Why Does The Huntington Beach QS 1,000 Have Major CT Implications?
Mainland USA hosts its first non-chlorinated WSL event in 16 months.
A QS 1,000 is the lowest-rated event on the WSL menu. These comps are generally a cesspool of 38-year-old former pros who want to relive the glory days and 17-year-old upstarts who want to improve their WSL rating. They’re not a pasture in which the big bulls tend to graze.
So why are the best non-CT surfers in America competing in the Jack’s Surfboards Pro this week? Probably because it will play a major role in deciding which surfers can qualify for the 2022 Championship Tour.
As you may remember, the WSL recently broke its Qualifying Series into a two-tiered system: the Regional Series and the Challenger Series. The idea is for surfers from all around the world to compete in their “local” (typically meaning within their continent) regional tour to earn a ranking, and the best surfers from each of the regional tours will qualify to the Challenger Series. The Challenger Series will see the best surfers from all the different regional tours compete against one another, and the top 10 surfers (or 7 in the case of women) from that group will qualify for the CT.
It sounds confusing, but frankly, this is the best idea the WSL has had in a while. It allows young QS surfers to develop their competitive skills at home rather than blow out their bank accounts chasing points around the globe. And it allows those who fall off the CT a chance to requalify without having to do both tours simultaneously, as the new mid-year cutoff will coincide with the beginning of the Challenger Series. All CT surfers, whether or not they make the mid-year slice, are automatically qualified for the Challenger Series.
But we’re getting off track. The question we’re here to answer is: why does the Jack’s Surfboards Pro, rated as a lowly QS 1,000, have a say in who might qualify for the CT this November?
Well, the North American region has not held a QS event since March of 2020, meaning there are no current events to determine the regional rankings. This means the WSL has to go off the few events that were surfed in 2020 to decide which North Americans will qualify for the 2021 Challenger Series.
The only exceptions to this rule? The Jack’s Pro in Huntington Beach, and another QS 1,000 in North Carolina next month. These are the last two events that North American surfers can use to gain ranking points in their Region, and thus qualify for the Challenger Series. The WSL plans to invite 10 North American males and eight females to the Challenger Series, so that’s the cutoff line. Looking at the current men’s standings (which again, are based off just a few 2020 results), that means the following surfers:
So say you’re Evan Geiselman, currently in the 10th spot. Evan has finished in the QS top-100 every year of the past decade (barring 2014) and has nearly qualified for the CT on multiple occasions. Based on his track record, Evan should be an obvious inclusion to the 2021 Challenger Series. However, because Evan didn’t perform particularly well in the few events he surfed last year, he could easily be overtaken by someone with less skill and experience if they happen to place higher than him in the QS 1,000s at Huntington and North Carolina.
Considering the extremely small sample size of events that factor into the regional rankings, it could be argued that the current top-10 is not a totally accurate representation of the best North American surfers. For instance, where’s Carlos Muñoz*? He’s been close to qualifying more times than any of the current leading North American surfers, including in 2019, when he finished one heat shy of making the big leagues.
The WSL opted not to utilize any sort of “legacy system” when creating the Challenger Series qualifying system, which is their right. In 2022, assuming we’re past covid, this will no longer be an issue. But considering how few events were able to be held in 2020 and 2021, it might have been wise to include surfers’ 2019 QS rankings in the equation.
Meanwhile, if you’re part of the Hawaii/Tahiti Nui, Asian, or African Regional Series, you also haven’t had an opportunity to compete since early 2020, and there are no qualifying events scheduled prior to the start of the 2021 Challenger Series. So if you’re not currently at the top of your regional rankings** based on 2020’s results, you’re not going to officially qualify for the Challenger Series. Your only hope is to receive wildcards for certain events.
On the bright side, there will be plenty of wildcards to go around. Of the 96 spots in each Challenger Series event, 58 will be taken by the surfers who officially qualified through their respective Regional Series. There will likely be no more than 20 CT surfers competing in any single CS event, leaving roughly 20 spots to be filled by wildcards. Some of these spots will go to the best surfers in the event’s region, others will go to event sponsors, and a large portion will be allocated by the WSL.
*Yes, Central America is considered part of North America, both in official geopolitical terms and in the WSL’s Regional Series.
**The number of qualifying surfers varies by gender and region, depending on the number of WSL members, depth of talent in that region, and other factors. Here’s a full breakdown of how many surfers will qualify from each regional tour:
North America: 10 men / 8 women
South America: 10 men / 5 women
Australia/Oceania: 10 men / 8 women
Hawaii/Tahitinui: 7 men / 6 women
Europe: 10 men / 8 women
Africa: 5 men / 3 women
Asia: 6 men / 6 women
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