It's not easy being a World Tour wildcard. The thing about occupying the last slot is that you surf against number one in the first round. At the Rip Curl Search, it means you get your feet wet while Kelly Slater's going for his 11th world title. The upside? You can make a name for yourself very quickly if you take down an icon.
Dillon Perillo and Dean Brady, two of Rip Curl's young freesurfing stars, will get wildcards to the Rip Curl Search in San Francisco.
"I'm excited to be competing in the Search for the second year in a row," said Perillo, "especially since this year it's in California, my home state, which makes me even more excited to surf my hardest and try to take down a few of the world's best surfers."
But while Perillo may feel the California love, he is far from an Ocean Beach local. Rip Curl will not be holding any trials for The Search San Francisco. Most events save one slot for a relative local, especially when a World Tour event pulls into town for the first time. Rip Curl held a trial in Puerto Rico in 2010. Teahupoo and Bells have trials. Quik had two of them in New York. Even the Volcom Pipe Pro is a trial for the Billabong Pipe Masters.
"It would have been cool to see some local guy get a shot, or even for us to watch our local guys compete in a trials. There are a couple guys here who surf well and do the kind of new-age turns that guys on tour do, surfers like Dom Spinardi, Andy Olive, and a bunch of older guys that charge when it's big. But overall, most of the surfers here are 30 and over. It's not a youthful hotbed," says George Nixon, a buyer for Aqua Surf Shop in the Outer Sunset District.
Ocean Beach locals would have been stoked to see some other NorCal rippers win a trial and surf the main event, even if they weren't from San Fran proper. Nixon explains that San Francisco and Santa Cruz are somewhat of an interdependent surfing community. The city guys will try to find protected breaks to the south, while Santa Cruz surfers will visit Ocean Beach to get that open ocean beachbreak size and power. As the use of jetskis has been banned, local knowledge could be a factor.
But overall, Nixon says that the SF surf community as a whole is pretty excited to see the Tour come to their city. A spokesperson from Rip Curl said there has been no backlash on the issue.
Dean Brady, 23, of Noosa Head, gets Slater first round. Slater has fallen to such surfers before. It stands to reason that if you are always surfing against wildcards, your losses are going to come against wildcards. Think Sean Holmes at J-Bay, Julian Wilson at Snapper Rocks, or Owen Wright at Bells.
Should Slater lose in the first round, there is still little standing between him and his 11th title besides Perillo, the skinny 21-year-old from Malibu. Perrillo could get Slater in the second round and be the potential spoiler (or at least the potential delayer.) Last year, as a wildcard at the Search Puerto Rico, Perillo lost to Slater, who went on to claim his 10th title.
If Slater finishes in ninth place or better, he will clinch. The Rip Curl Search Pro runs Nov 1-12.