With one event to go in the 2021 Challenger Series season, it's tempting to envision how some of the prospective Championship Tour rookies will fair next season.
The top six athletes in the women's Challenger Series rankings will qualify, and while there's a bit of an idea forming about who they will be -- and with one, Hawaii's Gabriela Bryan, already locked in -- the race is so close that there's undoubtedly going to be a shake up after the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Haleiwa Challenger, which kicks off on November 26.
As mentioned, Bryan has clinched a spot, as has former CT surfer Brisa Hennessy who's atop the rankings with 21,500 points. In third place, California phenom Caitlin Simmers is in a very promising position with 17,200 points. But once we move down, the race really heats up.
In fourth position is Australia's India Robinson, with 13,300 points. That's only 2,300 points ahead of the Macy Callaghan, who's down in 12th place. Everyone between Callaghan, whose looking to get back onto the CT, and Robinson in fourth position has a score of between 11,000 and 12,500.
This season on the Challenger Series, we have seen that athletes can shoot up and down the rankings at each event -- for example, Connor O'Leary went from 94th to 6th with a win in France.
Haleiwa is the last chance surfers will have to qualify this season, so you know they are going to be giving it everything they've got; we're likely about to see some big swings on the women's leaderboard.
Take former CT surfer Coco Ho, who is a North Shore local. She's in 8th with 12,000 points. Many of the athletes currently on the qualification bubble have little or no experience in Hawaii, so Ho is already looking like a likely candidate to make a move even higher up the ladder.
Back to Callaghan, she's already spent two seasons on the Championship Tour. With all that heat experience coming up against a rankings front-loaded with young, inexperienced (but freakishly talented) surfers, she's another contender who could be considered as likely to qualify.
These are just a few examples of athletes who could shake things up. But the real kicker is how many Championship Tour athletes have signed up for this Challenger Series event. Among them is five-time World Champion and Digital Vans Triple Crown winner Carissa Moore.
All these top-level competitors could spoil the plans of potential qualifiers, whose dream may rise or fall on the luck of the heat draw, considering that the race is so narrow that one extra heat win could make the difference for many of them.
When you factor in how difficult and unique a wave Haleiwa is -- far more powerful and unpredictable than anything else on the CS or QS -- and it's clear the season is going to end with some dreams made and others brutally shaken.