In the midst of a historic season on the women's Qualifying Series -- in which two 10,000-point events were added to the schedule for the first time -- Californian Sage Erickson and Australians Isabella Nichols and Bronte Macaulay have secured their spots on the 2020 Championship Tour.
For Erickson, it is an opportunity to rejoin the CT. First graduating to the tour in 2012, she fell short of requalification last year and returned to the QS. Resolute in her desire to return to the elite level, she rededicated herself to surfing, training harder than ever and sharpening her competitive mindset.
"I spent a lot of time over the off-season thinking about competing less and just doing surf trips, but knew I would miss competing too much," the 28-year-old Erickson told the WSL.
The culmination of the effort led her to the top of the podium at the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing -- the historic first women's QS 10,000.
"I wasn't upset that I fell off last year," Erickson continued. "I was really excited to surf a lot this year, spend more time not in a jersey and enjoy time with my family."
"I'm so blessed with the sponsors I have that I definitely have felt more freedom from just competing," added Erickson. "A big motivation to continue is equal pay and how well the women are treated."
For the 21-year-old Nichols, this will be her first foray into the big leagues. After a brilliant junior career in which she claimed the 2015 World Junior Title, she's been consistent presence on the QS all year, and looks to lead the new generation of women on the CT.
"There have been a lot of ups and downs and challenges this year, but you learn from your challenges and get stronger," said Nichols, who besides competing on the CT this year has also returned to college and is studying engineering.
"I went in with really low expectations," she continued. "I had no pressure whatsoever and had a great season as an underdog."
Meanwhile, the 25-year-old Macaulay is already a full-time competitor on the CT, but sought to ensure her position in 2020 through the QS and her qualifying effort is an example of consistency and grit.
In six QS starts her worst result is a 9th. She's posted three Quarterfinal results, a Semifinal appearance and was runner-up at the ABANCA Galicia Classic Surf Pro -- the second 10K of the season. She currently leads the Qualifying Series with an incredible 20,950 points and is guaranteed to stay on the Championship Tour for another year.
With the pressure off of her shoulders for the rest of the season, and a current 11th position on the CT, she's going to be a major threat on the elite tour for the remaining four stops in Lemoore, France, Portugal and Hawaii.
"I've definitely now not got any pressure in terms of results," Macaulay said. "But I just really want to try to make the Top 10, it's been my goal since the start of the year. It's definitely good to know that I've backed myself up on the QS in case I can't make it."