11X World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) advances to Round 3 of the 2018 Billabong Pipe Masters after winning Heat 6 of Round 2 at Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii, USA.

So.. it was always going to be a tough call, and no-one was ever going to win… (If you have watched Momentum Generation you will see the devastating impact of a wildcard vote) but Slater and John John have taken the injury wild cards over Zilla ripper Caio Ibelli…

“It’s always a challenge when we have a large number of applicants for a limited number of wildcard positions,” Kieren Perrow, WSL Commissioner, said. “We truly appreciate and understand the value of being on tour and take this process very seriously. As it has for years, this process includes an independent medical review board, which assesses the applicants based on severity of injury and the impact it has on the surfer’s ability to compete at the Championship Tour level. In the case of 2018, all three applicants were deemed to have severe injuries that prevented them from competing in multiple events. From there, we apply our technical criteria and career achievement factors – which include World Titles, career results, prior year ranking, and ranking at time of injury. While all three have strong cases, we have determined that Kelly Slater (USA) and John John Florence (HAW) will receive the WSL wildcards for 2019 and Caio Ibelli (BRA) will be the first replacement for the tour – not something we guarantee to a third applicant most seasons but is deserving in this case.”

Caio responded so…

“Today @wsl announced that next year’s Injury Wildcard will be Kelly Slater and JJ Florence. Sincerely, I disagree with the decision, Kelly used and abused. She went to Fiji 20 feet during the Keramas event, stayed 3rd in the pool and did not go to France next week. This is the second consecutive year that he uses the same wave. Is it fair? 📷 @tallteef”

And he surely has a point. But given the severity of the injury to Slater and his prominence over the years you can see why the decision was made. It would have been a shame to lose the GOAT.

Hopefully Ciao gets a proper go this year.

2018 Top 22 CT:
Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Julian Wilson (AUS)
Filipe Toledo (BRA)
Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Jordy Smith (ZAF)
Owen Wright (AUS)
Conner Coffin (USA)
Michel Bourez (PYF)
Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
Kolohe Andino (USA)
Mikey Wright (AUS)
Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Yago Dora (BRA)
Joan Duru (FRA)

2018 Top 10 QS (minus double qualifiers from CT):
Seth Moniz (HAW)
Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Deivid Silva (BRA)
Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Jadson Andre (BRA)
Soli Bailey (AUS)
Jack Freestone (AUS)

WSL Wildcards:
Kelly Slater (USA)
John John Florence (HAW)

CT Men’s Replacement Surfers:
Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Frederico Morais (PRT)
Ethan Ewing (AUS)

The 2019 elite women’s CT class will be contested by the WSL Top 17, made up of the top 10 finishers on the 2018 CT Jeep Leaderboard, the top 6 finishers on the 2018 Qualifying Series (QS) and one WSL wildcard.

2018 Top 10 CT:
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Lakey Peterson (USA)
Carissa Moore (HAW)
Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA)
Johanne Defay (FRA)
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
Caroline Marks (USA)
Courtney Conlogue (USA)
Malia Manuel (HAW)
Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)

2018 Top 6 QS (minus double qualifiers from CT):
Coco Ho (HAW)
Paige Hareb (NZL)
Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Brisa Hennessy (CRI)
Silvana Lima (BRA)

WSL Wildcard:
Tyler Wright (AUS)

CT Women’s Replacement Surfers:
Keely Andrew (AUS)
Sage Erickson (USA)

The 2019 WSL CT will be the primary Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualification avenue for the world’s best surfers. The world rankings at the end of the 2019 CT season will determine 18 of the 40 places at the Olympic Games (10 men and 8 women). The remaining 22 places will be determined at the 2019 and 2020 ISA World Surfing Games, the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, and a single slot (each for men and women) for the host nation, Japan.

Of these 18 places determined by the WSL, there is a maximum of 2 men and 2 women for each country (e.g. if there are 3 women from Australia in the Top 8, only the Top 2 female Australians will qualify).

The 2019 Championship Tour starts in April and runs until December. This is a year-long, multi-stage tour that tests the world’s best surfers in a variety of different waves and conditions. The CT schedules are listed below:

2019 Men’s Championship Tour schedule*
Gold Coast Men’s Pro: April 3 – 13, 2019
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: April 17 – 27, 2019
Bali Men’s Pro: May 13 – 24, 2019
Margaret River Pro: May 27 – June 7, 2019
Oi Rio Pro: June 20 – 28, 2019
J-Bay Open: July 9 – 22, 2019
Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o: August 21 – September 1, 2019
Surf Ranch Pro: September 19 – 22, 2019
Quiksilver Pro France: October 3 – 13, 2019
Meo Pro Peniche: October 16 – 28, 2019
Billabong Pipe Masters: December 8 – 20, 2019

2019 Women’s Championship Tour Schedule*
Gold Coast Women’s Pro: April 3 – 13, 2019
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: April 17 – 27, 2019
Bali Women’s Pro: May 13 – 24, 2019
Margaret River Pro: May 27 – June 7, 2019
Oi Rio Pro: June 20 – 28, 2019
J-Bay Open: July 9 – 22, 2019
Surf Ranch Pro: September 19 – 22, 2019
Roxy Pro France: October 3 – 13, 2019
Meo Pro Peniche: October 16 – 28, 2019
Hawaii Women’s Pro: November 25 – December 7, 2019

*All events subject to change.
Wade Carmichael and Caroline Marks Claim Rookie of the Year Honours

On the men’s CT, Wade Carmichael (AUS), 26, is the 2018 Rookie of the Year. Carmichael’s first season on the Championship Tour was a rollercoaster as the Central Coast native suffered four early Round 2 exits, but managed to balance it with excellent results. His talent shone first in Brasil where he reached the Final and in J-Bay where his signature powerful carves fit right in. Both times Carmichael found a big hurdle on his way to a first-ever tour victory with Filipe Toledo (BRA) taking the win at these two events. But with a Quarterfinal finish in Tahiti and Round 4 berths in Bells and Portugal, the 26-year-old finished the year ranked 7th in the World, thus claiming the Rookie of the Year award.

“I had good and bad events and I tried to learn throughout the year,” Carmichael said. “I just tried to do my best surfing and see how I go against the best guys and I kept that same mentality the whole time. I didn’t expect to have that many grinding heats. I didn’t know where my year was going to take me. Two Finals and Rookie of the Year has blown all my expectations. You only get one chance to get that title and this year with all the rookies that were getting hyped up I was just cruising behind these guys. There’s a wild list of names on that trophy and I’m psyched I’m going to be on it. ”

Caroline Marks (USA), 16, was awarded the 2018 Rookie of the Year, and the youngest-ever Rookie of the Year in CT history. Marks was the youngest surfer to ever qualify for the CT (15) and finished her freshman year on tour with a remarkable 7th place world ranking.

“I am so happy with my performance this year and really excited for what is to come,” said Marks. “I’ve learned a lot competing on the tour and being up against the best surfers in the world. They are all so incredible and really pushing the boundaries and the progression. To be the youngest woman to qualify on the WSL CT is super cool, and now to be the youngest-ever Rookie of the Year is so rad. It really is an honor and I am stoked.”