5 More People Just Qualified For The 2022 CT
The Haleiwa Challenger sees 8/12 spots sealed for next season.
Ezekiel Lau, Connor O’Leary, Jake Marshall, Imaikalani Devault, Callum Robson, Liam O’Brien, Nat Young, and Lucca Mesinas will be on the CT next year.
Four spots remain: Samuel Pupo, Joao Chianca, Jackson Baker, and Carlos Munoz currently hold onto them. Depending on the performances of Jacob Willcox, Billy Stairmand, and Ian Gentil — who are still in the draw but will need big results to move into the top 12 — they too will be joining the big leagues next year.
But quickly, let’s give some kudos to our new qualifiers.
Nat Young and Connor O’Leary are both CT vets that will ring a bell.
Nat Young’s requalification story has been one of heartbreak and incredible mental fortitude. Eight years ago Nat joined the tour, seven years ago Nat was awarded Rookie of the Year, five years ago Nat fell off the tour. During his three years on tour, Nat lost his dad, while his mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
Nat told Stab earlier this year that his situation at home made competitive surfing challenging. “Surfing was not the most important thing at the time,” said Nat, who, in between contests, was playing caretaker, and shuffling his mum around to operations and appointments. Not a situation any person, let alone an elite athlete, would find conducive to their performances on surfing’s biggest stage.
After being in remission for a few years, Nat’s mother Rosie was diagnosed with brain cancer and metastasis in her lungs, stage four, leaving her unable to talk, and hooked up to oxygen tanks. Rosie passed earlier this year shortly before the birth of Nat’s first child.
“Having a kid a month after my Mom passed away was tough. Everyone talks about how having a kid is the best day of your life — and it is amazing. It’s the most incredible experience ever. But it was also one of the most challenging experiences of my life, not being able to call my Mom and Dad and tell them they had a new granddaughter,” said Nat.
No words really. At thirty years old, Santa Cruz’s hometown hero is back on tour. What an unrelatable state of grief and adversity to have overcome. Nat, congratulations. Stuff of heroes.
Next up, Connor O’Leary. Connor O is right back where he belongs after failing to make the cut earlier this year. It’s hard to say why that guy fell off tour in the first place — he’s built like a brickhouse, has one of the sharpest backhands in the world, and a skitz air game to boot. Not to mention, Connor’s Insta is fucken hilarious. From his kickout game, to his footy sessions in France, Connor has spearheaded the Australia CS contingent’s dream run, and he’s been instrumental to the culture of camaraderie that has been so successful for the Aussies’ most successful qualification year in recent memory.
Jake Marshall suffered a heavy sticker denuding since he was touted as Encinitas’s next big hope as a grom. He came super close to qualifying in 2019, and even planned a qualification party, albeit prematurely, before being stung by Morgan Cibilic’s thunderous Hawaiian performance that edged him out at the last moment. Now Jake can safely flip the bird at all his skeptics, and is rightfully entitled to a qualification party sans cancellation.
Zeke Lau, #1 ultimate surfer, #1 CS qualifier. Guy could be threatening a top-5 finish on tour next year. Frankly, he looks unbeatable. Hungry, high-percentage, and fucken scary to be in a heat with. Zeke has proven his point — he ain’t no reality TV fraudster planted on tour illegitimately. He’s probably the only qualifier from this season who could conceivably be in the mix on WSL Final’s day.
Now, the Aussies. Callum Robson (aka Caltex), the Mad-Hueys-sponoed, jacked-as-fuck, son-of-a-prawner, is an understated powerhouse who can also stick a lofty punt. Cal has quads the size of tree trunks, can obliterate a section with flair, and throws three times as much spray on his turns than anyone else doing the equivalent. Backing him to take some heads next year.
Liam O’Brien, LOB. LOB is built from a different cloth. LOB scored an OP1 in his final year of high school. What does that mean? It means he was in the top 0.01% of academic achievers in the state. LOB is no joke a fucking savant whose school peers had no idea he even surfed. Good Will Hunting mofo. LOB’s style is incredible, he’s already crushed it on a CT (third in Rottnest this year), and is poised to ruffle even more feathers next year with his clinical accountancy and 190 IQ. Beware the quiet LOB, he’s a killer.
A few months back, we hosted Imaikalani Devault at Stab High Central America. He didn’t land the biggest air of the trip, but his surfing had a certain magnetism that made all the competitors stop and stare. Albee Layer said Imai was his favorite surfer.
As a kid, Imai always had incredible style and technique, but he lacked the power and speed to stand out amongst his peers (like John John and Zeke Lau). Recently he filled out his frame, and everything started to click. Imai’s turns got bigger, his air got higher, and his confidence skyrocketed. This qualification is not just the ultimate validation of Imai’s ability, but a nod that competitive surfing is heading in the right direction.
Finally, Lucas Mesinas, Peru’s first male CT surfer. Guy has a backhand that don’t quit (surely you remember that clip on @stab’s Insty a year or so back), he’s smoother than a cream cheese spread, and he seems to compete with an air of nonchalance. He could be a silent killer next year.
Tomorrow we’ll likely see the event come to a close, and the last 4 men’s spots and 3 women’s spots will be filled. So, who ya got?
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