New Era QS Rank: 1
Home: San Clemente, California
Griffin Colapinto is arguably 2017's biggest breakout performer. Energetic, stylish and not afraid to throw caution to the wind, he's sure to turn some heads at the elite level. The 19-year-old is the latest young freak from San Clemente, California, to crack the code and make the Championship Tour. His runner-up finish at the Hawaiian Pro clinched him his spot, but he backed it up with another huge performance at Sunset this week, propelling him to the top of the New Era Qualifying Series rankings.
It's worth noting that Colapinto is already a Pipe Pro Junior Champion. Needless to say he's a future Triple Crown threat, and there's no telling where he might go given his penchant for setting goals. "We committed to this path when I was 15," he said after making the cut at the Hawaiian Pro. "The goal was to qualify by the time I turned 19. I nailed my goals...I'm so proud of that, it's a lot to process."
New Era QS Rank: 2
Home: Guarujá, São Paulo, Brazil After missing the Championship Tour qualification cut by two spots at the end of the 2016 season, Mendes came close to throwing in the towel. He'd been slugging it out on the QS for a good three years, and wasn't sure he had enough gas in the tank for another push. Fortunately, he had his girlfriend Tatiana Weston-Webb, a CT star on the women's side, nudging him along.
Sure enough, the 24-year-old knuckled down and got busy early. He kicked off the 2017 season in blazing form, winning two of the first three QS 6,000 events. By the 4th of July he'd secured 22,000 points, enough to make lock him in as a New Era 2018 rookie before anyone else. "It's always better if you come to Hawaii safe and in a good position in the ratings," he said. "That way you're able to enjoy Hawaii instead of trying to make heats." Mission accomplished.
New Era QS Rank: 5
Home: Florianopolis, Brazil
The Brazilian battler has been on the cusp of CT qualification twice before. He finished No. 18 on the QS in 2016, and No. 17 in 2014. At 30 years old, he came into this year knowing the clock was ticking, and that seemed to give him all the spark he needed this year. His big push came with his surprise trip to the Final at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, California. He followed that up with a solid 9th place finish in Cascais. But it was his 5th place finish at the Hawaiian Pro that locked him a New Era rookie slot for 2018.
Earlier this year, he felt the tide turning. "I injured myself in Hawaii two days before the last event of the year, which was a pity," he said. "This year is better than last year for sure." With Mendes, Dora and Cardoso joining him on the CT next year, he'll be a key member an emboldened Brazilian contingent.
New Era QS Rank: 6
Home: Curitiba, Brazil
Yago Dora set the world on fire earlier this year with his amazing Finals run at the Oi Rio Pro, where he was surfing as a wildcard. He beat three former World Champions along the way, including Mick Fanning, Gabriel Medina and John John Florence. He earned his wildcard spot with a QS6,000 win in Austraila, and backed it up with another 6,000-level win at the Azores Airlines Pro, which essentially secured his New Era Rookie status for 2018.
"I can't wait to be on Tour with everyone, join all those guys," he said after locking his spot on next year's CT. "I think it's gonna be a really fun year. I kinda already had a taste of it in Rio this year, and it felt amazing. There's a really cool crew of great surfers and I'm psyched to be joining them."
New Era QS Rank: 8
Home: Florianópolis, Brazil
Of all of the New Era Rookies you see here none have worked as hard or as long as Brazil's Willian Cardoso. The 31-year-old power-house from Florianopolis has been slugging it out on the Qualifying Series for a dozen years now. This year he did it without a major sponsor, too. When he finished 2nd at the Ballito Pro in South Africa, the first QS10,000 event of the season, he knew this was the year to make it happen. He backed it up with a 5th in Portugal, which meant he needed to only advance out of a couple of heats at Haleiwa to lock in his dream...which he did.
"It's not been easy, I've been in this moment before, been here, needed a result and it never came," he said during an emotional post-heat interview. "After all these years working hard, everyone helped me. Super stoked to qualify next year."
New Era QS Rank: 4
Home: Avoca Beach, Australia
This former Australian Junior Champion is the latest talent from the tiny Avoca Beach Boardriders club to crack the elite level, joining Matt Wilkinson and Ace Buchan. Like them, he's remarkably friendly and humble. Carmichael has won several QS events, but none bigger than his surprise Hawaiian Pro victory in 2015. Unfortunately for Carmichael, he wasn't able to back it up at Sunset that year, and he missed the cut. The 25-year-old has at various times worked as a lifesaver and other "real" jobs to keep his dream alive, which makes him appreciate his opportunities even more. "At the end of the day I still get myself to the comps and I get to surf for a living, so there are no complaints. I'm where I want to be," he said before heading to Hawaii for the Vans Triple Crown.
The bulk of his QS points heading into Hawaii came from his 5th place finish at the Ballito Pro, in South Africa. But on Saturday, not wanting to leave his fate in anyone else's hands, Carmichael advanced to the Final of the Vans World Cup to secure his spot once and for all. "Its a dream come true. I've been trying so hard, I finally got a real good crack at it and it came true, I'm stoked man."