And so it all comes down to Sunset. At the Vans World Cup, the qualifying cards will be shuffled and left to fall for the last time in 2017. It is an epic, history-soaked wave and the perfect venue to host a thrilling Qualifying Series (QS) climax. As it stands, if we assume a cutoff of 19,000 points, we already have five surfers locked in for the CT for 2018. For those with a beautiful mind, that leaves five positions left to be decided.
On the QS, only the five best results count for each surfer's year-end tally. The key, then, is improving on your worst result. Keanu Asing, for example, is in seventh place with 16,950 points, but is counting 3,000 points as his worst result. To improve his overall tally he'll need a result that bags more than 3,000 points. If he were to make the Quarterfinals at Sunset he would net a minimum 3,800 points which would improve his overall tally by 800 points. That, however, still wouldn't be enough to reach the magical 19,000 points. He'll need at least a Semifinal, and the 5,100 point reward that comes with it, to guarantee his return to the CT.
In the top QS ratings we can also discount Italo Ferreira, Filipe Toledo, Jordy Smith and Frederico Morais, who are guaranteed spots through their Championship Tour rankings. That leaves the six surfers below who will be desperately trying to do better than their worst results and make the cut. Here we drill down to see just what they need to do to make their CT dreams come true.
Name: Keanu Asing
Current QS Rank: 7th, 16,950 points
Worst Counting Result: 3,000 points
Requirement: 7th place for a minimum of 5,100 points
Keanu has bounced back from the disappointment of last year's relegation to the QS with a fresh approach and since then, he's been living more in the moment. He's netted three QS wins with incredible consistency. He needs a big result, but with his newfound maturity and perspective, that won't faze him.
Name: Wade Carmichael
Current QS Rank: 8th, 16,800 points
Worst Counting Result: 2,100 points
Requirement: 7th place for 4,300 points
Carmichael was in this position in 2015, but failed to capitalize. He genuinely loves Sunset and has repeated competitive success here. With his power hacks and laid-back composure, he'll be confident of making it happen the second time around.
Name: Ezekiel Lau
Current QS Rank: 9th, 16,650 points
Worst Counting Result: 1,100 points
Requirement: 13th place for 3,450 points
One of the most accomplished Sunset surfers in the field Lau, too, should be better off, having gone through this same process last year. He failed by just 50 points, or one place in a heat, to ensure absolute safety. You'd expect him to keep his destiny in his own hands this year and complete a remarkable turnaround on the QS in the last three months.
Name: Michael Rodrigues
Current QS Rank: 11th, 16,550 points
Worst Counting Result: 1,550 points
Requirement: 7th place for 4,000 points
After banging on the door since 2014, the Brazilian has been in the top 10 all year, mainly on the basis of a stellar European QS leg where he finaled twice. Sunset will be a bigger test, but the stylish naturalfooter has a rail game to damage there. After being in the mix for so long, he'll know this will be his best chance to make the step up.
Name: Michael February
Current QS Rank: 14th, 14,750 points
Worst Counting Result: 1,000 points
Requirement: 5th place for 5,200 points
The lone South African vying to join Jordy Smith on the Championship Tour (CT), February had two big results at Ballito and Huntington, but has failed to back them up. On the one hand, that means he doesn't need much to improve on his worst result. On the other, he still has a lot of ground to make up. His surfing and frame suit Sunset, but a Semifinal finish is a big task.
Name: Jorgann Couzinet
Current QS Rank: 16th
Worst Counting Result: 1,125 points
Requirement: Final for 6,400 points
Forced to relocate to Hossegor from his home of Reunion Island due to the shark issue, the naturalfooter has come from nowhere. That he is even in with a shot at making the CT is remarkable. A Final at Sunset is definitely in the long-shot category, but having overcome so much to be in the position, he won't go down without a fight.
Watch the Vans World Cup live on the WSL from Sat., Nov. 25 - Dec. 6.