Running For The Dream

_5DA1497_1Sunset Beach, where some will ascend to the WCT while others will be sentenced to another year on the WQS. Photo: Jimmicane

The 2014 WQS season started 319 days ago. At the Piping Hot Surf Festival (not kidding). A one star. Won by Nathan Hedge. There have been 32 events in 15 different countries with a total of *941 competitors since then. It’s been a long, eventful year and although I won’t say things like gruel or grind, I will say that gunning for qualification is an enormous challenge. “You literally drop everything in your life for something that has so many variables in it,” says Michael Dunphy, a toothy competitor from Virginia Beach who could be on tour in 2015 with a big result at Sunset.

But no matter how many contests in how many countries, none of it mattered until now. The Qualifying Series rankings morphs and contorts all year long, and it doesn’t really have a face until the end of the year. And now, there’s only one event left: the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach. The top 10 surfers from the 2014 WQS will qualify for the 2015 WCT, and there are still many men hoping to occupy one of those spots after pulling a bunny out of a hat and/or themselves out of a barrel on the Inside Bowl at Sunset.

So do you just sit back and dumbly watch it unfold with the ecstasy of ignorance, like you’re watching a goldfish race at that college bar you’re too old to go to but still do anyway? No. Those are fish. Stop betting on them. Go to the race track and bet on a horse like an adult. As far as the race for qualification goes, mull on this. If both tours were over today, the list of WQS qualifiers would consist of:

Matt Banting
Wiggolly Dantas
Adam Melling
Italo Ferreira
Jeremy Flores
Brett Simpson
Keanu Asing
Tomas Hermes
Matt Wilkinson
Jack Freestone

Filipe Toledo, Jadson Andre, Adriano De Souza and Julian Wilson would be on that list but are all currently qualified via the WCT ratings (top 22). Keep in mind that things can change after Pipe, so some of them might end up needing their ‘QS rank. On the contrary, Wilko, Melling, Jeremy and Simpo could re-qualify via the WCT with great success at Pipe and slots would then open up in that sacred top 10. Variables indeed, Dunphy.

To spray butane on your fire of confusion, there are still approximately 20 WQS warriors who could tango into the top 10 with a Semi or a Final result at Sunset. Along with Dunphy, Jesse Mendes, Dusty Payne, Willian Cardosa, Carlos Munoz, Timmy Reyes and Pat Gudauskas are some notable names in that crowd. And stranger things have happened — you ever seen Buffalo Bill surf Sunset Beach? They are siblings, like thunder and lightning.

So even though there’s only one event left, the WQS — like it’s been since day 1 — is still a piping hot mess. Anything can happen, and it’s impossible to single out one or two scenarios for you to focus on. So maybe you do just go to that goldfish bar. Call first and make sure they stream the webcast. —Brendan Buckley

*All I have to do is sign up for an event and I’m immediately ranked top 1000 in the world? Boom, Bren just stole everybody’s girlfriends.