With the mid-season relegation of the bottom-ranked 13 surfers on the World Tour just three events away, plenty of the top Aussie dogs are scrambling to boost their ratings points -- fast.
The quickest (literally) way to do that is to sign up for the Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro PRIME at Trestles, just two days after the waiting period for the current World Tour stop in Brazil ends. So Owen Wright, Tom Whitaker, Dean Morrison, Blake Thorton, Chris Davidson, Luke Munro, and Adrian Buchan -- amongst others -- have all booked their tickets.
Currently, the Aussies are dominating the lower end of the World Tour rankings, with five of nine tied at 30 and four of seven tied at 39. Wright and Whitaker fair a hair better at 23, but with the large amount of ratings points for next year's unified ranking up for grabs between the last three World Tour events and three up-coming PRIME events, everyone expects major movements before the cut.
"The way I see it, why not do a PRIME straight after Brazil," says Wright. "We don't have another [World Tour event] for two months, which is a massive break. And Lowers is one of the best high-performance waves around. I can't wait to surf it!"
Thorton agrees: "With the points the way they are at the moment, one good result will turn your season around."
The structure of the 2010 season -- which the ASP admits is a transition year to the new One World Ranking -- has been in place for months, but as the cut-off draws closer, some grumbling can be heard. Freddy Patacchia openly questioned his own support of the idea on InSurfNews.com this week, and Wright agrees.
"I think the cut back is pretty nasty since we only get five events to show our surfing," he says. "It's harsh because your strongest events might be in the second half of the year."
He has a point. What about guys like Andy Irons and Mick Campbell, who historically do well in large, throaty kegs? The Quik Pro was small and Bells ... what Bells? Brazil isn't exactly known for Peniche-style heaving beach break, and J-Bay is perfect and hollow but not gnarly and intimidating. That leaves only Teahupoo for the hellmen -- and that's if the Southern Ocean fires up during the new waiting period in late August.
But look on the bright side: the increased pressure of the cut-off is sure to equal increased competition in the water. Surfers on tour might turn into clans of traveling comrades, but the scramble for points is going to bring out the mongrel in everyone.
"A bit more aggression might be shown in heats, which is good I think," says Thorton. Whether it's good for him remains to be seen, but it will definitely be good for surf fans on the beach and tuning in for Trestles.