Two events down, two to go. The ROXY Pro France has kicked off and as the third stop of four on the Challenger Series, it's another crucial milestone for the 64 women surfers vying for just six of the 2022 CT places up for grabs.
Of all those surfers it is only Gabriela Bryan who can be confident of making travel plans for 2022. The Hawaiian has made Finals in both Huntington and Portugal, and carrying rating points from 2021 now has 21,000 points. She is well positioned to make the Big Leagues next season.
The natural-footer from Hanalei, Kauai, has impressed with a mix of power surfing and competitive smarts to take the Challenger Series by the scruff of the neck. While she has been disappointed to finish close-runs seconds in both events, the ever-smiling Bryan's amazing run has seen her with one foot in the door. And even though she has never surfed an event in France, she will go in as one of the Roxy Pro's favorites. After all, it was also her first trip to Portugal, and that worked out okay for the 20-year-old.
More of a surprise is Luana Silva, who beat Bryan in the dying seconds of the Final in Ericeira. That was a breakthrough result for the daughter of Brazilian surfers who raised her in the powerful waves of the North Shore of Oahu.
Having won three events on the Qualifying Series in her short career, the win in Portugal further solidified her CT credentials. With her rail-based surfing suited to the powerful beachbreaks of France and the final event at home Haleiwa, Lulu looks set to bring her fiery competitive passion and Hawaiian power surfing to the big leagues.
Speaking of Big Leagues, it is only Brisa Hennessy of the 2021 CT class that has been challenging the next-gen of Hawaiian surf stars. Carrying 6,500 points from the 2020 season, and with a Quarterfinal finish in Ericeira, the 2018 Rookie of the Year is well-placed to retain her CT status.
"A fifth in Portugal is a keeper result," Hennessy said. "I think consistency will be key in the Challenger Series. 2021 was a strange, and difficult time for me as for most people. Now it's just about performing in France, and making it count now for 2022."
Other surfers in the running with bank loads of CT experience are Pauline Ado and Coco Ho. The Frenchwoman Ado was on tour from 2011 to 2017 but has never given hope of making it back. A Semifinal finish in Portugal has put her in fourth on the Challenger Series, and with the Roxy Pro France on her home turf, she could cement a remarkable comeback on home soil.
For Ho, her US Open result put her back right into contention and on the cusp of making it back to what has been a decade on tour. A Round 1 loss in Portugal didn't help her cause, but Hossegor is almost a second home for the Hawaiian. She won her Round of 64 heat with ease on the opening day and with another three heat wins one of surfing's icons could be back wrangling with the best in 2022.
On the other end of the spectrum US Open winner Caitlin Simmers, Hawaiian phenom Bettylou Sakura Johnson, the impressive Alyssa Spencer, and the Japanese pair of Shino Matsuda and Sara Wakita are all teenagers in with a shot. The next-gen has come of age in the break from competition during the pandemic.
However, time is running out on the Challenger Series as the dream of claiming just one of six places on 2022 CT gets closer with every heat. The Roxy Pro France isn't the last chance saloon, but the time is now.