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07.11.04 - THE WINDS OF CHANGE?
Ex sarge, somewhere on the French freeway bound for Mother England,
Sunday November 7th, 2004.

IT was a bit of a nasty day in Florianopolis yesterday, a strong southerly change sweeping through and bumping the seas into a stormy mess right along the beautiful coastline of the State of Santa Catarina. The conditions led to the Nova Schin Festival WCT and its pending round two showdown being cancelled for the day. It will more than likely go down today around the headland and north over the hill at neighbouring Praia Mole beach, where the vast majority of the Top 45 are together interned at the Praia Mole Park Hotel, awaiting the continuing outcome of this critical tenth WCT of the 2004 season.

Toby Martin
Toby Martin needs to make at least a semi and a final in the remaining to events to qualify via the WCT ratings, but he is dry cement in the WQS ratings, and therefore back for 2005.

The scenic southern corner of Praia Mole is protected from winds blowing up from the South Atlantic, and the event's back-up tower, in contrast to its normal location towards the other end of the long stretch of sand, is handily located this year towards the sheltered end of the beach, Unpleasant as the howling winds were yesterday, they were perhaps heralding the critical ratings scenarios pending in this event that threaten to bring some sweeping changes to the Top 45 line-up for next year. Pro' surfing's upper echelons have rarely been packed with more possibilities for reshuffling as they are right now.

Armando Daltro
Brasil's Armando Daltro has to push the limits there in Brasil, as well as at Pipeline to make the WCT cut.

By this late stage of the season, the ratings are usually at a more cut and dried point, a solid portion of the 45 already knowing their fate, with usually just more than a handful of surfers generally situated in flexible positions, teetering each side of the critical cut-off points and ratings mark for the following season. The closeness of the jammed points spread currently separating the back end of the WCT ratings is basically unprecedented. Even more critically, many of the surfers who find themselves in precarious ratings positions are not covered by the insurance of having secured double qualifying through the WQS tour. Mind you, we still have two highly rated 'QS events to go yet, in Haleiwa and Sunset.

Luke Hitchings
Luke Hitchings is again looking like coming down to Pipeline needing a BIG result. The stylish and talented surfer SHOULD be at the other end of the ratings. If only he believed he was worthy of that.

Only about seven WCT surfers sit appearing reasonably safe in the presently top 15-rated WQS, leaving a similar number of new faces poised to step up from the qualifying tour and into the big time. That situation is a big contrast to last season when we had only three new faces move into the 2004 line-up in Bruce Irons, Eric Ribiere and Raoni Monteiro. With the injured demise of Floridian Shea Lopez, we also then saw Victorian Troy Brooks move through as what has eventuated as a season-long replacement, but next season is potentially looking like one of much broader influx.

Victor Ribas
Victor Ribas certainly had balls of steel at La Nord on the last day of the Quiky Pro France, and we'd love to see more of the same from him at Pipe'.

Because of the incredibly tight points spread in the back half of the ratings, the possibilities in trying to predict the names, points and ratings is the greyest it has ever been. The ASP WCT ratings system is quite complicated and tedious in terms of mathematical calculations, and in attempting to see the reality through the jumble of numbers, the surfers regularly turn to the association's statistician and tabulator Al Hunt, but with a mere thousand points separating Pat O'Connell in 20th position, and Armando Daltro in 43rd spot, even Fatty Al (as we affectionately call him), is a little guarded on the possibilities right now.

"I consider that this year is harder than any before to predict who is safe and who is not" said Al. "Nearly everyone is carrying 33rds as throwaways, even up into the Top 16. Guys like Sunny Garcia in 16th and on 4428 points, have three 33rds amidst their counting top eight results. I have been calling a 4500 cut-off, which still might look okay, but I think it may end up being too high".

Beau Emerton
Beau Emerton

The WCT ratings cut-off point is slot number 27, where Brasileiro Victor Ribas currently sits on 3888 points. For him to come up to Al's assessed 4500 cut-off mark, he needs dual ninths or better from this event and the capping Rip Curl Pipeline Masters next month in Hawaii. With all due respect to Rio's veteran goofy, a ninth is entirely feasible for him there in Florianopolis, but he'll have to be lifting the bar appreciably for a ninth at Pipeline, and he's not the only one. It is within him, as it is within them all, if they want to reach down inside, deep and bold enough. The intimidating colosseum that is Pipeline will remain the challenge of challenges for the vast majority of the Top 45. For some it will end up a do or die situation in terms of saving their careers. It's as heavy as it gets.

Bruce Irons
Bruce Irons

"The problem is that all the guys sitting from 16th to 27th, except Lee Winkler and Richie Lovett, have a great chance of improving their scores because they have 33rds to replace", continued Al. "Overall, I consider that unless one of the low-rated guys does a Bruce Irons and makes a final, the positions will remain fairly static and most of the guys will add around 300 to 400 points to their current ratings tallies. One ting for sure though, no one can consider themselves out for sure just now, except the ones with less than 3200 points. They would need two finals, or a semi' and a final."

Keiren Perrow
Never under-estimate Kieren Perrow. He may be wallowing down the rear end of the ratings right now, but he's already won his round one heat in Floripa, and is aiming no where but the top. He is obviously also well capable in Hawaii.

Sitting below 3200 points you'd be surprised to find the names of great surfers like Kieren Perrow, Luke Hitchings, Armando Daltro, Toby Martin, Beau Emerton, and Eric Ribiere. Being members of the Top 45, any of those guys must be considered capable of making a final or semi-finals, but two in a row is the actual challenge. Of those, gung-ho chargers like Perrow, Hitchings and Emerton have to be taken as seasoned Pipeline contenders...but oh, who knows!? It's up to the ocean just as much as it's up to them. One thing for sure, the 2005 WCT roll call is long way from settled. Best wishes to all as we come down to the line. Check out the ratings now (there on the right-hand bottom of the front page at www.aspworldtour.com), and then watch the action unfold live on-line from fabulous Florianopolis. Let us not forget, at the other end of the ratings, it's just as intriguing and critical, the world title at stake. The plot thickens!
ENDS