The US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach presented by Shiseido is here and for those hungry Qualifying Series surfers, it means it's time to seriously start making a charge to score a spot on the 2022 Championship Tour.
The first of four events on the Challenger Series, the top ten men and top six women after the four events will secure a place on next year's CT when it's all done and dusted. There are 10,000 points on the table for first-place finishers.
For all the Challenger Series events, the top seeds are the CT surfers from 2021, the majority of whom missed the cut. Next comes the top QS-rated surfers from each of the international regions. Here we take a look at the top QS seeds from around the world and assess their chances of fighting their way to the big leagues:
The San Clemente local and 2018 WSL World Junior Champ has been consistent rather than dynamic on the QS over the last two years. She did however just make the Final at the WRV Outer Banks Pro pres by Pacifico this month, and rapid improvement means she seems ready to make the jump into the big leagues after a stellar junior career.
The veteran leads the American charge after a successful last two years. He had a massive result in Morocco, winning the inaugural Pro Taghazout Bay in 2020, and recently claimed another QS victory at the Jack's Surfboards Pro. The Santa Cruz goofy-footer has unfinished business after dropping off the CT in 2017 and looks ready to slay some giants.
The Australian just missed out on the CT in 2019 on the back of a breakthrough runner-up finish at the Vans US Open of Surfing. This year he showed his elite class by making the Semifinals at the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona event surfing as a wildcard. The Burleigh local is clearly CT ready, and returning to the venue of his best QS career result should be a bonus.
Molly Picklum won two QS events on the Australian leg earlier this year, proving why many believe she is the best of the current crop of Australian junior stars. "Pickles" as she is known surfs with both power and progression, and at just 18, has plenty of room for improvement. Huntington might prove that her ascent to the CT is inevitable.
French veteran Pauline Ado is as committed to professional surfing now as when she made her debut on the CT back in 2011. "Popo" has been schooling the next generation of European surfers on the QS over the last few years, and after competing in the Olympics, is determined to claw her way back to the top.
The Portuguese powerhouse dominated the spring leg of the European QS, including a win at the Santa Cruz Pro. Incredibly experienced, yet still only 26, he is deadly in beachbreaks and scored a third-place finish in Morocco in 2020. He's come close to qualifying before, but you sense the Challenger Series, with the next event at home in Portugal, could be his best shot so far.
Straight out of Hanalei, Kauia, Gabriela Bryan has been consistent in her limited experience on the QS and already had a taste of CT action when she won the trials at the Surf Ranch in 2017 and finished 9th in the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe earlier this summer. She has the power and technique that looks CT-ready.
The goofy-footer leads the Brazilian QS charge on the back of his win at the Volcom Pipe Pro. The former CT surfer might be happier packing huge barrels than perfecting the Huntington Hop, but his experience and natural talent make him dangerous.
Shun Murakami is the highest-ranked Asian, and the diminutive Japanese surfer has won QS events in each of the last two years.
Japanese-born, Hawaiian-raised Mahina Maeda has been knocking on the CT door since 2015 and looks ready to finally make the big step.
The US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach presented by Shiseido runs between September 20 - 26, and will be streamed live on WorldSurfLeague.com.