful experiences with Tony, and because of his efforts. The one solace friends and family can find is that, apart from the respect Tony had from the international surfing community, he left us doing what he loved, surfing. Ride on mate.