It's make-or-break time for the North America Qualifying Series (QS) for both the men and women heading into the Essential Costa Rica Open -- the final event on the 2016 North America schedule. With both titles hanging in the balance, a ticket into next year's prime events is on the line. Also, with 3,000 points on offer for both the men and women toward their respective QS campaigns, Esterillos Este could be a pivotal turning point in their seasons heading into the final stretch.
Current North America rankings leader Kilian Garland finds himself with a golden opportunity to earn a good result here in Esterillos Este. If Garland makes it to the Semifinals, he secures the North America title outright for the first time in his career and the all-important chance of competing in the QS10,000 events next year to contest with the world's best. The California native will keep his focus on his own surfing and look to head into the final stretch of this competitive season with some big momentum.
"I am really excited to be here in Costa Rica and can't wait to get the event underway with some surfs in beforehand," Garland said. "I have not been here, but after doing some research it's looking like a really fun spot. If I can claim The North America Rankings then I'll be stoked, but I still have more goals for this year."
While Garland sits nearly 500 points over Taylor Clark and Lucca Mesinas, both have a chance at claiming the title if they earn runner-up and Garland has an early loss. All three sit on the bubble of the Top 100 to earn a spot into the coveted Hawaiian leg with time to make a run at it coming to an end.
"It's cool to be in reach of the North America title but either way I need to make heats so just going to take it one heat at a time," Clark said. "I'm really wanting to get into the Triple Crown so I just need to do well here and Brazil."
On the women's QS ranks, Meah Collins will be looking to hold on to her No. 1 spot to earn her first North America QS title over current No. 2 Tia Blanco. With Sage Erickson and Chelsea Tuach both competing in Europe for the Championship Tour (CT), the race is primarily narrowed to Collins and Blanco. Collins will be matching her worst result with a 25th, however, Blanco will be dropping a 37th -- providing a 225-point difference.
"I've had a lot of make it or not events lately from needing to do well in the Supergirl, to earn a wild card spot in the US Open, then needing to win the one trials heat to earn a spot in the CT," Collins said. "And now having to do well in Costa Rica to claim the North America QS title -- I'm just going to do my best to get to the finals. It would be awesome to take a win here not just for the ratings but to get my first QS win under my belt. Costa Rica has such amazing waves, it's great to bring a WSL event back to this area."
Collins and Blanco will be going round for round, with Blanco needing to better Collins result by two spots in order to surpass her for the North America title. Chelsea Roett, Kirra Pinkerton, Shelby Detmers, Alexxa Elseewi, and Autumn Hays all have an outside chance of claiming the title but would need to earn a Finals appearance, or win the event, for that opportunity if Collins and Blanco have early exits.
The 2016 Essential Costa Rica Open Pro will stream live at the WSL website. A 7:30 a.m. local time Call will determine an 8:00 a.m. Start for either the men's or women's event Wednesday morning.