There are four rookies that will be making their full-time Championship Tour debut when things kick off at the Corona Open Gold Coast on March 26th. They are: Jack Robinson, Matthew McGillivray, Morgan Cibilic, Isabella Nichols and Amuro Tsuzuki.
There are others that will rejoin the CT via the 2019 Qualifying Series, but in terms of surfers without a full CT season under their belt, these four - three of which hail from Australia- are the faces of the future. All of them will bring something unique and special to the Tour. Here's what you need to know about them:
Born in surf-rich Western Australia, "Robo" ranks as one of the world's great barrel riders. Happy to take off under the ledge on heavy, slabbing waves, it won't take him any time at all to feel comfortable at Tour stops like Teahupo'o, G-Land, Pipeline, and of course, Margaret River, which is, literally, right in his backyard (he finished 9th there last year as a wildcard with an impressive showing at The Box).
There's no question Robinson is a force to be reckoned with in waves of consequence, but there has been a question mark about his prowess in the small stuff. Well, this offseason, Robinson has been putting in the time on his shortboards, getting his equipment dialed and is looking tack sharp. He may only be 22-years-old, but Robo brings the maturity and power of a seasoned veteran.
And while he's renowned for his innate abilities in the tube, he has also proven he can thrive under pressure when it's all on the line. In fact, he qualified for the CT thanks to his final blitz at Sunset Beach at the end of the 2019 season. When his career depended on a huge result, he rode all the way to the top of the podium. That energy and confidence will serve him well this year.
For Isabella Nichols, her 2019 campaign on the QS was a last-ditch effort to salvage a career she'd lost faith in. After winning the 2015 WSL World Junior Title, success on the QS didn't come as easily or readily as she'd hoped. By the start of last season, she had enrolled in university and was looking for new opportunities.
"I've had a couple of rough years competing, where my head wasn't right," Nichols explained.
Then a switched flipped on. She started the 2019 season on the QS by making two Finals appearances, as well as two Semifinal appearances and another Quarterfinal finish. All of a sudden her momentum kicked in and Nichols got hot. She finished the year ranked number one on the QS.
Hailing from the Sunshine Coast, Nichols' style in the water is reminiscent of a young Stephanie Gilmore. Stylish and smooth, her grace belies her power. And just like Steph, she enjoys riding all different kinds of surf craft, and exploring the lines they allow her to draw.
Over the last five years, the journey hasn't always been easy for Nichols, but through her talent and determination she's about to step onto the world's stage.
In 2017, South Africa's Matthew McGillivray was ranked 172nd on the QS. Two years later, he finished 4th on the leaderboard and is now set to join the Tour in 2020.
A powerful regular-footer, he's the kind of surfer one would expect to emerge from Jeffreys Bay -- great style, solid fundamentals and a penchant for juicy conditions. Committed to his rail, McGillivray put together a dream run at the end of the 2020 QS season, cobbling together a 5th at the EDP Billabong Pro Ericeira and a 3rd at the Hawaiian Pro to usher him into the big leagues this year.
Spending a good portion of the offseason training on the North Shore with Jordy Smith, he's looking fit and prepared. And thanks to his relationship with Smith, he'll have a seasoned veteran he can lean on during his rookie season to help him stay steady. This could be the start of an epic South African push on Tour.
The first woman from Japan to qualify for the Championship Tour, 2020 is going to be a big year for Amuro Tsuzuki. Not only will she look to solidify her spot amongst the best surfers in the world, but with Japan playing host to the Olympics this year, she's hoping to represent her native homeland in the Games as well.
Tsuzuki will need a result at the upcoming ISA World Surfing Championship in El Salvador this May to make that dream come true, but she's got a fighting chance. The 18-year-old is only the second surfer from Japan to qualify for the CT, the first being Kanoa Igarashi, who is already Olympic bound.
2019 was a breakout year for Tsuzuki, who got her roll started by winning the World Junior Title. Then she put in a career year on the QS, climbing from 96th in 2018 to 8th last year. She caught a lucky break when World Champion Carissa Moore opted to take a personal year this year, opening up one more spot on the 2020 Championship Tour. For somebody that's already achieved so much at such a young age, it appears there are even bigger things on the horizon for Tsuzuki.
Much like McGillivray's story, Aussie Morgan Cibilic was way down the QS rankings in 2017. In fact, he was all the way down at 416th. Proving that opportunity is born through talent, grit and determination, Cibilic dedicated himself to his goal of joining the elite Championship Tour. Two years later, he was ranked 11th on the QS and punching his ticket to surfing's biggest stage.
Hailing from Merewether, he's cut from a similar cloth as fellow local Ryan Callinan in that he just loves to surf and he's not afraid to put the work in to make that dream a reality.
After earning 'Rookie of the Year' honors at the Vans Triple Crown Surfing, Cibilic didn't learn about his CT qualification until the Pipe Masters was well underway and his spot was finally formalized.
"I came into the start, just like grinding out the ten thousands and all of a sudden I'm here, so I'm over the moon. It's unbelievable," Cibilic said upon getting the news that he was CT bound in 2020.
New Faces On The 2020 Championship Tour
- Isabella Nichols (AUS): Rookie
- Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN): Rookie
- Sage Erickson (USA): Formerly on the Championship Tour 2012 - 2018
- Morgan Cibilic (AUS): Rookie
- Matthew McGillivray (ZAF): Rookie
- Jack Robinson (AUS): Rookie
- Frederico Morais (PRT): Formerly on the Championship Tour 2017- 2018
- Alex Ribeiro (BRA): Formerly on the Championship Tour 2016
- Miguel Pupo (BRA): Formerly on the Championship Tour 2011 - 2017
- Ethan Ewing (AUS): Formerly on the Championship Tour 2017
- Connor O'Leary (AUS): Formerly on the Championship Tour 2017 - 2018