"Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance," is the famous quote, and one that a clutch of Challenger Series veterans are hoping is true.
Coming into the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Haleiwa Challenger, this quartet will be coming up against a collective, let's call them a Tik-Tok, of next-generation stars like Mateus Herdy, Joao Chianca and Callum Robson -- all of whom won't be eligible to buy a beer at Haleiwa Joe's if they qualify.
We've written recently about Bourez, who at 35, is the oldest surfer in the top 20. The Tahitian's Final in France rocketed him up the Challenger Series Rankings. There is no question that the competitive fire burns as bright as it did when he made his CT debut in 2009. Any young cubs will be wise to avoid prodding the bear if Haleiwa is firing.
Equally determined, and equally in form, is 30-year-old Young. Carrying 5,000 points from a win at Anchor Point in 2020 and a semifinal in Portugal (both in solid right-hand points) seems him as close to the CT as he's been since dropped off a six-year stint in 2017. With Haleiwa to come, you'd expect the Santa Cruz local's lethal backhand to get him over the line.
O'Leary, a relative whippersnapper at just 28, enters the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Haleiwa Challenger in the top 10 on the Challenger Series ratings, courtesy of his win in the Quik Pro France. Like Young, the Australian goofy-footer's backhand is also lethal, and with three years of CT experience, he should have what it takes to seal the deal.
Munoz however will be more nervous heading into Hawaii. The Costa Rican started competing on the QS in 2012, and came close to qualification in 2014 and 2019. However, back-to-back Quarterfinals in Portugal and France have seen the 31-year-old explosive natural-footer yet again on the cusp. Could this be the year that his ten-year fight for the dream is finally over? Let's hope so for one of the most smiley, and popular, surfers on Tour.
However, up against the vault of experience is a group of kids who will be hoping that, as the saying goes, age is a very high price to pay for maturity. For Brazilians like Herdy and Chianca and and the 20-year-old Aussie Robson, their youth is a strength, not a weakness.
Herdy has been on somewhat of a rollercoaster; making the Final in Mexico CT as a wildcard, then being dumped unceremoniously in the early rounds of the US Open and MEO Vissla Pro. However, a Semifinal in France, featuring incredible aerial surfing and a jump of 50 ranking places, proved just how explosive a talent the 20-year-old is. This kid seems destined for the CT.
Compatriot Chianca has been more consistent. Carrying a second at the Volcom Pipe Pro from 2020, two 9th finishes in Europe has him buried deep in the top 12 on the Challenger Series. With a strong rail game and proven Hawaiian pedigree, he'll be one to watch at Haleiwa.
That last statement could also apply to Robson. The Australian has seemingly arrived from nowhere, fully-formed and unshakeable. Determined and with confidence based on a mix of power surfing and intense professionalism, Robson has quietly snuck into the CT mix. Again Hawaii's power will suit his surfing, and further upsets await.
They say, of course, that youth is wasted on the young, but as 80 surfers vie for just 12 CT spots, it could come down to the age-old match-up of youth vs experience. Who are you backing?
Tune into the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Haleiwa Challenger LIVE from the North Shore of Oahu from November 26 - December 7 to see who will make the cut for the 2022 Championship Tour.