July can be a cruel month for Championship Tour (CT) stars. With the Corona Open J-Bay representing the mid-point of the season, the reality of requalification starts to bite those outside the CT cut. To hedge their bets, they start double-timing the contest series by competing on the QS, which shifts into high gear this weekend when the QS10,000 Ballito Pro gets underway in South Africa. QS10,000 events weigh heavily on the rankings. They're nearly double the rest, and there are only five all season. The Vans US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach in early August will be their next stop. Based on the current list of surfers on the outside looking in, here's a list of CT stars we're likely to see more of this summer.
CT Rank: No. 23 The Brazilian rookie is currently clinging to the last qualifying spot through the CT. Of the seven CT rookies this year, he's the third-highest ranked behind Connor O'Leary and Frederico Morais. Gouveia's only got one 25th-place finish, and he just finished with a 9th in Fiji, but he's got some hedging to do.
CT Rank: No. 24 The Hawaiian rookie made a huge splash during the Australian leg with his 10-point ride at Snapper and his 3rd-place finish at Bells Beach. Unfortunately for Zeke, he's suffered back-to-back early losses in Fiji and Brazil, which has dropped him out of the mix. He fought hard to get here, so he'll be doing all he can to protect his place on Tour.
CT Rank: No. 25 The second-year pro from California started off the season strong with two 9th-place finishes in Australia, but he's flamed out early now for three events in a row, and it's cost him. The Fiji event was especially painful, as he's spent a good chunk of time there driving boats.
Jack Freestone CT Rank: No. 26 Freestone and his girlfriend Alana Blanchard are expecting their first child, which should be extra motivation for him to get back in the swing of things. His only bright spot in the year was his Semifinal appearance at Margaret River. Beyond that he's got nothing but bagels.
CT Rank: No. 27 The battle-hardened Frenchman had a rough start to the season, but has been showing signs of life of late. He finally managed to make it out of a heat at Bells Beach, then backed it up in Fiji with an impressive run to the Quarterfinals.
CT Rank: 28 The Australian scrapper wasn't able to repeat his magic at Snapper this year, but he did pull a 13th there. After that, he suffered three early-round exits in a row before rebounding in Fiji, where he fought his way to a 9th-place finish. He's hoping his refined design will help get him over the CT hump again, but rest assured he'll be trying to back himself up.
CT Rank: 28 Last year Kanoa Igarashi didn't have a single 25th place result. That's an amazing accomplishment for a rookie. This year, however, he's already had three of them. Igarashi may be young, but he's wise enough to know something had to give. He'll be staying busy this summer.
CT Rank: 30 The Italian rookie has had a bit of a shocker compared to his 2016 tear, but he's showing signs of life again. He snapped out of his losing streak in a big way with a 5th-place finish in Fiji, taking him out of the cellar. He's got a long way to go, of course, but Leo's keeping his head up, and spirits high.
CT Rank: 32 The big-hearted Brazilian's ranking has been hurt by his 0-3 record in Round Three this year. Had he flipped the script on any of those he'd be in a much better spot. Instead, he's in danger.
CT Rank: 34 Andre is a proven survivor, as we saw at the end of 2016. He was hoping to get a chance to exhale this year, but apparently that wouldn't be exciting enough for him. Jaddy will be getting his battle gear on again.
CT Rank: 35
After finishing the 2016 season in 13th place on the Jeep Leaderboard, all seemed right in Josh Kerr's world. But the cheery Australian has endured an inexplicable slump so far this season. Josh's success outside the CT arena means he's got other options, so it'll be interesting to see if he doubles down on the CT effort, or goes to back things up.
CT Rank: 36 The highly-touted Australian rookie has been experiencing a rough go of it so far. And with his low seed things only get more difficult, as he runs into top seeds in Round Two. The best way for him to break out is with a few Round One wins, and there's no doubt he's got that in him.
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