Requalifying for the Championship Tour (CT) isn't easy, but the math sure is. In 2013 Matt Wilkinson requalified as World No. 22 with just eight heat wins over the entire year. In 2014 Jadson Andre did it with 12, five of which came in a single event at the Quik Pro France. Last year Miguel Pupo snuck in with 13 heat wins. With 11 events on the CT calendar, one doesn't need a supercomputer to work out that around one heat win per stop will get a surfer close to the cutoff.
For those surfers sitting in the danger zone, that simple equation is dominating their lives. At this stage of the year with the half-life of heat opportunities speeding up, each heat win gets them closer to that double figure heat win number. Today at the Quik Pro France four of those back-benchers made significant strides in getting closer to touching that figure.
Stu Kennedy was first out of the blocks and with just three heat wins to his name all year was the most in need of a win. His disposal of Adriano de Souza and Conner Coffin in the first heat of the day upped his win tally by 25 percent. More than that it meant he skipped the deadly Round Two for the first time in three events.
Later on Miguel Pupo would up his heat wins for the year to five after a victory over an injury-hampered Filipe Toledo in Round Two. "I've been totally happy with my surfing and working so hard to try to get to the level of guys like Filipe," Pupo said afterward. "Each heat win is so important. For my confidence and to give myself a chance of making the cut."
His fellow Brazilian, Ian Gouveia, was slightly better off heading into the Quik Pro France, having logged half a dozen heat wins so far in his rookie year. Today he made it seven with an impressive victory over Mick Fanning and Frederico Morais. Gouveia had his dad, former CT surfer Fabio, on hand for the first time at a CT event and after a poor performance at Trestles was mainly looking to get some enjoyment back in his surfing. Winning a heat in six-to-eight foot offshore waves in France should help in that regard. Another five or six heat wins over the next three events should now be enough to secure a slot for 2018.
It was Ethan Ewing however, the surfer farthest away in terms of heat wins to qualification, who was probably the most impressive of all. Ewing didn't win his first CT heat until August, Tahiti, and then secured a second at Trestles. His performance today, though, was easily the most commanding of 2017. He executed his turns with power and flow and for the first time this year he really took command of a heat. It's only his third heat win of the year and it seems an almost impossible task to see him win another 10 before the year is out, but if he keeps surfing like he did today, that number will quickly shrink.
The numbers are small, but the task still remains huge for those surfer hoping to turn their year around. Winning heats on the CT is the hardest thing to do in surfing. Today a few of those back-benchers made significant steps in making that task a little less difficult. Every heat in every comp counts, but right now they are counting more than ever.