2022 and 2023 Wildcards Announced
Overnight, the Woz announced the CT wildcards up to mid-2023.
The number of wildcards and criteria for earning them has changed over the years, but as it currently stands each Men's event in the first half of the year has four wildcards: two WSL wildcards (chosen by the Woz) and two event wildcards (ostensibly chosen by the sponsor, or a Trials system).
For the Women there are two wildcards before the cut: one WSL wildcard, and one event wildcard.
After the cut, both the Men and Women have two wildcards per event: one season wildcard (running to the mid-year cut next season, and chosen by the WSL), and one event wildcard.
Over the years, wildcard allocation has been a contentious issue, usually around surfers injured in competition unable to gain a wildcard and return. In 2001, Rob Machado broke his hand but was denied a wildcard for 2001 partly due to Kelly Slater's return to competition, while more recently Ace Buchan was denied a wildcard onto this year's tour despite missing events last year through injury, the slot instead going to Owen Wright who placed 25th on the CT last year after contesting every event.
Before we get to the current wildcard announcements we need to take stock of injuries on the Men's side.
Yago Dora has been out with a foot injury suffered late last year.
Liam O'Brien broke his leg at Backdoor the day before the Pipe comp began.
Carlos Munoz tore his shoulder in competition at Pipe.
Also, Gabriel Medina took time out for mental health reasons, presumably done with the knowledge he'd be granted one of a season wildcard, which as a past World Champ he's entitled to.
To be sure, Medina received the season wildcard and will resume competition at Grajagan. For the Women, Caroline Marks received the season wildcard. Both surfers have guaranteed starts until next year's cut.
That leaves one entry open for the event wildcard in each remaining contest. Of the five contests only one has a surf sponsor who will put up their own wildcard. The other wildcards will be decided by Trials or WSL alchemy.
Back to the three injured surfers...
Overnight, the Woz announced that Yago Dora would be rewarded with the 2023 season wildcard, providing entry for the first five events of that year. On the Women's side, Sally Fitzgibbons will receive the 2023 season wildcard.
Both Dora and Fitzgibbon will also be first replacement should any slots open in the draw for the remaining CTs of 2022.
Frustratingly, the press release made no mention of what will happen to Carlos Munoz and Liam O'Brien - who both qualified legitimately but were injured competing and training. It appears neither will finish a single CT. In fact, O'Brien didn't get a chance to surf a single heat.
Unlike the Men, who had many injured and surfers and few wildcards, the Women had a wildcard slot and no-one out injured. Despite finishing 15th, five spots out of the cut line, Sally Fitzgibbons will again continue her CT career, presumably on a loyalty and legacy justification - three-time runner up, fourteen years on tour.