Update: John John Flushes Everyone Down The Haleiwa Toilet Bowl
And the CT qualifications for 2023 are set.
The 2022 Challenger Series is officially complete, and it ended just how it began — in pumping righthanders. Haleiwa’s bowl showed its lumpy, lovable face for finals day, and qualification implications took center stage (at least, when John John’s laybacks weren’t captivating everyone).
If you didn’t get a chance to read our event preview with predictions and pre-event standings, it exists here. As with any qualification system, the final moments of the season have been rife with what-ifs, maybes, and a whole lot of pressure.
Some surfers crumbled like a Haleiwa end-section, and others basked in the glow of an impending season spent fulfilling their dreams (or Mikey C’s premonitions.)
Let’s get into it.
The Day Of Reckoning
Very few things in surfing are more compelling than competitions in Hawaii. Today, and this week, was no exception. It certainly wasn’t an easy CS event to win, considering the caliber of CT talent involved, but then, it was never supposed to be easy.
From the start, John John Florence, Ethan Ewing, and Kanoa Igarashi were standouts, a reminder that CT level surfing truly is a step above the rest. In fact, the men’s final featured John, Kanoa, Ryan Callinan, and Michael Rodrigues, all of whom have been/are on the CT.
The final quickly became a sword-fight between Kanoa and John in sparkling Haleiwa conditions. John, who’d absolutely steamrolled through the entire field, was nearly matched by Kanoa’s combined death-floaters and blow-tails. But the Hawaiian waited, and in between poor wave selection by R-Cal and M-Rod, found himself a backup wave. He tagged it once and stomped a no-grab revo for a lucky 7.77. Kanoa couldn’t find an answer and John, out the back for the final buzzer, layed down the most complete wave of the event — as an unscored victory lap.
John’s performance through the event was a definite masterclass in surfing Haleiwa. It’s hard to imagine him ever losing out here, even with half-intact cartilage.
The women’s final was the opposite of the men’s. Evenly matched, with no CT juggernauts, and much higher stakes. Sophie McCulloch, Teresa Bonvalot, Bettylou Sakura Johnson, and Eweleiula Wong faced off in slightly more difficult conditions than the men, with the final qualification spot up for grabs. The wind turned a touch onshore, and the fifth spot on the CS hung in the balance between Sophie and Teresa. Sophie was a longshot, needing to win with Teresa finishing 3rd or lower in the final. The final was slow, tricky, and hard to find good ones.
Sophie found them though, when noone else could, and halfway through the final had comboed the other three girls. Teresa couldn’t fight back, and her only hope was Bettylou in the dying moments. Needing a perfect 10 to surmount Sophie’s lead and crush her dreams, Bettylou smashed the best wave of the heat.
The score on the beach came back as a low 9.
Impressive, maybe the best female wave of the event, but still not enough.
Sophie had done the impossible and sat, speechless, on the ski with Strider. She had come from deep in the field, and clutched up when she had to. The young Aussie was now a Haleiwa champion, and forthcoming CT rookie.
In the winner’s ceremony, one couldn’t help but feel a deep sorrow for Teresa, who gracefully accepted her loss with only a few tears and a round of applause from the crowd.
That’s what professional surfing is all about, right? Raw emotions and good waves.
What other qualification complexities need to be unraveled from the day?
Let’s dive in.
On the men’s side, very little shuffling occurred.
Ramzi Boukhiam, Ian Gentil, Liam O’Brien, Maxime Huscenot, Joao Chianca and Zeke Lau all maintained their exact placing heading into the event, and will proudly don CT rashies come the new year.
Mikey C — Stab‘s resident prophet — is very pleased about Huscenot’s qualification, maybe even more so than Maxime himself. The ancient scriptures have once more proved their worth.
As for Dylan Moffat, the poor fella couldn’t fend off the ferocious advances of M-Rod, who clawed his way all the way to the final, even claiming a 6 while comboed in fourth place. Passion would be an understatement.
M-Rod, the perpetual battler, transcends to the tour. Dylan Moffat is relegated to another year of mud-wrestling.
Once again, very little changes. This was to be expected, considering Bettylou had all but secured 4th place after Brazil, and only one spot truly remained.
Alyssa Spencer, our pick to peel it from Teresa’s clutches, fell in the quarterfinals to Kirra Pinkerton and Molly Picklum. In her wake, she left only the possibility of Sophie or Teresa going home with the glory. As we saw, Sophie managed a miracle, and Teresa was sadly vanquished.
The rookie class of 2023 will feature an Indonesian, a Moroccan, and a Laydbird.
Hopefully they like mushy rights.
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