The WSL's 2022 Season Wildcards Revealed - Stab Mag
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You didn't forget about Lakey P, did you? Photo: WSL

The WSL’s 2022 Season Wildcards Revealed

Pray for Matthew McGillivray.

Words by Michael Ciaramella

There’s been a lot of chatter about WSL wildcards lately.

Our EIC Brendan Buckley wrote a Stab Premium article all about surfing’s golden tickets earlier this week, which is a fascinating read. Beyond opening our eyes to the potential of a wildcard bonanza come the end of the Challenger Series, the article also appears to have forced the WSL’s hand, as their 2022 Season Wildcard picks were revealed just this morning.

For clarity’s sake, the WSL has two ‘Season Wildcards’ (formerly known as ‘Injury Wildcards’) at the end of every season on the men’s and women’s side, which they give out to the surfers who they believe are most deserving of another shot on Tour.

Reasons for choosing these certain surfers include: an injury that precluded the surfer from performing at their peak (or at all) in the previous season; a surfer who has put in a decade-plus of consistent CT performances but had an off year; a six-time World Champion decides to come out of retirement to face his one true foe; or, simply, because the WSL fucking wants to.

Is Brother coming back? Photo: WSL

Now that we have the criteria sorted, here are the official WSL 2022 CT Season Wildcards.

Men
Kolohe Andino
Owen Wright

Women
Lakey Peterson
Malia Manuel

Anyone with sand in their ear canal knew that Kolohe and Lakey would be the first surfers to receive wildcards this year. Both surfers have been World Title contenders in the past and have put in a combined 20 years on tour. Both have also had serious injuries in 2021 that left them sidelined for the majority of events. No brainer.

Likewise, Malia Manuel has spent the better part of a decade in the big leagues and was the first surfer below the cutline in 2021. It’s also worth noting that in a traditional season, Malia would have made the cut in the 10th position. With no major injuries plaguing any of the other female tour surfers, Malia was the only logical choice.

This man deserves another shot. Photo: WSL

The WSL’s selection of Owen Wright is where things get more interesting. Finishing 25th in a season where only 20 male surfers requalified, the former World #2 was pretty far off the mark this season. But a few irregular things happened, leading to Owen jumping closer to the front of the queue. Adriano de Souza, Jeremy Flores, and Julian Wilson (all of whom finished above Owen in the rankings) decided either to retire or “take a break” from the CT at the end of 2021. This left Owen just two spots short of requalifying at an effective rank of 22nd.

Just above Owen on the rankings is South Africa’s Matthew McGillivray. Twenty-twenty-one was Matt’s rookie year on tour, which besides a 3rd at Margaret River, was largely forgettable. But still, the kid competed well enough to finish ahead of a 12-year CT veteran, which can’t be overlooked.

Another option the WSL had to consider was Adrian ‘Ace’ Buchan, who’s been on tour for 16 years and missed two events in 2021 due to injury.

A former Quik Pro winner, Ace will need to jet to France quickly if he wants to regain the 2022 Tour. Photo: WSL

After some consideration, the WSL decided to award Owen with the 2022 Season Wildcard, which is a nod to both his legacy status on the tour and his marketing potential for the WSL. The Australian has been around for a long time (but not too long), has had multiple event wins, and recently earned a medal in surfing’s Olympic debut. Based on these merits, he’s earned the right to jump the line in front of a talented but yet-to-be-proven rookie and a well-respected veteran whose best heats are behind him.

Excuse the obvious pun, but in this instance, Owen is the WSL’s Goldilocks surfer. He’s not too old and vanilla yet, but not too young and green either. Owen is juuuuust (W)right.

Congrats to the wildcard winners, and our condolences to those who didn’t make the cut. Whatever tour you call home, we wish you the best in 2022.

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