CT Qualifiers And Hopefuls
Starting in three days, the Saquarema Pro is the final event of the 2023 Challenger Series. This means, of course, that it’s the last chance to qualify for next year’s Championship Tour.
Two men and one woman have already qualified for their respective tours, with the men’s tour in particular wide open for last ditch qualifiers.
The two men who’ve got over the line are Cole Houshmand and Jacob Willcox, both big goofyfooters with big turns in their arsenal. Heat strategy aside, both fit the CT mold of expansive, full-face surfing. Swapping J-Bay for Cloudbreak is a minor advantage to both, though a repeat of 2023’s dire swell delivery will hinder them, as it does any rookie when faultless man-on-man strategy is required to grind out heats.
There were some big movers during the last contest at Portugal, namely winner Deivid Silva (20 places), runner up Jake Marshall (12 places), and third placed Mateus Herdy (9 places). All three are now within the first ten cut off, and this is at the expense of Jackson Baker, Sammy Pupo, and Morgan Cibilic.
In just its third year, the Challenger Series has never had six contests before so picking the points for cut-off is a lottery. 2021 had five contests and the cut-off was 10,650 points, while 2022 had seven contests and the cut-off was 15,770.
Currently, Mateus Herdy is in 10th and sitting on 14,630. Based on points spread and gut instinct, I’m expecting the cut-off to be around 17,000 points. This puts anyone down to 30th placed Joel Vaughan in mathematical contention, though outside of the odd big mover the realistic hopes only extend to 15th place Jett Schilling in 12,005 points. After that, the surfer needs to place in the top four and, out of all the contests so far this year, only three surfers below Jett have done that.
Over on the women’s side, Sally Fitzgibbon showed she’s still capable of qualifying without need of a wildcard, having already locked up her spot on next year’s CT. This will be her 14th year on the CT. Like Jacob Willcox, this has happened without a contest win which speaks to their consistency.
Currently, Isabella Nichols is in 5th place and sitting on 22,725, almost 2,000 points clear of Luana Silva in 6th. The real story, however, is in the points Luana has to drop. Taking away her 1,900, Luana has to get at least 4,015 points to catch Isabella’s current score - that means 5th place or higher. Though for every heat Isabella (and Alyssa Spencer for that matter) make above the Round of 32, Luana’s job gets harder.
Under this scenario, a cut-off around 24,000 points seems reasonable.
As for swell, we're expecting standard Saqua fare. Craig Brokensha's back of the napkin forecast reads:
"A weak trough will bring onshore winds though building surf through the opening day of the period to the 4ft range. Better conditions are due in the following days with varying pulses of mid-period S'ly swell to 3-4ft and morning offshore winds ahead of sea breezes."