Which 2023 CT Rookies Will Make The Mid-Year Cut? - Stab Mag
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This kid made qualifying look like a walk in the park. Photo by WSL/Alan Van Gysen

Which 2023 CT Rookies Will Make The Mid-Year Cut?

Just 10 days out from the start of the 2023 season, Mikey C and Stace Galbraith give us their thoughts.

features // Jan 19, 2023
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Come January 29th, the Championship Tour sized hole in our hearts will be filled once more with heroics, heartbreak, and Strider waxing prosaic from the channel. There will also be a few slight changes to the tour we’ve come to know and (sometimes) love. The schedule of venues is even further skewed to the right, the WSL has presented a handful of small-yet-controversial rule changes, and we’ve got some fresh rookie meat on tour.

Five men and two women will be joining the ranks of the elite for the first time in their careers. It’s impossible to understand what must be going through the mind of the newbies, but one might guess they’d be feeling nervous, excited, expectant, hopeful, or maybe even confident.

Let’s scrutinize ’em.

Ramzi has been waiting 10 years for this moment. Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League.

Men’s Rookies (in order of Seeding):

  • Rio Waida
  • Maxime Huscenot
  • Ramzi Boukhiam
  • Ian Gentil
  • Liam O’Brien

Women’s Rookies (in order of Seeding):

  • Caity Simmers
  • Sophie McCulloch

Last year had a rookie class double the size, with nine men and five ladies. Of these, six men and one woman made the perilous mid-year cut — a 50% fatality rate.

The pre cut schedule hasn’t changed a bit — it looks like this:

Billabong Pro Pipeline (Hawaii): January 29 – February 10
Hurley Pro Sunset Beach (Hawaii): February 12 – 23
MEO Rip Curl Portugal Pro (Portugal): March 8 – 16
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach (Victoria, Australia): April 4 – 14
Margaret River Pro (Western Australia, Australia): April 20 – 30

Prior to the 2022 season, our resident ‘tater tot — Mikey C — provided his predictions on which rookies he thought would make the cut and which wouldn’t. Coincidentally, he predicted 50% correctly.

Think he can do better this year?

In our latest Podcast, Mikey and Stace Galbraith go into detail about their predictions for the 2023 rookie contingent. Below, we’ve gone ahead and thrown their thoughts into good ol’ written words, in case you don’t have 40 minutes to listen to the Aus v. USA pontification.

Men’s Predictions:

Rio Waida

The first Indonesian to ever qualify for the Championship tour is gonna be fine in shallow, curvy waves like Portugal and Pipe. He’s willing to put in the work, and it’s no secret that he’s committed to high level preparation. Sunset and Bells will probably be his weaknesses.

Mikey’s Prediction:

“He’s an amazing surfer, but Rio won’t make the cut. On a different schedule, Rio could dominate, but with these first few events he won’t do well. He hasn’t impressed at Pipeline yet and we’ve never seen footage of him at Sunset.”

Stace’s Prediction:

“From the inside, just because of the level of commitment Rio has put into preparing for the season, I’m giving him the nod to make the cut.”

Rio definitely thinks he’s making it. Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League

Maxime Huscenot

The Reunion Island QS grinder is a bit of a wildcard. Maxime is definitely a scrapper, and though he’s probably not the most talented surfer on tour, he’s probably one of the most heat savvy. As with many of the rookies, Bells and Sunset are gonna probably be an issue — though, he may do well at Pipe considering his Hossegor familiarity.

Mikey’s Prediction:

“I’ll say yes Maxime. You and I are riding together. We’ll get there, and win a lot of money together.”

Staces Prediction:

“My French friend, I’m gonna have to say no.”

Mikey and Maxime are cosmically bonded, for those wondering about his our shirtless critic’s allegiance.

Ramzi Boukhiam

Everybody knows how good the Moroccan’s backhand is. With it, Ramzi has potential to be one of the only rookies — and maybe one of the only goofs — to shine at Sunset and Bells. This advantage could really help him make the cut. He also might come into 2023 significantly hungrier than the other rookies, because he’s been chasing it for 10 years. Either that or he’ll be on edge, hoping not to blow his opportunity. We’ll find out.

Mikey’s Prediction:

“1000% yes. He’s just licking his chops right now. Now that he’s in with the big dogs, he is going to eat.”

Stace’s Prediction:

“Yep, he’s making it.”

Proudly, the first Moroccan on the Dream Tour. Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League

Ian Gentil

Ian rides the line between a journeyman and a superstar. He’s a real wildcard without an outwardly facing persona. Beware the quiet ones? Maybe.

Ian is really tall, and might struggle with making surfing at Sunset and Bells look impactful. Maybe not.

Mikey’s Prediction:

“I’m going with no. Not because I don’t think his surfing’s there, I just think it’s a numbers game and not everyone can make it through.”

Stace’s Prediction:

“I think Ian will make it. Beware the quiet ones.”

Ian isn’t afraid of some Sunset chaos. Photo by Keoki Saguibo/WSL via Getty Images

Liam O’Brien

Liam is the whole package technically, but he does lack a touch of body mass. He’s not scared to go on a big heavy one if it comes his way, and he’s already somewhat proven himself on tour. The Gold Coaster also spends a lot of time at onshore Straddy, which may bode well for him at junky Peniche. 

Mikey’s Prediction:

“Liam will make the cut. I do think he will struggle at some of these waves, but I think he’ll do enough. He’s just really talented. Liam has made a final on the CT, and he just seems confident in himself. One way or another he’ll figure it out.”

Stace’s Prediction:

“Yep, Liam is extremely well rounded, I think he’ll get it done.”

We love Liam. Photo by Ed Sloane/WSL via Getty Images

Women’s Predictions:

Caity Simmers

The youngster from Oceanside is probably the most exciting rookie this year. Her clear strengths are her style and her ability to look like she’s not surfing a heat. You see a lot of people stiffen up when they throw on a rashie, but Caity doesn’t. However, this may not help with the waves early on in the season — she’s still small and very young.

Mikey’s Prediction:

“I’m saying Caity will make it. I think that the cards are a bit stacked against her but she’s such an incredible surfer who is so beloved. If it comes down to a decision, her style will definitely help.”

Stace’s Prediction:

“It’s bloody hard. I’m gonna say I’ll be surprised to see her do it this year. It’s just a really hard opening run of events.”

Hands up if you’re excited for Toasted to drop! Photo by Pierre Tostee/World Surf League

Sophie McCulloch

Sophie grew up surfing the Sunshine Coast and made the tour in a very remarkable way. The early events on the CT will probably be a steep learning curve for her, because she hasn’t really surfed anything similar to Pipe and she’s fairly small in stature. However, she has proved her competitive tenacity, which could guide her through tough heats

Mikey’s Prediction:

“I don’t know a ton about Sophie, but I don’t see her making the cut, by virtue of lacking size and x-factor.”

Stace’s Prediction:

“I also think she probably won’t make the cut.”

Sophie and some guy with a weird beard. Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League

Last year, Sammy Pupo and Gabriela Bryan won Rookie Of The Year

Who will take the honors in 2023?

Stace and Mikey both predict it’ll be Ramzi Boukhiam for the men and Caity Simmers for the women.

Who you got?

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