The 2014 World Tour Mystery

 Damien Hobgood, on the cusp of something great. Photo: Corey Wilson

The 2013 World Title will be decided at the forthcoming Billabong Pipeline Masters. Kelly Slater will employ his witchcraft to win, or Mick fanning will face-palm the king with a slab of focus, and one will be declared champ. We’ve talked about it before and we’ll most certainly be talking about it again. Yet on the dark side of that same exact street, another race is burning like wildfire. It’s the race for qualification.

As the ASP’s old algorithm works, a new year on the WCT is comprised of the top 22 ranked heads from the year prior and the top 10 faces from the Qualifying Series. Sounds simple, right? Like turning water into ice? But somewhere, scribed in limestone at the ASP’s Huntington Beach office, it says, “Nothing can be simple ever.”

Once a surfer arrives on the ‘CT, they are given two chances to stay put. Option 1 is to stay in the good graces of that top 22 — the gentlemen’s route, one might say. Or they can re-qualify through the Qualification Series. And whenever a WCT surfer chooses to enter a ‘QS event, they are treated to a carpet of the purest McIntosh apple red. With posh seeding and World Tour glimmer in their eyes, they bully the poor souls on the ‘QS. It’s a system built for elitists; f—ck the 99%. That is why, with one event left, things are complicated.

Here’s a look at the top 10 surfers on the qualifying series:
1: Adam Melling (AUS)
2: Kolohe Andino (USA)
3: Alejo Muniz (BRA)
4: Jadson Andre (BRA)
5: Mitch Crews (AUS)
6: Aritz Aranburu (EUK)
7: Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
8: Travis Logie (ZAF)
9: Dion Atkinson (AUS)
10: Mitchel Coleborn (AUS)
And here’s a poke at the WCT bubble:
18: Jeremy Florez
19: Fredrick Patacchia
20: Matt Wilkinson
21: Bede Durbridge
22: Brett Simpson
23: Travis Logie
24: Miguel Pupo
25: Adam Melling
26: Kolohe Andino
27: Patrick Gudauskas
28: Damien Hobgood, Alejo Muniz

Four names appear twice. Adam Melling, Kolohe Andino, Travis Logie and Alejo Muniz will remain on the ‘CT next year by virtue of the ‘QS. Fair enough, but things get messy in the back of the pack. Dion Atkinson and Mitch Coleborn are so close they can taste it (probably tastes like suds), but now they are in fate’s hands. The Billabong Pipeline Masters, which may start on Sunday, could change the world for the two Australians. If Matt Wilkinson, Bede Durbridge or Brett Simpson don’t wind up within the ‘CT’s top 22, they’ll snatch a spot from the ‘QS and effectively show Mitch the door. Dion’s out too, in the case that two of them fail to crack the 22. Their fingers are so tightly crossed. Things get messy when you factor in more surfers looking to re-qualify. There are five in particular that bring chaos to the confusion.

Miguel Pupo needs a 13th place to meet the current minimum cutoff.

Patrick Gudauskas needs a Quarterfinals result to finish within the ASP Top 22, while a 9th could see him through on the ‘QS.

Damien Hobgood needs a 5th or better to qualify in the Top 22, but a 9th or better could qualify him through the ‘QS.

Dusty Payne needs to win the Billabong Pipe Masters to qualify through the ‘CT. Dusty could qualify through the ASP World Ranking, but currently needs a minimum 9th place result.

Yadin Nicol could qualify via a 2nd place finish or better at the Billabong Pipe Masters.

What a grand mess, and an even grander mystery. Who might keep the dream alive? Who is going to fade away? And what about poor old Mitch and Dion? The waves are meant to be perfectly terrifying on Sunday and there are too many good reasons to watch Pipe. Speaking of which, isn’t there something of a title race going on? –Brendan Buckley

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