More Rookie Cutline Predictions, This Time From People With 0 CT Experience - Stab Mag

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Eli Hanneman is +275 to win 2024 Rookie of the Year. Photo: Trevor Moran/Red Bull Content Pool

More Rookie Cutline Predictions, This Time From People With 0 CT Experience

Mikey C and Stace G pontificate on the CT title winners, the Final Five, and which rookies making the cut.

stabfm // Jan 26, 2024
Words by August Howell
Reading Time: 8 minutes

The 2024 Championship Tour is about to get an influx of Mayhems. 

Of the seven true rookies joining the ranks, five of them (71 percent) get their weapons of choice from Matt Biolos.

Between the five men and two women, four hail from the San Clemente sandbox. Another has been hailed as a high-flying Hawaiian prodigy since before he could drive. One has more CT experience than some current CT members. And the last has finally reached the big leagues after coming a leash string away from qualifying for three straight years. 

But all of them will have a clean slate in less than a week as they face proper Pipeline (please!) and some hungry alphas on the other end of the leaderboard. Given the sky-high level of talent on the pointy end of the men’s and women’s side, the tour is arguably the most competitive it’s been in years (yes, even with Carissa and Steph bowing out for 2024).

How will the fresh faces fair? We’ve got no shortage of opinions. In the latest episode of Stab’s podcast The Drop, Mikey C and Stace Galbraith analyze the 2024 rookie class and predict which one will dodge the post-Margaret River axe, who will show up at Lower Trestles in September and who will take home that trophy. Below is a loose transcript and summation of their thoughts.

To read Paul Evans’ prosaic and (semi) objective breakdown on the 2024 rookie class with CJ Hobgood and Brett Simpson, click here

Let’s get nitty and gritty. 

Curveball just a bit outside. Read Stab’s interview with the 6’3 and 200+ pounds CS winner, here (Photo: Pierre Tostee/WSL)

The pre-cut schedule is the same for the third straight year:

Billabong Pro Pipeline (Hawaii): January 29 – February 10
Hurley Pro Sunset Beach (Hawaii): February 12 – 22
MEO Rip Curl Portugal Pro (Portugal): March 6 – 16
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach (Victoria, Australia): March 26 – April 5
Margaret River Pro (Western Australia, Australia): April 11 – 21

Men’s Rookies (in order of seeding):

  • Cole Houshmand
  • Jacob Willcox
  • Crosby Colapinto
  • Eli Hanneman
  • Kade Matson

Women’s Rookies (in order of seeding):

  • Sawyer Lindblad
  • Alyssa Spencer

Men’s Predictions 

Cole Houshmand

Beefcake or adonis definitions aside, Cole is a unit. He owned the 2023 Challenger Series almost from the start, thanks to back-to-back wins in Sydney and Ballito. The 6’3, 200-pound goofyfoot can light up a lip going left or right. He’s the No. 1 draft pick, and Stab’s Holden Trnka thinks the former baseball star is making the Final Five. 

Mikey’s prediction: “I love his surfing, I think he brings so much to the tour. However, I’m going to play the devil’s advocate. Everyone thinks he’s a shoe-in — I’ll say he won’t make the cut. Not by anything of his own fault, I just think there’s some inexperience. However, his surfing is at such a high level I think he’ll find his feet eventually. I just don’t know if it’s in those first five events of his rookie year.”

Stace’s prediction: “Cole will requalify. We did a piece on the site during the US Open and through a percentage out. I say 66 percent chance he requalifies.” 

Jacob Willcox

There are more than a few 10-pointers in here.

Did you see him in Surf100 WA? When the waves turn on, the guy hits a different gear. By moving east across Australia to the Gold Coast, what Jacob sacrificed in adrenaline and spitting tubes he made up for with improved style, flow and technique in everyday surf (Just like Jack Robinson did). 

With 13(!) CT wildcards under his belt, Jacob has by far the most big league experience in his rookie class. Furthermore, those events were at Portugal, Bells and Margaret River — all scheduled before the cut. He’s taken down names before and ain’t afraid of the big dogs (remember that run-in with Zeke Lau?).

Mikey’s prediction: Since moving to the Gold Coast, it looks like his surfing has smoothed out so much. He’s a bit Callinan-esque to me. Which is the highest of compliments. He’s making it.

Stace’s prediction: He just needs to be himself. He doesn’t need to go above and beyond to beat these top guys. He’s so naturally talented. Sometimes his twitchy-ness comes from being behind and fired up. Quite often these rookies are super hard on themselves. They think they need to go above and beyond, but they just need to keep doing what they’re doing. 

Crosby Colapinto 

Crosby has spent a decent amount of time swinging his frame around the North Shore. He’s traveled to some of the CT’s best venues with his brother. If he secures keeper results at Pipeline and Sunset, there’s a decent chance he can make the cut. And with his background at Lowers, don’t count him out of an end-section banger.

Mikey’s prediction: I’ll say yes. He has everything he needs to do well at any of the first five events. I think he can easily make a quarter in any of those spots. 

Stace’s prediction: He’s had enough experience for me, as much as a rookie can have at Pipeline and Sunset. He’s got a big frame and he knows how to ride the tube. We get really hung up on the cut on the men’s side, but history shows us it’s only two 9ths to make it. I definitely think Crosby has that in him. 

Eli Hanneman

As a grom from Maui, Eli was the epitome of Hurley youth. Fast AF and could land every air in the Rolodex and a few that aren’t. After dealing with the weight of lofty expectations, a near-death incident at Pipeline in 2022 and helping his hometown recover from last summer’s horrific wildfires, the 21-year-old is finally getting his crack on the big stage. But his size leaves a big question mark for the first five events. We know what he can do in barrels and above the lip, but does he translate his talent into the powerful walls of Sunset, Bells and Margaret River? 

Eli a seething Seaside turn at the 2022 World Junior Championships. Photo: Kenny Morris/WSL

Mikey’s prediction: This is a really hard call. He’s one of the most technically talented surfers of his generation. Eli’s probably around my size — 5’5 or 5’6. But overall I’m gonna say yes. I’m kinda switching Eli for Cole. I wasn’t thinking that way a week ago, but after seeing the work Eli is putting in at Sunset, I think he can get a keeper result there. I’ll say yes for Eli. 

Stace’s prediction: It’s tricky. Can I see three or four of the men shuffling out? The quality of the tour at the moment is really good. I just don’t see many changing out. It’s not five events for me, it comes down to one. If he’s to do it, it’s gotta be Sammy Pupo style — fifth at Pipeline and watch the roll continue from there. If he doesn’t come out of the gates at Pipeline, I worry if he’ll be able to pull it together. I guess it’s a no, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he comes out swinging. 

Kade Matson

Despite the occasional “venomous” frontside cutty, Mikey and Stace are somewhat lukewarm on the San Clemente man. However, Kade has Lowers fundamentals and could use the underdog status to add fuel to the fire to prove the doubters wrong. He’s already snagged some gems at the season’s first venue.

Stace’s prediction: No, based on the experience from when I’ve seen Kade throughout the last couple of years around the north shore and other locations. He’s just not as well-toured as some of these other kids. Nothing against his surfing. It’s just his seed and experience around the world might be his weaknesses. He deserved to be there without a doubt, but he’s coming in as the 32nd seed. It will be challenging, but if you’re surfing against those big dogs, what do you have to lose? 

Mikey’s prediction: No, for all the reasons above. 

Women’s Predictions

Sawyer Lindblad

The 18-year-old blasted her way onto the CT thanks to winning the US Open in Huntington Beach and a runner-up finish at the Snapper CS. Bit of an unknown how she’ll fare over heavier reefs like Sunset and Margaret River. 

Mikey’s prediction: It’s a no from me, but she’ll be back (soon). 

Stace’s prediction: I’ll say no based on how hard it is to requalify. The talent on the women’s side is so good. It’s so, so hectic to get a spot in the top 10. But she’ll ruffle some feathers along the way. 

Alyssa Spencer

Mikey C said Alyssa has some of the most technical backhand snaps you’ll see today. CJ said he could see Alyssa “staying on for a while, she could pull a decade on tour.” In between comps, the 20-year-old from Encinitas spends a lot of time south of the border at a certain behemoth of a beachbreak. If she can pair her tube-riding savvy with backhand power, she could take down some higher seeds.

Mikey’s prediction: I think she’ll make the cut. 

Stace’s prediction: I’ll say yes because I think she could sneak a result at Pipeline. 

World Title, Final Five and Rookie of the Year Predictions

Mikey’s predictions

Men’s world champ: Filipe Toledo 

“My heart is telling me so many different things. Gabriel and John have to come back strong. Griffin knows what he needs to do. You could easily see Ethan winning after last year. But I have to think with my head. It’s ending at Trestles. That’s the only thing that matters. So I’m going Filipe.”

Women’s world champ: Caity Simmers

“Going into Lowers, having had experience already and having moments of brilliance there, I think Caity will win her first world title this year.” 

Final five men: Filipe Toledo, John Florence, Ethan Ewing, Gabriel Medina, Griffin Colapinto. 

Final five women: Caity Simmers, Molly Picklum, Caroline Marks, Tyler Wright, Bettylou Sakura Johnson.  

ROTY: Crosby Colapinto

Stace’s predictions: 

Men’s world champ: Ethan Ewing

“Watching it live last year, seeing Ethan surf, what he went through and how he was surfing, I thought there’s no way this guy doesn’t win a world title in his career. Why not this year?”

Women’s world champ: Caroline Marks

“Gabriel went left and right at Trestles and absolutely destroyed everyone. I think that’s how Lowers should be won. Caity is amazing, but I think competitively Caroline is looking loose, fun, is a little older and can keep a cool head. But I see those two having some battles.” 

Final five men (in no particular order): Gabriel Medina, Filipe Toledo, Ethan Ewing, Griffin Colapinto, John Florence.

Final five women (in no particular order): Caity Simmers, Caroline Marks, Molly Picklum, Gabriela Bryan, Bettylou Sakura Johnson.  

ROTY: Jacob Willcox

Preseason bets

Mikey C has thrown down a whopping $2,425 to win a possible $5,564 on BetOnline.ag. Last year, he came out $4,558 in the black. Will he repeat in this season or will he see red? Here are his picks for 2024: 

$100 on JJF to make top 5 at -105 to win $95
$100 on Ethan Ewing to make top 5 at -125 to win $80
$625 on Gabriel Medina to make top 5 at -250 to win $250
$100 on Griffin Colapinto to make top 5 at -105 to win $95
$250 on Molly Picklum to make top 5 at -135 to win $185
$100 on Caroline Marks to make top 5 at -135 to win $74
$250 on Caity Simmers to make top 5 at -135 to win $185
$100 on Crosby Colapinto to win ROTY at +450 to win $450
$100 on Jacob Willcox to win ROTY at +350 to win $350
$100 on Molly Picklum to win WT at +700 to win $700
$100 on Caity Simmers to win WT at +600 to win $600
$500 on Filipe Toledo to win WT at +500 to win $2,500

Make your picks here

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