Haleiwa Challenger: Qualification Dramas

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By Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Haleiwa Challenger: Qualification Dramas

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Steve Shearer (freeride76)
Form Guide

I've always had a naïve trust - for good or ill - that the best surfers would get through to the top echelons, at the right time. I didn't really care to examine the black box of QS surfing too deeply, mostly because QS events are usually held in unwatchable junk and who has the time to sift through huge fields that go for days.

No, it's remained a mystery, but one I broadly had faith in.

Now, I'm very much not so sure. After struggling through as much Challenger Series surfing as I could stomach this year I'm left wondering if we're getting the talent through to the top echelon when it's ripe on the vine.

Ramzi Boukhaim was the guy who piqued my interest. After watching some free surfing clips it's clear to see he's a top five CT-level surfer. The 29-year old Moroccan goofyfoot with insane technique is a big body who can shift water like few others. This year I watched him lose heats by tenths of a point. He qualified yesterday despite being knocked out in raggedy three foot Haleiwa.

It's taken him ten years to qualify. He came second to Gabriel Medina in the 2012 World Juniors, yet while Gabs jumped up to the CT, Ramzi spent a decade grinding away in shitt waves and losing heats by tenths of a point. Ten years lost to the CT, where we could have seen him at J-Bay, Bells, Pipe, Tahiti.

That can't be right, surely.

It's not like there's a surfeit of new talent whereby pro surfing can afford to keep its CT stars hobbled in the little leagues, grinding out heat wins in slop.

Is there another sport which makes it so hard for top talent to reach the major leagues?

Ramzi's pal Maxime Huscenot from Reunion Island, also made the cut today. Another CT level surfer who has been grinding away for a decade. Brain surgeons don't serve such lengthy and onerous apprenticeships. Congrats to Maxine and Ramzi, can't wait to see you on tour but something has to change.

No, I do not know how.

Ian Gentil has also made the cut. Gentil had a stellar grommethood, but then spent a few years in semi-retirement, followed by a new resolve and a four year slog. Contrary to most Challenger Series surfing this year, heats were almost overloaded with drama. There was the CT qualification and running in parallel there was the CT-level surfing with the two not always combining. Zeke Lau looked to have his heat well in control before being steamrolled by Ethan Ewing and Jesse Mendes. Seamless, slinky, full power rail turns on the outside, the middle, and then the toilet bowl made every Ewing wave look under-scored until judges finally threw a mid-nine at him for the best surfed wave of the day. Zeke went from first to last and his qualification now rests in the hands of others.

Ethan (Bielmann/WSL)

Full-throttle challenging Haleiwa with wind, current, big sections, challenging reads, four-man heats, and lots on the line. It seems a repeatable formula but somehow the WSL and pro surfing just can't do it. We get weak, weird, sloppy gruel served up and told it's caviar.

Ewing's high bar seemed to fire up John John Florence and the dicky knee did, at first, look a little wobbly under the G-forces of a JJF carve down. We winced when he hit the lip at a strange angle and came off. Let's be honest, the tour is very much the weaker when he isn't on it. With no Medina and no JJF last year seemed to wobble along on half-flat tyres and buckled rims.

With JJF, Medina, Jack Robbo, Ewing, Toledo, Italo it becomes a marvel to behold.

If you missed the day, go watch JJF's waves on the heat analyser. They're never as good as live but still mandatory viewing. A 9.40 and an 8.33 in chunky eight foot Haliewa. God I hope John boycotts the Tub and management puts him back out in surf deserving of his talent. We don't have ten years to waste with John in shitty surf. No body can withstand the G-forces he puts it under.

Joao Chianca needed a huge heat. He came last. Jacob Willcox needed a huge heat. He also came last. Both looked despondent. Willcox delivering hammer blows to the board as the siren went. Chianca is still a chance. Willcox, another CT-level talent, goes back to the Quey. To the regional comps held in truly dismal surf.

That just ain't right.

Kauli Vaast threw two massive upside reos into Haleiwa's bowl sections for a 9.10. Please watch. This kid has turns to match the tube prowess.

I don't have a nationalist bone in my body but watching the two Newy boys, Morgs and R-Cal, do a number on two locals in Barron Mamiya and Shion Crawford was stirring ANZAC stuff. R-Cal's seamless line connection to huge turns for an 8.23 was the best backside wave of the day.

R-Cal will be in the draw at Pipe - meaning the Pipe Pro next year, not the confusion that's the current Pipe Masters - while Morgs needs one or two more heats and he is in.

Morgs (Heff/WSL)

Heartbreaking wastes of talent don't come anymore poignant than Liam O'Brien. LOB made the cut last year, yet after injuring himself warming up for Pipe, he didn't surf a single CT event. No offers of a wildcard either. What, is he not sexy enough, not a big enough draw in the States to get what he's entitled to?

LOB was in the lead for a large chunk of the final heat of the day. He was looking solid. So close to requalifying and sticking a middle finger up to the WSL.

Imaikalani Devault stormed home with two consecutive clutch rides on bomb set waves. Then LOB fell on a wave that would have increased his score and was forced to watch Fred Morais get the score on the buzzer.

Tenths of a point.

That’s just luck. It really is. No ride can be parsed to that level.

LOB is still mathematically in the hunt for requalification, and let's hope he gets there. If not, that decade ahead seems long and arduous.

It can't be right to leave talent like that to die on the vine.



Amosjo's picture
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Amosjo Friday, 2 Dec 2022 at 8:31pm

So including results from Haleiwa it currently stands as :
8 Chianca
9 zeke


Because zeke and Chianca finished 4th they only got 750 points from the event whereas if they finished 3rd they would have gotten 1900 points?

stunet's picture
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stunet Friday, 2 Dec 2022 at 8:38pm

They both got 1,700 points (third gets 1,900)

Amosjo's picture
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Amosjo Friday, 2 Dec 2022 at 8:41pm

Thanks for clarifying

So obrien is currently 8th


lostdoggy's picture
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lostdoggy Friday, 2 Dec 2022 at 8:48pm

Anyone know how Jake Marshall got through last year?
And then made the cut this year.
Straight up head scratcher for me.

surfer1971's picture
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surfer1971 Monday, 5 Dec 2022 at 4:04pm

He made the mid year cut this year which means he's ok till next mid year cut. You really only have to make a few heats.

lostdoggy's picture
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lostdoggy Monday, 5 Dec 2022 at 4:33pm

Oh yeh, I realise he did.
But his surfing didn’t seem to warrant it imo.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Friday, 2 Dec 2022 at 8:53pm

Went back and watched the heat analyser with LOB's heat.

He may have been slightly undercooked but he had the waves to win.

In the end he was bounced by 2 tenths of a point.

That is toss of a coin stuff.

mredhill's picture
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mredhill Friday, 2 Dec 2022 at 8:55pm

And after those 10 yers they may only make it to the mid season cut. so completely unfair.

oxrox's picture
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oxrox Friday, 2 Dec 2022 at 9:09pm

Hope LOB makes it. Too good a surfer not to.

Sheep go to heaven's picture
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Sheep go to heaven Friday, 2 Dec 2022 at 9:45pm

Good analysis there Freeride , but if Boukhaim ,Huscenot , Gentile etc , etc should be on tour, then who shouldn't be to make room for them ??
C'mon and name names FR ,- Panda ? ,, David Silva ? Pat Gudaskuas ? .......

Amosjo's picture
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Amosjo Friday, 2 Dec 2022 at 10:13pm

Jake Marshall?

More tubes please's picture
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More tubes please Friday, 2 Dec 2022 at 11:00pm

How is the Challenger series supposed to keep us watching when the woz can’t even be bothered to do the math to let us know who’s in, who’s out and what the remaining surfers in the draw need to clinch a spot on the CT?
Of the wozzle’s many faults, surely this one is right up there?
Surely one intern with a spreadsheet can figure this out so we’re not just guessing if LOB and Morgs have made the cut or not?

Lanky Dean's picture
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Lanky Dean Saturday, 3 Dec 2022 at 1:37am

Ten years is a long time.
Only to be potentially booted back off tour in ten months.

There are many great surfers yet only few define their generation.

" to be the best you have to rip everywhere."
"Bring the heat "
"Show up , blow up"
"Second is the first loser."-AI

Seems everyone that qualified is almost 30!
That's far too old for a rookie.
New blood or young blood?
That's up to the judges.

simba's picture
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simba Saturday, 3 Dec 2022 at 6:21am

well said FR...so whats the answer ....system needs improvement but how?

crg's picture
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crg Saturday, 3 Dec 2022 at 2:24pm

The Woz is so insistent on the mid year cut and finals day to manufacture drama into their product yet fail to give up to date calculations on qualification scenarios in the last challenger event? There is ACTUAL life changing drama and they ignore the opportunity.
And CT surfers shouldn’t be in the CS events at all. If you’re competing against a guy ranked 10 and you’re 11th for the final spot...how is it representative of who’s better when rank 10 maybe surf’s against another CS surfer and you get JJF?

Pecee's picture
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Pecee Sunday, 4 Dec 2022 at 12:45pm

True it is unfair to come up against a CT surfer, but it s too good for an events marketing to have surfers like JJ competing. Cant see em changing that.

Jono's picture
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Jono Sunday, 4 Dec 2022 at 3:10pm

yeah they have changed it - the 2023 Challenger Series doesn't include any CT surfers, unless they apply for a wildcard:

crg's picture
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crg Sunday, 4 Dec 2022 at 7:01pm

About time they started listening to me! Ha!

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher Monday, 5 Dec 2022 at 9:20pm

You want some real CS Drama...( All together...No! ) Good, coz we got a #1 Clanger!
Women's CT came & went without Carissa Moore sweating it out in Junior League?
Not the only one either! Unsportswomanlike dummy spit & still swans the Final 5...Say wot! (Naughty!)

Wow! So wot did WSL do about it...surely she was disqualified or Red Disk'd!
Crew rightly noted the rule change was slipped in on eve of the FAB 5. (Phew! Saved by the Bell!)

9th Aug 2022 : No CT surfers surf 2023 CS. ( Did that excuse Carissa for the 2022 Final...No! )

Ok! So it's all over & done with & no one cares about these rebels do they?
How very dare the crew stir up such mean mean spirit! ( So so wrong on...Like on every level! )

Still one more CS comp of the year & still no Carissa in opening round of Haleiwa Challenger.
So! There ya have it...nothing to see...No Stickers today...all you gromz can piss off!
Hold up tbb! Not so fast...there's still a chance...who is that Chick seeded into Round 2 ?
That be our local girl Carissa...( Wow! Looks a lot like that Non Compliant Nonplussed WSL Pro! )

Crew : "So how did Carissa do in her local contractually obligated CS heat!" Grrr!
Seriously! That's the Question the crew ask!
Think the crew can answer that for themselves.
Gentlemen can't answer that! (Cough! - No Spoiler!) It wasn't 1st / 2nd / 3rd / .... (Pick one!)

SurferSam's picture
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SurferSam Saturday, 3 Dec 2022 at 5:05pm

LOB qualified!

el Sid's picture
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el Sid Saturday, 3 Dec 2022 at 6:10pm

So do a flip, name the people who shouldn't be there, rather than who should be.
Probably be a very short list.

Thanos S's picture
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Thanos S Saturday, 3 Dec 2022 at 6:50pm

could i get some cheese to have with this whine ?

Standingleft's picture
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Standingleft Saturday, 3 Dec 2022 at 8:59pm

list of greatest things in sport
John John surfing
Steve Smith batting
Sophie winning to qualify

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benjis babe Monday, 5 Dec 2022 at 6:39am

how good was that, everything aligned for her, she shredded her way through the heats....
go Soph

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tylerdurden Sunday, 4 Dec 2022 at 9:29am

The things you highlight Steve are probably there in all professional sports. Golf is the next obvious example. Many an insanely talented golfer barely makes a cent.
Once you get a financial buffer of some sort everything becomes easier: business class flights, nicer accommodation, better coaches, more time to train etc.
And one slight correction, it takes medical specialists about 16 years to get fully qualified, from 1st day medical school until independent practice

Vince Neil's picture
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Vince Neil Sunday, 4 Dec 2022 at 10:40am

Stoked for Ramzi and Moroccan surfing getting exposure

His backhand attack looks rock solid, honed as it wee on a certain hand point break that definitely rivals j bay for the best right in Africa… cue howls of derision

Yuri's picture
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Yuri Tuesday, 13 Dec 2022 at 11:51am


simsurf's picture
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simsurf Sunday, 4 Dec 2022 at 12:13pm

Simple math. Too many surfers for not enough spots.

12345678's picture
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12345678 Sunday, 4 Dec 2022 at 1:00pm

Morgan cibilic missed the cut by 5 points ? Fuckkkkkkk

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher Tuesday, 6 Dec 2022 at 2:27pm

CT Off Season surfers fulfilling CS duties
Many slipped in for a quick meet'n'greet on the eve of Fab 5 Finals

Crew explained that the meek Pro's feel guilty about eating up all the Bait Fish so bomb out early!
Then come the Bully Pros that are ordered to squelch all the undersized Gromz into sardine cans!

Medina hadn't surfed obligated 2022 CS comp > 1st in Nov Saquarema CS
JJ Florence hadn't surfed obligated 2022 CS comp > 1st in Dec Haleiwa CS
Carissa hadn't surfed obligated 2022 CS comp > Competed in Dec Haleiwa CS

Challenged Challenging Challengers Challenging Challenger Challenges. (That was a real Challenge!)

Just means that these CT surfers find themselves in a rather challenging CS situation!
Ethan Ewing competed in ( Local Oz ) Tweed QS > On technicality had to compete in Haleiwa CS
Italo competed in Oct 2021 Ericeira CS (Could argue it falls within 12mth CT/CS Calendar!)
Kanoa surfed 3 CS comps...Hired Hitman that takes out rival brand Qualifiers?

That just leaves #1 Brazilian Toledo (Could've easily competed in Brazil comp of last 3 CS)
So why does #1 win a VIP CS exemption or will WSL take his Cereal Bowl

Crew are gonna summon swellnet Surf Comp God (Freeride76)

"It's unlikely El Salavador Pro will return as a CT Venue, much more likely to persist as a CS wave!"

Now...Tracks : "It's not your Normal CT Location > CT Surfers competing in Unknown Location!"

Have our Aussie Comp Guys unlocked a "Trial" CS/CT Licence...as in a loophole for obligation.
Toledo could argue he enlisted for makeshift El Salvador Trial CS/CT for his right of Passage!

It don't add up & don't seem fair...
Anyhow! Leave it with the crew to legitimize the 1 & only biggest cheat as #1 WSL Surfer
Here's the Champ's Rap Sheet...says he never served time in CS Juvie!

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Pablolo Sunday, 11 Dec 2022 at 1:07am

Looking forward to seeing all the new comers and Aussie requalifiers bring the heat. The new CT format is condusive to a rookie fairytale ending, in stark contrast to the QS.
As for Zeke Lau: Tell ya story walking buddy- You've had more than enough opportunities to requalify and more exposure than most to boot. I'd go as far to you're a hasbeen, but I never really got over your appalling display of sportsmanship, in round 3, 2018 Bells against JJF.

Roadkill's picture
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Roadkill Sunday, 11 Dec 2022 at 12:00pm

I think they should score ct surfers against cs surfers differently.

A high ct surfer beats a low cs surfer they get 5 points or something really really low…the low cs surfer beats a high ct surfer they get heaps of points.
The ct surfer should always win but if the cs surfer raises his/her game they get extra points.

So. JJF is beaten by Te Kehu Kehu butler…TKK gets 1000 points extra..JJF beats Te Kehu (as he should 99% of the time) he get 5 points.


JJF loses to Te Kehu..Te Kehu get 1000 points for winning and JJF loses 1000 points for losing a heat he should win.

Much like squash scoring.

burleigh's picture
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burleigh Monday, 12 Dec 2022 at 11:30am

Yeah nah toady.

wax-on-danielson's picture
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wax-on-danielson Tuesday, 13 Dec 2022 at 8:26pm

Maybe they should make the CT smaller and the QS smaller with better money. With top QS surfers surfing on the CT rotating with the top places. And then also have a bonus action tour held in slabby waves. Then rate waves on tour for soft or slabby and the top slab surfers could compete against the CT guys at slabby waves and the top QS guys. I just went cross eyed.