Ezekiel Lau is setting quite a precedent when it comes to late-season drama. From last season’s qualification bid that required some third-party results from Kanoa Igarashi at Pipeline, to this year’s jump from 105th place all the way up to ninth in just two Qualifying Series contests, Lau has put himself in position to surf a sophomore season on the Championship Tour.
With the HIC Pro as the official kickoff party to the Triple Crown of Surfing, it brings a mix of competitors with various goals to Sunset Beach. After winning a QS 10,000 event in Cascais, Lau’s goal at the HIC Pro was to continue adding points to his ledger and move into the QS top 10.
Mission accomplished as he outmaneuvered the 112-surfer field to earn the top prize on his home island of Oahu. It was an impressive “who’s who” of Hawaii and QS stars in the later rounds, but Lau was the only CT regular among the notables. In the final heat, he had to beat defending champion Mason Ho, Maui’s Tanner Hendrickson and QS heavyweight Wade Carmichael.
Wins in back-to-back QS contests has pulled Lau from an extremely precarious position into one of strength. He’s almost certainly going to wind up below the cut line in the CT rankings, needing to reach the final heat at Pipeline to have any chance of moving into the top 22. But now in ninth place on the QS, he has the Hawaiian Pro and World Cup to add some additional sizable numbers to his total.
Getting to this point really only on the merits of two results benefits him greatly, since he’ll be removing minimal point totals from his ranking and adding much more substantial results, since both upcoming events are QS 10,000 contests.
Things currently look good for both Lau and Keanu Asing to qualify through the QS, though Asing should probably be a bit more nervous. Despite having the higher ranking in sixth place overall, Asing’s lowest point totals are higher than Lau’s. So he has less room to improve and will need better results to do so. With so many points up for grabs, it’s possible that a few new names leap into the top 10 and make things tough on Asing, who fell off the CT after last season.
But as of right now, John John Florence, Sebastian Zietz, Asing and Lau would all be on the 2018 tour. A good Triple Crown from Josh Moniz (currently 37th on QS) could get him in the mix, as well.
Those circumstances will begin to take shape a week from today as the Hawaiian Pro opens on Nov. 12. Much of the time, a story line we hadn’t even anticipated comes to light at the Triple Crown. That’s how Zietz made his way on to the CT in 2012 and how some other surfers have moved up enough in the rankings to reach the dream tour as full-time participants.
Winning two contests in a row gives Lau a great chance at finishing off the job, but there’s no lack of talent hoping to leap frog the field on Oahu. The North Shore takes center stage for the winter and we have a front row seat.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.