The Qualifying Series (QS) can take its toll on competitors, but, for those who gut it out and remain optimistic, big results can follow. For a competitor like Colt Ward who had some sporadic success on the Junior Tour, its been a tough road so far. But, the San Clemente, California, competitor is on his way to a career best Semifinal at the Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro QS 1,500.
"It's great to be here competing again," Ward said. "The past few years on the QS has been a lot of learning the hard way and I want to be done learning those hard lessons. I've been trying to be positive and focus on each heat - I've never even made a Semifinal before so it feels amazing."
Ward still has plenty of time ahead of him to move through the rankings, turning 21-years-old in April, and has his sights on doing just that. A fresh outlook on a new season keeps the Californian in a positive mindset with a lot of work to be done -- including event favorite and defending winner Evan Geiselman in the Semifinals.
"One of my goals was to be in the QS 10,000s by the half year cut off and if I didn't make it there, then put all my focus into the back half to get it done then," Ward added. "I'm going to do my best to make that happen. I've been hanging with Nolan [Rapoza] and some of the guys, and they keep me laughing all day. It's incredible to have people around you that keep you in good spirits and I think that's been a big difference already."
A competitor that's had a taste of the QS 10,000 level is Josh Burke and he's ready to be back at that level. It wasn't the best start to 2018 at the Australian QS leg following a Semifinal at the Florida Pro pres by Sunshine State Florida Lager QS 1,500, but the Barbadian remains hopeful. And, after eliminating last year's Semifinalist Tommy Coleman in Saturday's action, he's back into a Semifinal once more.
"This is my third Semifinal in Florida now, so I want to make that next step and to take a win here would be amazing," Burke said. "I'm psyched to start well in these two Florida events since I didn't do well in Australia, but a third in these QS 1,000s isn't really a good result in the long run so I've set my goals high here. My focus goes beyond the North America QS events because to make that Top 100 by the cut off you have to do some traveling, but these are great for momentum and key for building success."
"I've just changed my whole attitude this year and I'm staying a lot more positive," Burke said. "I'm trying to understand and be in sync with the waves more which I've noticed is helping here especially -- I feel like the waves have come to me here. So it's important to be happy and that's been a big difference in my surfing."
Burke will have to deal with the likes of 2017 Ron Jon Quiksilver Junior Pro winner Ryland Rubens in his Semifinal bout for Sunday's finals day and vie for a vital 1,000 points toward a momentum boost heading back to his Caribbean home.