Gabriel Medina Wins First Event Back From Injury, Rattles CS Rankings In The Process
Who’s gonna qualify in Hawaii?
Qualifying for the Championship Tour is a gritty, inglorious endeavor. Thousands of surfers each year travel to less-than-desirable waves and pit themselves against one another in unimaginably frustrating conditions. Even a region’s most talented three-to-the-beacher can find themself lost in the round of 24, 48, or god-forbid, 96 — spending thousands of dollars to not even make a heat.
That’s likely why summiting the ranks of competitive surfing and arriving at the Dream Tour is such an incredible, respected feat. It isn’t just about talent, though some natural ability certainly doesn’t hurt. Really though — as has become apparent to me through this first full-fledged CS year — qualifying for the CT is about grit. About losing in the first rounds, three events in a row, 11 years in a row, and still managing to keep your head up and pull off some keeper results.
Ramzi Boukhiam knows what we’re talking about.
Winner Winner Galinha Dinner
Some degree of the entertainment value of this event must also be attributed to the master entertainer, Gabriel Medina. If you surf, you’re probably not indifferent about the guy, and for good reason. He’s polarizing, intense, and really fucking good.
After terrorizing the field with manufactured reverses and backhand power blasts for a handful of rounds, Gabe found himself in the final with Ramzi Boukhiam. Ramzi’s backhand belongs on tour, and after 11 years surfing full-time on the QS, he’s hovered around the Top 10 cutoff on the CS for the entire year. The Moroccan had Gabe on the ropes in the final, after masterfully piecing together two waves in the lumpy sideshore slop.
Then, needing a score with priority and six minutes remaining, Gabe appeared to paddle for a wave.
Ramzi thought priority should’ve swapped, and considering the kick-paddle combo, I thought so too. Unfortunately, there’s no Moroccan Storm on Instagram to back me and Ramzi up, and Gabe didn’t lose prio.
The Brazilian used that situation to his advantage, taking a wobbly right off Ramzi and smacking his way to the highest score of the heat. Moments later, Gab finessed another small right into a 6.5 and the heat win. Considering the weight of the moment, we’ll let his scream-claim slide.
Looks like Medina is back, once again mired in intrigue (you see that new sticker in the middle of his board?), after a quiet competitive year in 2022. Could this be the beginning of the return of the king? Caio Ibelli hopes not.
On the women’s side, there wasn’t a post-quarterfinal Brazilian in sight, and the home crowd wasn’t sure who to cheer for.
After a week of getting very barreled in San Diego, Alyssa Spencer showed up and glowed up in Saquarema. After looking pretty much undeniable in the early rounds, she pieced together a beautiful 8.67 in the semis and arrived in the finals. To put it lightly, she made her finals counterpart Tessa Thyssen look like she was scared of the backwash.
A convincing victory for a deserving gal. Those 10,000 points leapt Alyssa straight up the CS leaderboard, and she sits just one slot away from CT glory.
Speaking of rankings…where’s everyone at?
It seems that almost every CS event leads to a top-end rankings reshuffle, and Saquarema was no different. Here’s what the top of the men’s bracket looks like now that the spray has settled.
As we know, Leo Fioravanti, Rio Waida, and Ryan Callinan have officially qualified for the CT.
With over 17,000 points, both Ramzi and Ian Gentil look to have nearly secured their spots on the CT, sitting right around our previously calculated, theoretical 17,415 point cutline. Thanks calculus.
Barring any major shakeups in Hawaii, Liam O’Brien and Maxime Huscenot are likely safe as well. They’ll be white-knuckling until December 7.
The rest of the top end will be fighting to the death at the Haleiwa Challenger event, especially those guys floating near the bottom of that screenshot. Joao Chainca has climbed his way back inside the cutline, but he’s far from safe. Morgan CIbillic and Michael Rodrigues are only about a 17th-place below him, Zeke Lau, and Dylan Moffat.
Meanwhile, Jacob Willcox, who we interviewed last week, sits even further below the cusp than he did coming into Brazil. Stab High starlet Mateus Herdy slipped out of the Saquarema draw in the first round, breaking both our hearts, and his. And yes, Eithan Osborne can still make it happen. Just gotta land one of those monster punts in a heat.
And the women?
No significant changes at the top since last time, save for Alyssa’s name. She jumped from 14th to 6th, and she’ll no doubt be hoping to repeat in Hawaii. She’ll likely need at least a quarterfinal berth, and a better finish than Teresa at Haleiwa if she wants to make it happen
According to some shoddy math, nobody below Vahine has a chance to qualify, and Vahine will need a win in order to do so. Going up from there, Sophie McCulloch and Nikki Van Dijk also pretty much need to make the final in Haleiwa for a chance, and Bronte probably needs a semis or more.
Betty-Lou looks good, but nothing’s official for her.
Caity Simmers and Molly Picklum, however, have officially clinched CT qualification. Caity did so from the comfort of her house in Oceanside.
Will the darling Ladybird accept Kaipo’s very cute invitation to compete on the CT? Story on that soon.
In the meantime, we’re looking forward to some chaos at Haleiwa. Nothing like the North Shore to separate the women from the girls.
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