A Bugs Eye View

Sign up for the exclusive ASP newsletter HERE

The resumption of the ASP Women's World Tour brings the elite female surfers to Hossegor, France, for the Rip Curl Pro Mademoiselle. It has been several months since the girls have seen action and they are chomping at the bit to get amongst those Hossegor barrels.

Former ASP World Champion Sofia Mulanovich (PER) and reigning ASP Women's World Champ Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) head the seeding, both having won the only two events staged thus far in '08. Peruvian legend Mulanovich has really come out kicking this season, a 1,2 finish in the Aussie leg establishing bragging rights over her Australian counterpart, although the diminutive natural-footer is perpetually praising her rivals for their surfing prowess.

After a somewhat disastrous campaign on her homebreak at Snapper Rocks, Stephanie Gilmore regained her composure to go back-to-back at Bells, swiftly injecting herself into the title hunt before the mid-year recess. It will be interesting to see how the two top seeds fared with the extended break, whether they can resume in top gear or if it will be like starting the season all over again. The big advantage for Sofia so far has been her success at Snapper. She traditionally starts very slowly and winds into top gear in the second half of the tour.

Samantha Cornish (AUS) and Amee Donohoe (AUS) have positioned themselves on the next grid, Cornish at #3 with a 2,5 start and Donohoe one of only two surfers with a pair of Top 3 placings. Former seven-time ASP Women's World Champion Layne Beachley (AUS) sits alone at #5, definitely still within striking distance, the Rip Curl Pro Mademoiselle offering up the kind of juice that Beachley thrives in.

With the rising talent evident at the ASP WQS level, the race is also on to secure automatic qualification to next year's Dream Tour. Like the men, it is becoming more difficult to do both tours, those on the cusp having to hedge their bets by covering their butts, but with only one major ASP WQS 6-Star event and three ASP WQS 4-Stars left for the women, there are no absolute certainties to qualify on both tours, although that picture will become clearer with the progress of Rebecca Woods, Jessi Miley-Dyer, Roseanne Hodge and Jacqueline Silva in Hossegor.

Plenty of movement in the ratings after last week's Rip Curl Pro at Hossegor. The main story of course is Nathaniel Curran and Chris Davidson sealing berths on the 2009 Dream Tour. Curran's consistency is impressive, he bookends his ASP WQS account with a 2500 point opener and 1500 as his seventh counting score. Davo, a former Top 45 performer who has been bashing away on the 'QS for several years, has also put it all together, and there still looks to be room to improve, he counts all 3000 points won recently but trails off with 975. The only thing to go for now between the pair is the year-end #1 WQS ranking.

Josh Kerr indicated that he would be surfing no more than eight or so events and either make it or not based on that strategy. Not sure if that has changed, but Hossegor became his seventh event and he is now at #3 with an 875 pointer to better in his eighth effort, this week's Buondi Billabong Pro in Portugal. Kerr shot from #12 to #3 and could also cement a berth next year before the Euro leg closes out.

Others on the ascent – Germany's Marlon Lipke has jumped seven placings and is Europe's top performer this year. I remember seeing this young man carving Narrabeen up in the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships, he definitely has some powerful moves and the experience of a couple years on the ASP WQS is clearly starting to pay dividends.

Aussie duo Yadin Nicol and Drew Courtney could not have more contrasting backgrounds. Courtney, who rose to a career high #6 after the Rip Curl Pro, has been in the trenches for seemingly ages. So much so that his junior training partner, Trent Munro, has already had innings on the ASP World Tour and has retired. Drew is knocking on the door and could well realize a lifelong dream. Says a lot about the guys tenacity and perseverence, he's got a roll going and is riding it for all its worth.

Yadin Nicol posted a brace of early results and instead of sliding off the early season leaderboard Yadin got a second wind, nailing a fifth great result to catapult himself to #4. He is not mucking about, the powerfully-built Aussie grabbing his chances with both fists. South African natural-footer Shaun Gossman has also rallied, ascending from #23 to #16 over the weekend. The biggest mover was Brazil's Jihad Khodr, who wasn't even in the top 30 before rocketing into calculations with a mighty runner-up to Chris Davidson at Hossegor.

So the Buondi Billabong Pro is the final ASP WQS 6-Star in this stanza of events, the 'QS warriors get some down time while the Dream Tour kicks in with Trestles, Hossegor and Mundaka. For the guys trying to climb or consolidate or just hang in there, the call for last drinks has been made for the night. One thing for sure, eight or so guys are leaving Portugal with another brick in the great wall of qualifying.

Good luck to all the girls in Hossegor and the battling men in Ericeira.

It was with profound sadness that we learnt this week of the passing of Midget Smith. Many at ASP were very close to Midget, there is a deep sense of loss, particularly amongst the judging fraternity. Apart from his huge contribution to professional surfing, and apart from the fact he was one of the best surfers from California right throughout the 70's, Midget had many endearing qualities as a person. He truly was a great guy, always lending a helping hand to those in need, a fantastic ambassador for that classic San Clemente hospitality, a guy who never let an opportunity slip by where he could make someone's day or trip or life better.

Midget had many great attributes as a human being. He is someone the sport is very proud of.

Vale Midget Smith

Good luck to all,
Wayne “{{{Rabbit}}}” Bartholomew
ASP Intl President