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Tue, 19 December 2017

Will Mikey February be given a wildcard to the WSL Championship Tour next year after two double qualifications at Pipeline today? Spike ruminates about the possibilities.


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EVENING OF THE DAWN: This iconic shot of Mikey was captured by J-Bay photog Robbie Irlam


The machinations of results and rankings in the World Surf League is a bewildering thing. But eventually, once you've read up about it, looked at the results of the past year, frequently visited and revisited the rankings pages at worldsurfleague.com, studied the musings of the surf media, and asked your mates who follow this stuff, you will know a bit about this stuff, or will you?

At one stage, it looked like Mikey Feb could be heading to the CT next year if the next in line on the QS was anything to go by. It works like this: there are 34 surfers on the men's CT. This comprises the top 22 plus the 10 highest placed surfers in the Qualifying Series (QS) plus two wildcards.

You will note 'highest placed' is not the top 10, because CT surfers can enter QS events. This opens up the weird, confusing phenomenon of some surfers "double-qualifying" through the CT and the QS. Those who qualify via the CT drop off the QS. The next in line moves up. In this case, American Kanoa Igarashi and Brazilian Italo Ferreira qualified by climbing into the top 22 rankings of the CT via a 3rd and 5th place at Pipeline respectively, the latter sneaking in at No 22.

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VIBESRGOOD: There is no doubt what Mikey Febuary would bring to the CT in 2018. Photo WSL


This means that the top 10 in the QS suddenly become more porous than a leaky sieve. Everyone shifts up two spots, making way for Brazil's Michael Rodrigues and Californian Patrick Gudauskas. Next in line is literally Michael February. This got me, and others, quite excited.

Next up are the two wildcards decided by the WSL Commissioner's office. There are two, an injury wildcard for a CT surfer who lost qualification due to injury. The other usually goes to somebody who is also injured, but there appears to be a more discretionary element to this one. The first wildcard will go to Kelly Slater, who broke his foot at J-Bay and missed four events (plus another from an earlier injury). Brazilians Caio Ibelli and Ferreira missed one and three respectively, but won't be considered because they are through via the top 22 (#18 and #22 respectively).

The second wildcard will go to the #23 on the CT rankings, not the #11 on the QSSo who gets the other wildcard? My hopes were up that it would be next in line on the QS, which is February. However, Media Manager for the WSL in Africa Paul Botha said "the second wildcard will go to the #23 on the CT rankings, not the #11 on the QS".

However, what happens if Slater turns down his wildcard? You have to think that an elusive 12th world title is not an option at the tender old age of 45. Does this mean there is a small window of possibility for MFeb? Botha promised to "check with the Commissioner’s office" but was "pretty sure" that the best MFeb could hope for is an invite to a few 2018 events as an occasional CT wildcard.

He also mentioned that "with Italo qualifying via the CT, it makes those 350 points Mfeb couldn’t find in 7 contests between the US Open and Sunset Beach even more heart-breaking".

If the Commissioner has any flexibility with this decision, let us hope he makes the right choice. They really don't need any more Aussies or Brazilians on the tour. They need a Saffa. Two guys from Cape Town on the WSL Championship Tour? Who would have thought? We'll know in the next day or so.

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