Believe it or not we're already 36 events into the 2018 Qualifying Series (QS), and just getting started. The battle to secure a spot on the 2019 Championship Tour really heats up this week in South Africa, where the first of just five QS 10,000 events of the year, the Ballito Pro, is now underway.
With 10,000 points up for grabs, the Ballito Pro's impact is massive. A bunch of this year's rookies got there by way of a big result in this event, including Willian Cardoso, Jesse Mendes, Griffin Colapinto, Michael Rodrigues and Wade Carmichael. All of them made the Quarterfinals or better last season, which kicked their campaigns into gear. In 2016 it was Connor O'Leary, Ezekiel Lau, Joan Duru and Stu Kennedy who gained momentum in South Africa.
As of this week, seven out of the Top 10 surfers on the QS rankings are former Championship Tour surfers trying to fight their way back to the big leagues. Veteran battlers like Alejo Muniz, Jadson Andre and Miguel Pupo are mixing it up with the likes of guys like Mikey Wright, Evan Geiselman and young Mathew Macgillivray.
Muniz has already secured 10,000 points thanks to some solid results in QS 6,000 events, which means he's more than halfway to making the cut. But on Monday he suffered an early round loss in Ballito, so he's still far from safe given how far surfers can rise and fall on the rankings after a few QS 10,000 events take place.
Mikey Wright, meanwhile, has been tearing up the Championship Tour this year by making the most of injury replacement spots. Technically, he's not even a rookie, but after narrowly missing out on qualifying last year he made a huge push earlier this year, taking a huge win at the QS 6,000 in Newcastle, Australia. That strong early QS performance helped garner him a replacement spot for the CT event at Margaret River, and he's been delivering ever since. He turned that Margaret River result into a third place finish at Uluwatu, after nabbing another third place result the week before in Bali. While Mikey is currently ranked No. 7 on the Championship Tour, he's not taking any chances. He's No. 3 on the Qualifying Series heading into Ballito, and surfing with far more swagger.
But the best laid plans have a tough time holding up during QS 10,000 events like the Ballito Pro. Without question, the Qualifying Series rankings will look much different by this time next week as fresh threats emerge, and cagey CT veterans like defending event champion Jordy Smith come into the mix. If you're a devoted QS fan, it's time to watch closely, and brace for impact. Brace for the Ballito Pro.