- WSL / Laurent Masurel

In March 2020 the Qualifying Series (QS) was postponed due to Covid. Hardly a truly serious matter in a global pandemic, but for those surfers who'd had a great start, it was a bitter career pill to swallow. Almost a year on we check in with those frontrunners and see, if competition resumes, whether their CT qualifications chances still stack up.

Matt Banting
The Australian natural footer had put five years of uncertainty and injury behind him with a barnstorming start to 2020. A win at the Vissla Central Coast Pro, a runner-up at the Sydney Surf Pro, and an equal 5th at Surfest Newcastle Pro had him leading the QS until COVID struck.

Having had a taste of CT life in 2016, before a career-threatening pelvic injury intervened, he then looked fit and ready for a return. Since the competitive postponement his surfing, as showcased through a regular feed of clips of him surfing near his home of Port Macquarie, has shown no signs of decay. Smooth, explosive, and progressive if and when competition resumes you'd expect him to take his 2020 form back to the top.

Nat Young
Having dropped off the CT in 2017 after five years Nat Young's chances of a return were looking increasingly thin with each year on the QS. Yet in 2019 he stormed back into contention, winning back-to-back events and finishing in 23rd place.

He took that form and built on it in 2020. The 2013 Rookie of the Year won in Morocco, then backed that victory with consistent showings on the Australian leg. The interruption then was brutal, given how hard he'd worked to get back to the top. In the intervening 12 months he's been busy, and is due to have a baby with his long-time partner soon.

On the surf side a Mexican trip showed that the backside attack that helped to make him the World No. 10 was as deadly as ever. In the recent run of epic swell at Santa Cruz he's also shown he's still world-class whenever the wave quality can match his power. Competition return can't come quick enough for the 28-year-old.

Ramzi Boukhiam
The French-based Moroccan secured his first big QS win for almost a decade when he claimed the Oi Hang Loose Pro in Brazil at the start of 2020. Despite losing his long time sponsor, the year was shaping up brilliantly for the powerful goofyfooter who was also due to represent Morocco at the Tokyo Olympics.

Poor form on the Australian leg saw him drop down the rankings, but his surfing during the break has been mindblowing. Whether surfing in the French beachbreaks or backside on the Moroccan points, it's hard to think of a stickerless surfer who has shown more explosive or stylish rail surfing this past year. Competition is a different beast, but if he can maintain the levels shown in the last 12 months qualification is well within his grasp.

Liam O'Brien
The Burleigh local came from nowhere to finish as No. 24 on the QS rankings in 2019, mainly on the back of a Final in the US Open. His 2020 competitive start was solid, rather than spectacular but his consistency had him well placed in the qualifying spot before Covid hit.

In the interim, the 22-year-old known as LOB was a standout in the epic run of autumn swells that hit the Gold Coast. His efforts in the specialty Boost Mobile Pro on Stradbroke Island, where he finished runner-up, showed that he was CT ready. While he has more time on his side than those mentioned above, he too is desperate to get back into competition and rekindle the fire that had him on track for CT qualification.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 6: Liam O'Brien of Australia placing second in Heat 1 of Round 1 of the Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast on October 6, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Cestari/World Surf League via Getty Images)............... Liam O'Brien - WSL / Kelly Cestari
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