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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Wed, 20 December 2017

In huge news for South African surfing, Mikey February has been announced as the first replacement for the WSL Championship Tour next year. Spike unpacks what this means.

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TURN FOR THE BETTER: Mikey February is bascially the reserve wildcard. Photo WSL / Keoki

First replacement is basically a "runner-up wildcard" by virtue of his 11th place on the Qualifying Series after you remove surfers who double qualified via the CT. An agonising 350 points separates MFeb from 10th placed Patrick Guduaskas (USA).

But at least it means that should any surfer in the top 34 be unable to surf any CT event for any reason, February is the first person to be invited (over and above the complicated and varied system that finds local wildcards and other trials that may be run to choose wildcards). And if someone drops out of the whole tour, MFeb moves in. He will still have to surf the QS to qualify but being first replacement is huge from a sponsorship and exposure perspective - and it puts him right up there.

Also, consider that last place on the CT earns you US10,000, a tidy contribution to the hellish travel schedule he is likely to have next year. Also consider rumours that Mick Fanning has spoken about retiring after Bells Beach, so its not unreasonable to think that we might see MFeb on tour as early as Margaret River in April.

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NEW TRICKS: Mick Fanning is rumoured to be retiring after Bells Beach. Photo WSL / Rowland

"This is great news for Mikey February," says Ryan Payne, head of Surfing at Accelerate Sport. "He should, going on history, get about five starts. Slater always misses Rio due to 'injury' so that's one!"

"Being the #1 replacement is a really big deal," says Paul Botha, Media Manager of WSL Africa, "Nat Young got to compete in 9 of 11 events this year as the replacement! Points at CT events don’t count for QS, but in a turnaround 2-3 years ago, points earned at CT events do count on CT rankings for replacements and wildcards. Sebastian Ziets and Stuart Kennedy qualified for the CT that way! Exciting times for MFeb and SA surfing!"

Payne did some research and found that Australian Mitch Coleborn got four CT starts in 2014 and Brazilian Alejo Muniz got five starts in 2015.

While points on the CT by the replacement don't count towards the QS, marginal calls on the QS might swing his way from judges, and sponsors will no doubt up their game due to his hugely elevated profile at CT events, plus the bonus that he gets to bank CT points if he shines.


EXIT STAGE RIGHT: Pipeline remains the jewel in the crown of the WSL CT. Photo WSL

The 2017 season has been quite historic, with John John Florence (HAW) and Tyler Wright (AUS) both defending maiden world surfing crowns to become two-time WSL Champions.

And 2018 promises to be a big one for surfing, with the first ever CT event earmarked for the wave pool at Surf Ranch, Indonesia replacing Fiji, the women joining the men at J-Bay, as well as the removal of Cascais, Portugal, and Trestles, USA.

There are 34 surfers made up of 22 from the CT, 10 from the QS and two wildcards. Brazilians dominate the group (11), with five coming up from the QS and one from the wildcards. The next largest group comprises people who talk in an American accent: four Hawaiians and six from the USA. In terms of major groupings, Australia is the last, with eight surfers in the mix for 2018. Bringing up the rear is one South African, a Tahitian and a Portuguese.

Interestingly, on the women's tour, Aussies dominate. There are six, with only one Brazilian. There are eight from the USA and Hawaii (four each), with one New Zealander, and a French woman.

The 2018 elite women’s Championship Tour (CT) will be contested by the WSL Top 17, comprised of the top 10 from the 2017 CT, the top six from the 2017 QS and one wildcard. Bianca Buitendag is the fourth replacement surfer behind Macy Callaghan (AUS), Pauline Ado (FRA) and Dimity Stoyle (AUS).

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WRIGHT AGAIN: Tyler Wright, like John John, defended a maiden world title. Photo WSL / Poullenot

2017 Top 22 Men's CT
John John Florence (HAW)
Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Julian Wilson (AUS)
Jordy Smith (ZAF)
Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Owen Wright (AUS)
Kolohe Andino (USA)
Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Filipe Toledo (BRA)
Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Mick Fanning (AUS)
Connor O’Leary (AUS)
Frederico Morais (PRT)
Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Michel Bourez (PYF)
Conner Coffin (USA)
Joan Duru (FRA)
Italo Ferreira (BRA)

2017 Top 10 QS (minus qualifiers from CT)
Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Tomas Hermes (BRA)
Yago Dora (BRA)
Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Keanu Asing (HAW)
Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Patrick Gudauskas (USA)

WSL Wildcards: Kelly Slater (USA) and Ian Gouveia (BRA)

CT Men’s Replacement Surfers
Michael February (ZAF)
Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)

2017 Top 10 Women's CT
Tyler Wright (AUS)
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
Courtney Conlogue (USA)
Carissa Moore (HAW)
Lakey Peterson (USA)
Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)
Sage Erickson (USA)
Johanne Defay (FRA)
Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW)

2017 Top 6 QS (minus CT qualifiers)
Silvana Lima (BRA)
Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Coco Ho (HAW)
Caroline Marks (USA)
Keely Andrew (AUS)
Paige Hareb (NZL)

WSL Wildcard: Malia Manuel (HAW)

CT Women’s Replacement Surfers
Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Pauline Ado (FRA)
Dimity Stoyle (AUS)
Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)

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