Sunday, April 06, 2008

Riding High at the Vans Pier Classic

Seven of the top eight WQS surfers in the world are Americans, led by San Clemente's Patrick Gudauskas.
By FRED SWEGLES
SUN POST NEWS
After a pair of 2008 contests on American soil, U.S, surfers are at the top of their game in the ASP World Qualifying Series standings this week. Now – can it continue?
San Clemente's Patrick Gudauskas remains No. 1 in the world after finishing fifth Sunday at the Vans Pier Classic, a 2-star WQS event held at Huntington Beach. He and San Clemente's Jason Miller tied for fifth out of 160 competitors.
At the moment, seven of the top eight WQS surfers in the world are Americans, led by Gudauskas. Brett Simpson from Garden Grove is No. 3. Gudauskas' brother Dane is No. 11. San Clemente's Mike Losness is No. 16. San Clemente's Nathan Yeomans is No. 20.
That's after two WQS contests in North America, one in Hawaii, one in Australia and one in Spain.
It's a testament to the power of the surfing industry producing big-dollar WQS events in home waters carrying hefty WQS points. Most of the U.S. surfers' success so far is due to one big contest – the 5-Star O'Neill Sebastian Inlet Pro, won by Patrick Gudauskas in January in Florida. His victory there earned him 2,000 points. By comparison, Huntington Beach's Shaun Ward got just 500 points for winning the Vans Pier Classic on Sunday. Those points aren't enough to help Ward qualify for surfing's major leagues in 2009. But the Sebastian Inlet Pro has elevated a lot of U.S. surfers high in the ratings.
In North America, the ASP is having nine WQS contests in 2008 – a 6 star, a 5 star, two 4 stars, four 2 stars and a 1 star.
Brazil, by comparison, has eight WQS events – four 6 stars, two 5 stars and two 4 stars. No low-end contests. Europe has 13 WQS events – six 6 stars, one 5 star, two 4 star, two 3 star and two 1 star. The more big-points events that a region hosts, the better chance local surfers have to rise in the WQS.
The next West Coast event, at Trestles from April 29 through May 3, is the 4-star Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro. There's talk of making it a 6 star in 2009.
That would be good news for Patrick and Dane Gudauskas, their brother Tanner, Miller, Losness and other WQS hopefuls like Yeomans, who reached the quarterfinals of the Vans. Chris Drummy, another quarterfinalist Sunday, isn't a fulltime WQS surfer but no doubt would relish some higher-stakes competition, apt to attract more overseas surfers to California to try for big points.
San Clemente's Trevor Saunders could also use higher-powered WQS events here as a launching pad. He was a finalist Sunday in the Ezekiel Pro Jr. division of the Vans, placing third. Tanner Gudauskas was a quarterfinalist, finishing ninth of 64 contestants.

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