Like each Championship Tour event, the Oi Rio Pro will include two wildcard surfers in the mix with the Top 34 elites. Instead of determining one of those with local trials, Rio's wildcard will be the surfer who sits at the top of the Qualifying Series (QS) rankings at the end of the next QS contest, the Quiksilver Pro Saquarema.
The event, which runs at Itauna Beach, Brazil, May 5-10, is particularly important -- not just for the prospective wildcard, but for every QS surfer who is in reach of qualifying for the Championship Tour (CT) next year. As the second of the year's QS events worth a whopping 10,000 rankings points, it's a potential game-changer for the competitors who are working their ways up the ranks. Now that the first of the QS 10,000 events, the Oakley Lowers Pro, is complete, the field is narrowing and competition is heating up to snag the final wildcard for the men's CT event in Rio.
Two Rio wildcards have already been selected: Read up on the fresh talent
Prior to the Lowers event, there have only been two events that "count" in terms of points, where the potential points earned were enough for significant shifts in ranking. The Hurley Australian Open and the Burton Automotive Pro were each worth 6,000 points and saw Alejo Muniz (BRA) and Kolohe Andino (USA) break into the Top 5. After a ninth-place finish at Lowers, Muniz still has a solid lead over Oakley Lowers Pro winner Filipe Toledo (BRA), followed by a mixture of CT and QS surfers.
Among the very top of the QS rankings, there are a few strong possibilities for the wildcard spot. Muniz is already in the Oi Rio Pro draw, and therefore out of contention for a wildcard. He'll be surfing as the replacement for Michel Bourez (PYF), who has withdrawn from competition due to injury. Jack Freestone (AUS) is ranked No. 3 on the QS, sitting in the next-best position after Toledo, with 9,750 points. Even if he is defeated early at Saquarema he'll earn at least 550 points. So mathematically anyone with at least 300 points can tie or overtake him. Realistically, though, we should be looking at someone in the top 20 or 30 to have a chance.
The wildcard scenario for Rio is as follows:
QS No. 6 Stu Kennedy (AUS) needs at least a 17th-place finish to move to the top, Michael Dunphy (USA), Wade Carmichael (AUS) and Michael Rodrigues (BRA) would each need a ninth-place finish. After that there is a large drop-off. Competitors from Charly Martin (GLP) (No. 11) through Tanner Gudauskas (USA) (No. 15) can overtake Freestone with fifth-place finishes. Athletes ranked from Ian Gouveia (BRA) (No. 16) through Mitch Coleborn (AUS) (No. 30) would need a third-place finish. The rest will need to either make or win the Final.
The big movers upwards after Lowers were Jeremy Flores (FRA), who jumped from 197th to No. 4; Dunphy, who moved from 29th to No. 7; Carmichael, who moved from 88th to No. 8; and Martin, who went from 92nd to No. 11.
The Quiksilver Pro Saquarema will stream LIVE here May 6-10 and on the WSL app.
About Al Hunt:
Al Hunt is a former competitor who has helped develop the WSL since its inception. Hunt was Head Judge in 1983, the WSL's first year, and became Tour Manager in 1984. He has worked as WSL Tour Manager since then, attending more than 1,000 events. Hunt's Situation Room is designed to keep fans informed on QS rankings shifts throughout the 2015 WSL season.