When Championship Tour rookie Ezekiel Lau left for Europe six weeks ago, he was standing on the precipice of falling off the elite Tour. Currently ranked World No. 27, largely on the back of a 3rd at Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in April, his last five CT results prior to the European leg had been discouraging, if not downright disappointing. Since the Tour left Australia, he'd gone: 25th, 25th, 13th, 25th, 13th.
I had a little bit of a rough year on tour, I've had moments where I had good performances but a lot of it was just a learning curve for me and getting used to everything, so I really want to be there next year to get a better grasp of it and hopefully take some bigger guys down.
After losing in Round Three at Lowers, he was staring directly down the barrel of a repeat performance of his last second CT qualification in 2016. Last year, perched atop the qualification bubble, his position was secured in a significant way due to the Pipe Masters performance of his Quiksilver teammate and buddy Kanoa Igarashi, who finished runner-up, double qualified and thus opened the door to the last remaining slot on the CT.
This year, heading to Portugal, Lau needed to do something big on the QS, and he needed to do it quickly. Thankfully for Zeke, something clicked in Cascais. His victory at the QS10,000 EDP Billabong Pro Cascais was just what the doctor ordered.
"You don't even know how stoked I am right now, I'm so happy," he said after his win. "This is pretty much the first year I've even made a heat out here. It's been a long year of learning for me, learning about myself, learning how I like to compete. I think I just realized I'm at my best when I think, 'You know what, it's like any other day, just go out and surf.' That's what's really worked for me out here."
With the win in Cascais, Lau skyrocketed up the QS ratings, shooting from QS No. 105 to No. 12, just two spots outside the cutoff line. Unfortunately, he was unable to carry the momentum from his QS win in Cascais onto the CT. In the two back-to-back events after the QS contest, he lost in Round Two, logging two more 25ths. Heading home to Hawaii he was once again in that uncomfortably familiar position, on the qualification bubble.
A return to some home cooking and the site of some of his biggest competitive successes, specifically Sunset Beach, did just the trick for Zeke. He answered the call -- and relieved some pressure -- on the QS for the second time in a month with a dominant run to victory at the Vans Presents the HIC Pro.
"I was coming into this event with the goal to win and get that 3,000 points and put me that much closer to requalification," commented Lau, after his second career win at the HIC Pro (he won it back in 2011, too). "I had a little bit of a rough year on tour, I've had moments where I had good performances but a lot of it was just a learning curve for me and getting used to everything, so I really want to be there next year to get a better grasp of it and hopefully take some bigger guys down."
Another clutch result on the QS has further strengthened his resolve. After his win at Sunset Beach, Lau moved up three more rankings spots to QS No. 9. And with the two most important QS10,000 events on the calendar still remaining at home on Oahu (as they should rightly be) -- the Hawaiian Pro and the Vans World Cup -- he'll be throwing away marginal results of 1000 and 550 from his grand tally. His third-best result on the QS is a 9th at the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro worth 1550 points.
The job for Lau is far from over, but considering where he stood just over a month ago his circumstances have improved significantly. A couple of good results at Haleiwa and Sunset and he'll be right back where he belongs -- surfing against the world's best on the 2018 Championship Tour.