The countdown draws closer to kick off the Women's Qualifying Series (QS) 2019 season at the Florida Pro QS 3,000, alongside the men's QS 1,500. The event window begins Monday, January 14 - 20 and a few of the QS's top threats, particularly on the women's side, will be on hand looking to start their year off right.
This year's draw may not be as heavily stacked in comparison to the inaugural women's Florida Pro, but there is no lack of talent to contest for 3,000 valuable points. Here's a quick shortlist of that talent:
One of the newest additions to the Championship Tour (CT), Hennessy made her dream a reality last season, but is still looking for as much time in the jersey as she can. Alongside fellow CT counterpart Caroline Marks, Hennessy leads the pack as one to watch at Sebastian Inlet with her smooth and technical surfing. The 19-year-old claimed her first QS win last season to the tune of 3,000 points in South Africa which helped paved the way toward qualification and has a chance to capitalize once again at valuable points.
The Costa Rican fell just shy of a Quarterfinal appearance here last year, but comes in with renewed confidence and the same fire.
The San Clemente, California, competitor put on the most dominant display in recent memory during her 2018 Pro Junior campaign -- winning back-to-back events (Roxy Pro Junior and Los Cabos Open of Surf) to start the season and finishing with a runner-up in Newport Beach. Pinkerton, 16, then went on to claim the first-ever World Junior Championship for North America, men or women.
But, if her Pro Junior success wasn't enough, Pinkerton also notched a CT wildcard debut at the Vans US Open and a QS win at the Pismo Beach Open after tearing through the field. With all that experience and a WJC title under her belt, her eyes can only be set on the next dream step of qualifying for the CT.
3. Pauline Ado
A veteran of the sport and one many competitors take note of when they draw her in a heat is former CT competitor Ado. The French competitor comes into the event with the most experience among her fellow competitors with two different stints alongside the world's best (2011-2014 & 2017). While inconsistency has plagued Ado, 27, she finally broke through the wall of finishing runner-up six times with her first-ever win last season.
Now, Ado is back to jumpstart her season with important points on the line and in search of a big win along with fellow compatriot Maud Le Car who's also making her 2019 debut, and fellow former CT competitor Chelsea Tuach of Barbados.
The event will be held on Florida's Space Coast once more and that means all the Floridian talents will be out to play. From the likes of 16-year-old phenom Marks to some of its top up-and-comers that include Presti. The Melbourne Beach, Florida, native earned her first QS win last year in Costa Rica and brings that confidence into a fresh season where she'll still be contesting at the Pro Junior level as well.
The list goes on for some of the event's marquee names that also includes former World Junior Champs Vahine Fierro and Mahina Maeda, 2017 North America Pro Junior Champ Alyssa Spencer, and an esteemed international field.
The men's side of the draw offers a dynamic field ready to vie for a valuable start to their 2019 season. While 3,000 points are currently up for grabs in Israel, those looking to stay close to home and get the competitive juices flowing aren't missing out with 1,500 points on the line.
1. Kevin Schulz
Last year, on the North America front, belonged in large part to San Clemente with numerous wins and finals appearances from the talent-rich pool of its waters. Schulz was one of the standouts after having a break through year on the QS that ended with him finishing at No. 114 and leads the Californian charge into Florida. The 23-year-old landed himself his first QS win and two runner-up finishes throughout last season and made a statement of his arrival.
This season, Schulz's expectations remain humble as he looks to set himself for another big year of competition with his eyes still locked on joining the world's best.
One of Florida's newest additions to the list of threats, Robinson made earned his breakthrough win at the end of 2018 by taking home the Thomo QS 1,000 win in Barbados. While Evan Geiselman Florida's man to beat, the win helped push him toward the Top 100 where he finished at 116 as he awaits the 2019 start in his own backyard.
"Chaunchoo's" knowledge of Sebastian Inlet alone make him a danger man, but his powerful style and growing innovation above the lip are hard to miss both in and out of the jersey. A robust amount of Florida talent are lined up behind Robinson that include Tommy Coleman, Chase Modelski, and one of its top freesurfers Eric Geiselman.
3. Cam Richards
Last season, Richards notched the first two Perfect 10s between the Florida Pro and then at the Volcom Pipe Pro where he went on to make a Finals appearance. The South Carolinian continues to make progress in a jersey, but retains his humbled approach as he never takes it too seriously. This has helped Richards finish in the Top 100 each of the past two years, finishing No. 53 last season, as he displays fearless charging in waves of consequence and dynamic surfing when conditions prove challenging.
All that's missing from his resume is a QS victory.
4. Josh Burke
The Caribbean's top hope of having a surfer return to the CT is Barbados native Josh Burke. Burke's apt for heavy waves and sharp surfing make him an all-around threat in just about any event. The Bajan earned his first win on Florida soil last season and is no stranger to its shores, but now he looks to claim a heftier win at the Florida Pro.
Burke finished at an impressive 106 after spending some time within the Top 100 last season as he continues to pursue a Top 10 CT qualification spot in 2019.
Watch these surfers and more LIVE at the Florida Pro beginning Monday, January 14 - 20 at Sebastian Inlet, Florida.