With newfound support for each other, the Australians have been on a tear on the Challenger Series. In the Men's, Connor O'Leary, Liam O'Brien, and Callum Robson all sit inside the top 12, the CT qualification cut off. Jackson Baker, Jordan Lawler, and Dylan Moffat are also loitering with intent just outside the bubble.
In the Women's, India Robinson is ranked No. 4, courtesy of her runner-up finish at the ROXY Pro France, while Molly Picklum, Macy Callaghan, and Dimity Stoyle remain just outside the all-important top 6 ranking spots.
"The big difference is that we have all stuck together and made a pact to support all the Aussies on the Challenger Series," said Baker, who made the Final in Portugal and jumped into CT qualification reckoning. "We've seen the Brazilians do it on Tour and it felt like we'd been lacking that group mentality over the last few years."
The collective spirit has been helped by the new regional qualification process on the Challenger Series. That sees each region around the world guaranteed a certain number of entrants, with Australasia having 10 men and six women involved in the first three Challenger Series events. As that group traveled through the USA and Europe, a camaraderie developed.
A changing demographic has also made a difference. Robson, O'Brien, Moffat, Robinson, and Callaghan are all either teenagers or have just turned 20. That young group of exciting, new talent has been shepherded by more experienced surfers like O'Leary, Wade Carmichael, and Dimity Stoyle.
"I think one of the biggest factors is that we are having fun," says O'Leary, whose victory in the Quiksilver Pro France saw him jump 94 spots on the Challenger Series rankings. "We've decided to back each other, but also really enjoy our time on the road. We also know that many Aussies haven't been able to travel anywhere, so we aren't taking this experience for granted."
Throughout the Europe leg, the Australians weren't hard to spot. Whether it was playing touch football on the beach, cheering every wave of the gang in the athlete's area, or having a few beers after a big win, the positive energy was inescapable.
"It's been an almost unspoken thing, that no matter how we are doing personally, we still make sure to come to the beach and support each other," continued Baker. "But ultimately, it is all about results, and across the events someone has always stepped up. We all want to make the CT, and if we can have as many of this crew battling the big guns next year, the better it will be for all of us. Bring it on."