Hawaii men, women in stark contrast with 3 events left

With Carissa Moore’s victory in the Swatch Women’s Pro final, she leapt back ahead of Courtney Conlogue for the top spot on the Championship Tour rankings. Moore is seeking her third world title, hoping to continue her pattern of winning the crown every other year.

With Moore leading the charge, the group of Hawaii wahine on the world tour continues to be a major force. Not only is she the frontrunner for another title, but all five wahine currently on the circuit are in position to maintain their spots for next season. Both Kauai surfers, Tatiana Weston-Webb and Malia Manuel, sit in eighth and ninth place, respectively. Alessa Quizon and Coco Ho, though outside the top 10, would return through their Qualifying Series results.

The five women on tour was equal to what the men began this season with, but unfortunately, the same statement can’t be made looking ahead. Though the men’s tour has been anyone’s guess for most of 2015, only one of the five Hawaii surfers — John John Florence — would be guaranteed a spot in 2016. Even Florence is still on shaky ground as he sits in 18th place after a second-round exit at Lower Trestles.

After Keanu Asing and Dusty Payne joined the world tour this season, it was thought to be something of a resurgence having five Hawaii competitors. But Asing, Payne and the recently retired Freddy Patacchia, Jr. all sit below the cutline, while Sebastian Zietz is tied with Aussie Adam Melling for 22nd place and the final re-qualification spot.

Looking down to the QS ranks doesn’t create much more optimism. Maui’s Tanner Hendrickson shot up the rankings with a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, but he still remains on the wrong side of the cutline. He’ll need another big result and has to worry about all the capable surfers near his rung on the ladder jumping above him.

Payne showed last year that he doesn’t require much time to shoot up the leader board. He still has a chance to duplicate his run at the Triple Crown and earn his ticket that way, but his only major result all year was a semifinal finish at the Lowers Pro.

Ezekiel Lau could wind up with his best season to date, but he remains well off the pace for a world tour spot. Beyond Lau, nobody else is really on the horizon with a legitimate chance at adding their name to those of the elite.

So here we are on Sept. 20 and if the season ended today, only one Hawaii surfer would make it to next season’s Top 34. The five we currently have on tour is the most since the first half of the 2010 season that featured Andy Irons, Patacchia, Payne, Roy Powers and Kekoa Bacalso.

Dropping from that plethora back to a sole surfer would feel like a major loss not just for Hawaii, but for the tour, itself. The CT will already be losing one of its elder statesmen in Patacchia and to have just one competitor from the birth place of surfing would seem like an injustice. While Florence is certainly capable of handling the pressure that being the only Hawaii surfer could bring, he shouldn’t have to.

Zietz and Asing are right on the cut line and have a few more opportunities to secure their returns. Payne is a long shot, though that’s exactly how he headed into last winter. While things look down right now, hopefully this is just a passing shower before an epic rainbow emerges.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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