What Does It Cost To Qualify For The CT?
We asked this year’s QS top-10.
Every year a thousand pro and wannabe-pro surfers circle the globe in search of validation. Not validation in the form of waves — though a great tube will justify any wordly existence — but validation in the form of points. Qualification points.
The WSL’s Qualifying Series, more commonly known as the QS or the Q, is an international series of surf contests with varying degrees of worth. Winners of the lowest-rated events yield a mere 1,000 points toward their yearly campaign, while the biggest event winners bring home 10,000 imaginary merits.
Surfers may compete in as many QS events as they please (though it’s not physically possible to attend every event due to overlapping competition dates), but only their top-5 event scores will be counted toward their ranking. At the end of the year, the 10 surfers with the highest 5-event totals will qualify for the Championship Tour. For reference, the highest rated 2017 QS surfer was Griffin Colapinto, who amassed 26,900 points across 5 events, and the lowest qualifier was Patrick Gudauskas with 16,400 points.
In 2017 there were 58 QS events held across 21 countries. Point-wise, they were broken down as such:
1,000: 27 events
1,500: 10 events
3,000: 11 events
6,000: 5 events
10,000: 5 events
Because of this, and because of the time and financial constraints felt by most QS warriors, surfers tend to “pick” their events in terms of which will best facilitate qualification. Which is to say they skip the 1,000s and 1,500s, do a few 3,000s, but focus mainly on the 6-and-10-thousand events.
So we wanted to know, how much does it cost to finance a successful qualification run? In other words, what did Wade Carmichael, Jesse Mendes, and all the other 2018 rookies and returners (or at least the seven who responded) pay to secure a spot on the coming Tour?
Costs include travel, accommodation, food, contest entries, and of course coaches.
Michael Rodrigues: 11th place (made it because a CT surfer double-qualified), 13 events surfed
Michael told us: “Last year I competed at all of the 6,000 and Prime events, plus three 3,000s, and at almost every event I was with my filmer. I only stayed with other surfers at one event, and that was with the Pupos at Ballito. Overall I spent around $60,000 USD.”
Zeke Lau: 10th place, 8 events surfed
Zeke told us: “I recently did these calculations for my sponsors, because it’s good info to have for negotiations. This year I spent between 35-45k on the QS alone, and that’s traveling with a pretty big group. Generally the bigger group you travel with, the less you pay for accomodation, rental cars, food, and everything else. But with that, you also lose some ability to be on your own program.”
Keanu Asing: 9th place, 15 events surfed
Keanu told us: “All things considered, the total comes out around 50k. If you’re talking flights, accom, rental cars, everyday living on the road, and sometimes even bringing someone with you (which is double your price), it gets really expensive. Last year I spent at least 35-45k on just doing the WQS. My win in France last year helped significantly to pay for my 2017 campaign.”
Willian Cardoso: 8th place, 13 events surfed
Willian told us: “I haven’t done the math, but I think it was around $25k. I pretty much only did 6,000 and 10,000 events though.”
Wade Carmichael: 4th place, 17 events surfed
Wade told us: “I must have spent close to 50k last year, and that’s being pretty conservative. I was traveling with 2 or 3 mates throughout the season.”
Kanoa Igarashi: 3rd place, 11 events surfed
Kanoa told us: “I didn’t do the whole QS this year, but I still spent around $30k, probably 40k with coaching fees. In terms of really doing the QS, you could probably slum it for like $25k if you really wanted to, or you could ball out for like $60k, but it’s definitely not cheap.
Jesse Mendes: 2nd place, 13 events surfed
Jesse told us: “I spent around $33,000 on all the travel and accommodation, plus the 10% of my prize money that went to my coach. But I feel like somewhere around 35k is the average for most people.”
Factually, or at least based on the numbers given by these seven individuals (plus a 9k increase on Jesse’s number to account for coaching fees), the average cost of qualifying in 2017 was around $43,000 USD.
Now, if you qualified for the CT it’s likely you’ll have made more than $43k in contest earnings, and many surfers have sponsors that cover their travel fees, but think about the hundreds of guys who didn’t qualify this year, or the the year before that, or the year before that. Spending every annum traveling to mediocre waves and financially breaking-even at best (or eating away at your savings account at worst) is not an easy way to live, let alone to get yourself in a headspace to compete.
Despite this fact, in 2018 a thousand more will pursue this low-paying, low-success-rate endeavor. Because no matter how many shitty beachbreaks, overdrawn bank accounts, and heartbreaking losses a man has to face, the CT dream continues shining in the distance — like a lighthouse atop jagged rocks.
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