A Bugs Eye View

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We are arriving at a critical passage for this years Men's ASP WQS. For decades, the French leg has been the make it or break it phase of the season, and even though there are a bunch of high-rated events staged before August these days, the Euro leg is where the true contenders emerge.

The Rip Curl Pro is currently enjoying a few quality waves at Les Bourdaines in Hossegor and represents one of only two ASP WQS 6-Star Primes left before Hawaii, the other being in the Canaries down the track a bit. Nestled between two regular ASP WQS 6-Star events, the long-running Sooruz Lacanau Pro and the upcoming Billabong Buondi Pro, the Rip Curl Pro offers a bounty of points, with the winner walking out of Hossegor 3000 big ones closer to the goal of qualifying for the 2009 Dream Tour.

So lots at stake this week. California's Nathaniel Curran has emerged from the pack as a leading contender, two bonafide wins in recent 6-Stars propelling him up into the #1 spot. There is something pretty rad happening this year. The trend began a few years ago, but this year, it has extended beyond any former boundaries by a long way.

Not only are current ASP Dream Tour Top 10 not showing any interest in travelling the World Qualifying Series, this year, the Top 30 are bypassing it. In an astonishing scenario, we have to scroll all the way down to #65 on the ASP WQS ratings to come across a certainty to make the Top 27 at year's end. At this rate we will have no double-ups this year. By that, I refer to surfers who qualify on both tours. The good news of that stat is that 15 new or former pros will qualify, the bad news is that we will not be going far down the list.

In past years, when quite a smattering of the Top 27 would hedge their bets by covering their ass on the ASP WQS, we would go down to maybe #22 on the year end ASP WQS. This year, it may very well go no further south then the Top 15. That puts point scoring opportunity at a premium this week. Guys are looking to lock in their 5th & 6th keeper, that seems to be where the pace setters are at. Some, like Nathaniel, are a bit better off, but even David Weare at #3 only has three results better then a thousand, and with perhaps a 1600 point average required to be safe, now is the time to get a decent points yield onto the scoreboard.

The other pressing factor is that it is much more advantageous to have 6 or 7 locked in before Hawaii, the ASP WQS 6-Star Prime events at Haleiwa and Sunsert are notoriously competitive, they are focused on by much of the ASP Top 45 plus local specialists and traditionally give up little ground to those in arrears on the qualifying average.

There is a veritable pot pouri of contenders coming into Hossegor. Former ASP Top 45 members Chris Davidson(2), David Weare(3), Greg Emslie(6), Sunny Garcia(11) and Josh Kerr(12) have worked themselves into striking distance with consistent performances. After a slow start Chris Davidson and Greg Emslie have zoomed into the frame, Davidson looking for probably two more results to solidify his claims.

Former ASP World Champion Sunny Garcia came out of the blocks on fire this season, but has eased back out of the Top 10. Not only will Garcia be after points in the Rip Curl Pro but he will be looking for a big finish on the North Shore later this year. Josh Kerr stated that he would compete ively on the ASP WQS, and true to his word only has six events under the belt. Whatever he nets out of Hossegor will go straight on his score card, so the aerial wizard may be on a sharp ascent.

Joining Nathaniel Curran on the favourable side of the present qualifying bubble are Yadin Nicol, Patrick Gudauskas, journeyman Drew Courtney and former Brazilian junior stars Pedro Henrique and Pablo Paulino. Hizunome Bettero and Nathan Yeomans have slipped a bit from their early going, while Brett Simpson has slid onto the wrong side of the ledger and will be looking to arrest the negative flow in Europe.

Big opportnities present themselves for Germany's Marlon Lipke and France's Tim Boal. Both could make some ground quite quickly with a result, with Tim Boal carrying a couple 750 aggregates and Marlon Lipke an 813 throwaway. The European ascendancy continues with this pair, although at this point only Jeremy Flores is a certainty to requalify and Tiago could come through the backdoor with either a great Dream Tour performance or 'QS Euro leg result.

There is plenty of movement in the camp. Dion Atkinson is making his move in France, while Victorian pair Adam Robertson and Nic Muscroft remain doggedly in the slipstream of the lead group. What is for certain is the 3000 points on offer in this weeks Rip Curl Pro will look very tidy on the front grid of the winner's Top 7.