Vans Triple Crown of Surfing

Faces: 2015's Top QS Contenders

With only three Qualifying Series (QS) events remaining, the rookie class for the 2016 Championship Tour (CT) is starting to take shape. The WSL was able to catch up with some of this year's QS standouts as the 2015 season approaches its final lap.

Name: Jack Freestone
Age: 23
Hometown: Tweed Heads, New South Wales, Australia
Stance: Regular
Shaper: Darren Handley (DHD Surfboards)
Current Qualifying Series rank: No. 1

Freestone Slices Up Snapper
Mick Fanning takes on Tour rookie Matt Banting and wildcard Jack Freestone in Round 1.

World Surf League (WSL): It seems like you've been surfing with a new determination. Where's that drive coming from?
Jack Freestone: The drive to be on the CT is probably coming from the heartbreak I had last year finishing second and I never want to do or feel that way again. That's my motivation right now: to make the Tour early in the year so I don't have that heartbreak.

WSL: So what are you doing differently to that end?
JF: The thing I'm doing differently this year is I'm listening a lot more and understanding what needs to be done. A lot of years in the past I just sort of went out trying to get eights and nines every heat. Then I realized you can get by with 12-point totals. So it's really about understanding what the judges are looking for. Plus, I have my good friend Mitch Coleborn and my coach Stace Galbraith traveling with me and having them to feed off of is great.

Name: Caio Ibelli
Age: 22
Hometown: São Paulo, Brazil
Stance: Regular
Shaper: Xanadu
Current Qualifying Series rank: No. 1

Ibelli Scores Big in Brazil
Caio Ibelli has been dominating the QS in 2015 including the most recent event, the QS 10,000 Oi HD São Paulo Open, where he scored a 9.53 during Round 4.

WSL: The whole idea of the "Brazilian Storm," with a lot of Brazilians on Tour and Gabriel Medina winning the Title last year, has that played in your mind at all? Do you consider yourself a part of this whole new generation of Brazilians?
Caio Ibelli: I think everyone has different timing, but I saw Medina and Jadson (Andre) there, then Miguel (Pupo) [got on Tour.] We had all surfed the Brazilian Amateurs together when we were younger and these guys were now taking off. But I knew everyone has their time and I was preparing myself for that time. When I saw Italo (Ferreira) take off I was there like, "right now is my time." I kept working on my results and getting better. I came in focused on where I wanted to be.

WSL: Why do you think Brazil is having this big moment now? There's always been talented people there obviously but what has made now so different and special?
CI: The new generation trains a lot more and has better waves. We're going outside of Brazil to train and travel in big waves and heavy waves, and that's been reflected in the great results we've been getting. We don't just have guys who are only small-wave surfers, we have guys who can surf anything from small waves to giant 30-foot barrels. We've been traveling so much and trying out different waves so we're prepared for anything.

Name: Alejo Muniz
Age: 25
Hometown: Santa Catarina, Brazil
Stance: Regular
Shaper: Sharp Eye
Current Qualifying Series rank: No. 5

Muniz's French Fury
Before bowing out of the event with an injury, Alejo Muniz put up a huge score during the Quiksilver Pro France, reminding his challengers what a threat he was on Tour in years past and putting them on high alert for a potential comeback in 2016.

WSL: What's it like competing to get back on Tour after falling off?
Alejo Muniz: At the beginning it feels really bad because I always dreamed about being on Tour and I was on it for four years and then last year I got injury and I couldn't get results. You sort of think, "what am I going to do now?" But after some time talking to my friends and my family I realized that I really want to come back, even more than before because I know how it is and I know I can do it better.

WSL: Does it feel different competing on the QS after falling off Tour than it did the first time around?
AM: It's a lot different than when I did it the first time. I think now I want it more. I learned a lot the last four years on Tour and I've been trying to put everything I learned into my heats. I've been training a lot and working out and trying out boards and trying every single day.

Name: Alex Ribeiro
Age: 25
Hometown: Santos, São Paulo, Brazil
Stance: Goofy
Shaper: Xanadu
Current Qualifying Series rank: No. 7

Ribeiro Takes Saquarema
Alex Ribeiro shot up the QS rankings when he earned 10,000 points at the Quiksilver Pro Saquarema.

WSL: What memories do you have of surfing as a kid?
Alex Ribeiro: I was really young, but I do remember my parents coming from the city and bringing my boards whenever we had holiday so I could surf and just be at the beach everyday.

WSL: What do you think your weaknesses are? How are you working on them?
AR: I think my mindset. I let it take over my surfing. Big waves as well. I need to train so much for the CT with waves like Fiji and Teahupo'o.

Name: Ryan Callinan
Age: 23
Hometown: Merewether, Australia
Stance: Goofy
Shaper: Various (JS, Chili's and Mayhem)
Current Qualifying Series rank: No. 10

Ryan Callinan (AUS) - Mahalo Surf Eco Festival Ryan Callinan's third-place finish at the Mahalo Surf Eco Festival saw him earn crucial rankings points to remain above the cutoff for 2016 heading into Hawaii. - WSL / Daniel Smorigo

WSL: What would you say separates you from other surfers on the QS?
Ryan Callahan: Well I am bit of a bigger so I can throw a bit more water because of my size alone. Also I'm pretty lanky which helps in the small surf.

WSL: What do you think your weaknesses are?
RC: I think I make some bad decisions in heats. I don't freak out if I have a hard heat, but I certainly can be a bit calmer and make better decisions on maneuvers and whatnot.

WSL: How do you work on something like that?
RC: Mainly just watch myself surfing on video, like just pointing out things and figuring it out. It's a bit of a long-term thing but in the end it works out.

Watch the top QS surfers compete at the Hawaiian Pro, the first stop of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing LIVE on the WSL website and the WSL app to see who's hopes for 2016 come to fruition.