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We promise this won't (really) hurt.

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Jack Robinson And Ethan Ewing Just Qualified For The 2020 Championship Tour

Apologies for the abridged synopsis, as both the context and action of Sunset deserve significant coverage, but reporting on two simultaneous events while assisting with/promoting a twice-weekly TV show and preparing for our global live premiere of Stab in the Dark is no jaunt through Foodland.

My excuses now thoroughly cataloged, here’s what I can tell you about the final day of the Vans World Cup. 

In heat two, Triple Crown Rookie of the Year and outta-nowhere Q-threat, Morgan Cibilic, scored a nine on his first wave. If you recall from yesterday’s story, Morgan needed to make just one heat today to achieve his minimum qualification requirement, which at this point looked well within reach. However, a number of poor decisions left Morgan holding just a one-point ride as his backup with the clock ticking away. Somehow, it wasn’t this rookie mistake that showed Morgan the door. He squeaked through ahead of the 2018 Triple Crown winner Jesse Mendes, knocking Jorgann Couzinet out of qualification in the process. 

In the very next heat, we saw a low-scoring affair with a shocking finish.

Stu Kennedy had the match locked up in first, but the three other surfers—Michel Bourez, Jacob Wilcox, and Carlos Munoz—all caught finishing rides that threatened for second place. Michel Bourez got his score first, and it was enough to move him to second. Carlos’ score came second, and it pushed him past Michel. Then Jacob’s wave filtered through, and it ushered him beyond Carlos and into the final progression spot. 

Disclaimer: as an American surf-nut based in Costa Rica, I had a clear bias for Carlos to make this heat and qualify for the Tour. So, when it was announced that his final wave was sufficient to push him into second, I shouted with glee. 

Seconds later, when Jacob Willcox's score floated across the screen, it both saddened and confused me. Apparently, I’m not alone. In an Instagram post, North Shore stalwart, Liam McNamara, wrote: 

Sad day for Costa Rica and Central America This wave was given a 4.90??? I heard even the announcers saying it was not the score!!

@munozcali would have advanced and potentially been on the WCT tour if this wave was not over scored!! It was a max of a 4.0 and I would give it a 3.5! I got nothing against @jacobwillcox__ in fact he kills it and I admire his surfing!! But the @wsl judges really blew this one! Not cool not earned and it ended up a 3/2 split decision with the 5 judges!! The 2 who had @munozcali wining hats off the 3 who had @jacobwillcox__ winning you guys should feel ashamed of yourself! #badjudging#unfair#notcool

Here’s the turn. A 4.9?

Some will call this retribution for Jacob’s cruel dismissal from Haleiwa (remember the Slater turn?), but the problem with that is, if they continue down this path of fixing past mis-scores with future mis-scores, the judges will never reach scoring nirvana. There will always be somebody to whom they have to make up the favor, and due to Sunset being the last event of the year, and this being Carlos' best-ever chance at qualification, it's unlikely they'll be able to rectify his situation in the future. 

But I digress. 

Other Round 4 standouts included Jack Robinson, Wade Carmichael, and Weslley Dantas, who found gurgling barrels for near-excellent scores. CT stars Kolohe Andino and Kanoa Igarashi also looked comfy in the eight-foot walls, the latter of which bashed one wave to a nine. 

The quarters were a blur. I've watched way too much surfing over the past couple days and it's all mixing together. My only reliable memories are: Weslley Dantas' silverback tube; Kolohe Andino's supremely low-balled carving-three (a four, really?); and Morgan Cibilic's blatant interference, which by some miracle of math, didn't screw his qualification chances. (Despite this rookie error, Morgan nabbed the 11th provisional QS qualification, which will only grant him a CT spot if Deivid Silva retains his CT qualification following Pipe. For Yamba!).

Coming into the semis, there were five surfers still in the event who could theoretically qualify for the CT: Zeke Lau (needed first), Jacob Willcox (needed a final), Stu Kennedy (needed to not get 4th), Jack Robbo (needed a final), and Ethan Ewing (might have already done enough).

As he tends to do, Zeke Lau pillaged the lineup and roared after a rollercoaster float. Cody Young, who has allegedly been stripped of his local status at Ho’okipa since transferring his nationality to Canada, slipped in behind the true Hawaiian, knocking Wilcox out of qualification and leaving Kennedy in limbo.

Semi two, Jack did what he's done all event, taking the early lead and never looking back. Ethan Ewing slipped in behind him with a buzzer-beater win, officially securing his spot on Tour. Few surfers could claim to deserve it more.

Final time.

Reminder: Zeke needed to win and Jack needed a second to guarantee qualification.

Early in the heat, Zeke went to work in a crumbling cubicle and threaded through multiple chandeliers. When it came time to exit the tube, Zeke pointed his nose toward the doggy door, where Jack Robbo was lying (actually paddling) in wait. 

Zeke’s exit was stymied by a 6’6 Arakawa Round Pin, courtesy of the man in the white jersey. Lau collided with Jack’s board, causing him to fall off and putting holes in both surfers’ vessels.

Board changes were required for Jack and Zeke, the latter of which lost his blue-flamed beauty from last year’s Sunset victory. On top of that, Zeke missed out on what would have been an excellent score.

Apparently, Robbo didn’t mind at all. He rode his next wave to a seven-point tube, then backed it up with a 9.4, then added another nine for good measure, not just winning the heat, but also earning the highest final total in the history of the Vans World Cup and qualifying for the 2020 Championship Tour in the process. 

Surf world, rejoice. 

And for some perspective, Pancho Sullivan called Jack's the greatest performance he'd ever seen at Sunset. And that's not just in the final—he meant the whole event. 

Following some rudimentary arithmetic, here’s where I have the 2020 CT qualifiers: 

  • Frederico Morais
  • Jadson Andre
  • Yago Dora
  • Matthew McGilliray
  • Jack Robinson (new)
  • Alex Riberio
  • Miguel Pupo
  • Ethan Ewing (new) 
  • Connor O’Leary
  • Deivid Silva
  • Morgan Cibilic (assuming Deivid Silva stays in the CT top-22 following Pipe or Yago moves into the top-22 following Pipe)

It's worth noting that if Yago Dora qualifies for next year via his CT ranking and Deivid Silva also stays in the top-22, the next surfer on the QS rankings will get bumped into qualifying position. Stu Kennedy will be watching Pipeline closely.

Oh, and Ethan Ewing is now leading the Triple Crown race. He'll get a slot in the Pipe Masters trials later this week.

That's it, that's all.

And don't forget to watch Stab in the Dark tonight!  

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