The thing with the WQS is, it's dirty. It's filthy dirty.
It's kinda like a cross between Romford greyhound races, where the favourite comes last and the 250-1 outsider romps home, and the Barclay's Premiership, where anyone can beat anyone on a weekly basis.
It's cruel, it's random. It's hard to call.
Dudes will be on fire, then inexplicably won't make a heat the rest of the year. There's hardly any rhyme or reason, which actually kinda makes it way more watchable than the WCT. Sort of.
Here is SE.com's round of the the Euro princesses (with our assessment of their chance of qualifying in the next few years)
Joan Duru, 25: MAY HAVE MISSED THE BUS
Strengths: Probably the most natural and pleasing-on-the-eye surfer in Europe, an unofficial title he took over from Jonathan Gonzalez. Joan has got a deadly backhand, charges, is an incredible tuberider and surfs the open face with creative flair.
Weaknesses: Not aggressive enough in heats, lacking that steely resolve. Seems to surf within himself unless/until he makes a few rounds.
We’re kind of bored of harping on about it, but Joan finished an excrutiating equal 15th (on equal points with Blake Thornton, who qualified) in 2009. At the time, it seemed like he’d get back in real soon, but that seems like an awfully long time ago now...
Joan hasn’t yet found the consistency to churn out 7 good results in the same season
. It can also seem like a bit of an effort for him to do the Tour." reckoned former coach Didier Piter.
Up until recently, Joan was part of travelling trio with Martin and Lacomare (French Connexion), but now does the much of tour with better half Maud le Car. Kind of shy and not a big fan of the scene, that might suit him and help nudge his results up where his freesurfing screams they should be. Or not.
MARC LACOMARE, 24: GREAT CHANCE
Strengths: Consistency, power, resources. Marco can put a shift in in pretty much any kind of surf, from slop to kegs.
Weaknesses: Can seem a bit mechanical or over-coached compared with Joan. Not neccessarily a bad thing on the WQS, but he could get exposed on the WCT or whatever the fuck it's called when/if he ever gets there.
It was a bit of a slap in the face getting so close to qualifying last year
, but it showed my surfing is where it needs be. It’s just made me even more fired up for this year," reflected Marco on his close but no cigar 2013 season - his first full-time on the grind.
Marco has been groomed for qualification for a number of years and has had everything you could possibly want in order to get there in his corner. He knuckled down in a big way for his 2013 run, something that helped channel his focus and end up just two spots away from the WCT. However, he could do with ignoring the conspiracy theorists and learning from close losses...
Now let’s see if we can get through this whole text without mentioning Marco-Parko QPF2013... fuck!
[part title="Maxime Huscenot, Ramzi Boukhiam"]
MAXIME HUSCENOT, 22: FAIR TO SLIM CHANCE
Strengths: A precise, versatile surfer, with flourishes of extra rad.
Weaknesses: Could do with a bit more devil about him... less Federer more McEnroe.
For a long time Maxime was considered something of a dark horse, but now is more of just a horse. Having had a highly respectable junior career (including a World Title in 2012), he now needs to step up in the mens, come out of his shell and deliver. His repertoire has pretty much everything in abudance, as evidenced in his latest video edits, the next step would be to regain some of the ice cold heat strategy he showed as a grom.
No more Mr Nice Guy, lots more Mr Gnarly Cunt
To Draw in a Heat. “I’m feeling great about this season, I hope this is going to be my year" he said recently.
So do we.
RAMZI BOUKHIAM, 21: SLIM TO FAIR CHANCE
Strengths: Fierce backside, relishes competing.
Weaknesses: On his forehand he sometimes looks a bit... gangly.
Not that many Euros can say they’ve won a six-star as a teen, something that’s given Ramzi confidence that others have lacked historically. He has all the ingredients to make the qualification grade - except experience at some venues - and seeing Marco get close last year would have given him further relish for the task and self-belief, something he needs to draw upon to come back stronger from a silly Bali motorbike mishap that saw him out of the water for months this winter.
That belief in his own ability, combined with a fondness for surfing heats akin to a young Flores could be ideal combination to see the lad step up on to the tour and go mad.
Or, he could just disappear forever like Abdel El Harim.
[part title="Charles Martin, Vasco Ribeiro"]
CHARLES MARTIN, 24: GREAT CHANCE RIGHT NOW, THIS YEAR... IF HE CAN KEEP HIS SHIT TOGETHER
Strengths: Determination, spark, self-confidence. Loss of main sponsor a few years ago has seemed to helped his hunger. He also has a strong name... 'Charles Martin' sounds like an RAF Squadron Leader, or a head of a House of Lords sub committee on judicial reform.
Weaknesses: Inconsistency. Some surfs he looks like the best surfer in the world, others, can’t do a turn.
Another one of those well-rounded souls who can attack anything from waist high slop to grinding reefs, Charly seems to have evolved philosophically to a place where qualification doesn’t seem that improbable at all. Despite recent quasi-forays in Buddhist mantra, Charly does a good job of maintaining his heat-winning inner fire. Whether it be from needing the prize money, or from the myriad of global conspiracy theories spinning around his melon, more than his contemporaries, he seems to be able to switch on the anger in heats.
Form-wise, if he can stay on a roll that's seen him get a strong start to 2014, this is his year.
VASCO RIBEIRO, 19: DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH
Photo: Carlos Pinto
Weaknesses: Sometimes still looks like someone who grew too quickly.
It’s hard to believe Vasco is still a teenager, he’s been around for yonks. Groomed for greatness like Leo, his fate will be decided by his ability to keep pace with omnipotent new generation while out-foxing the old WQS warhorses. Making finals in open events at 14 has heaped pressure, as has being the heir apparent to superstar Tiago. But the rise of Von Rupp, Kikas and fellow ‘Geezers could help Vasco flower by more evenly spreading the expectations of a surf mad nation. Being recently dropped by Quik would've hurt,
it's now sink or swim time. Or make butter. Or something.
[part title="Frederico Morais, Leo Fioravanti, Nic von Rupp"]
FREDERICO MORAIS, 22: SLIM CHANCE
Photo: Carlos Pinto
Strengths: Carves, tubes, power.
Weaknesses: His forehand can seem laboured in weak surf.
One of those guys can seem to do better in heats than his form suggests, Triple Crown Rookie of the Year and a WCT heat win over Slater in Penchie in 2013 were decent feathers in Kikas’ cap.
Dog Marsh, Frederico’s coach/confidante reckons,
“He’s right there with his surfing, the kid’s on fire. He just needs to put a solid run together and anything can happen."
While beating Slater at Supertubos earned the sensational headlines, it was more of a case of Kelly fucking up than Kikas wildly ripping. Still, ability to perform in front of expectant Portugeezer crowds will do him no harm in the future, while any kind of competitve success on the North Shore is invalubale for confidence to draw upon at season’s end, when it’s needed most.
LEONARDO FIORAVANTI, 16: GREAT CHANCE
STRENGTHS: Groomed for greatness since a pipsqueak. More Hawaiian experience than some 30 year olds.
Kinda like Jeremy Flores 2.0, with better style and less emotional baggage, but has he got the winning ability? Very possibly. Leo has it all laid out in front of him. Talent, know-how, wherewithall, heavy backing from sponsors. A few years ago,
Chas Smith asked him on the beach at Pipe if he was the ‘next Kelly Slater’, to which he replied, “Yeah maybe."
This year, an amazing run of results has seem him rocket up to 29th, with 5 Primes to go.
NIC VON RUPP, 23: STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED AT SEA
Strengths: Barrels, positive attitude
Weaknesses: Small waves
Curiously enough, it’s Von Rupp’s recent explosion as a freesurfer that has facilitated a recent flourish in the lycra jersey. Having made a name for himself as a charger around the world through video clips and photos, early 2014 saw him make heats and climb up the ratings. Or could it just be that he swapped his German passport for Portuguese one? “I remember being at a comp in Brazil and losing it about a swell hitting Tahiti" admits Nic. “These days I’ve found a better balance there." A wordly individual who’s much less crew-centric than some other Euro pros his age, if he ever did get on the WCT, he could ruffle a few feathers in the juice.
Vincent Duviganac, 26, very slim chance
Jonathan Gonzalez, 33, very slim chance
Romain Cloitre, 25, very very slim chance
Adrien Toyon, 24, no chance
Hodei Collazo, 29, no chance
Gony Zubizarreta, 29, no chance