Whilst four events have been completed on the Dream Tour, the WQS (World Qualifying Series) has just started revving its engine with the first Prime event of the year in Brazil. It’s been a long time between drinks, so to speak. The last Prime event finished early in December 2013 and it’s been five months without any top tier competition for these hungry hyenas.
Just like the World Tour the Qualifying Series has been going through many uncertain changes over the past three to five years. Whilst the global media focus is on the World Tour and its structure, the WQS is begging in the shadows waiting for a bit of attention.
In my eyes there have been some good and bad decisions on both tours, but at the end of the day these decisions were made in the best interest of professional surfing. In 2014 there are two things in particular that will help enhance the WQS and the fairness of the sport. Firstly, they recently introduced a four man priority system which pretty much all athletes have embraced. And secondly, they have returned the tours back into their original split format, guaranteeing 10 fresh faces will qualify from the WQS onto the World Tour next year.
It seems I have been on the WQS since I sprouted my first pubic hair; I battled for years competing in horrible conditions, gaining knowledge and experience.
What is the WQS really like? Is it a frustrating grind like everyone says it is? or is it just a bunch of spoilt professional surfers sooking about getting golden brown tans and gallivanting around the globe. The truth is, it’s all of the above.
It seems I have been on the WQS since I sprouted my first pubic hair; I battled for years competing in horrible conditions, gaining knowledge and experience. It wasn’t until I knuckled down (whilst smelling the roses) that I finally qualified for the World Tour. So here is my list of pros and cons on the WQS.
Pro: Its great experience, its kind of like doing a trade. You learn a lot about competing, your comfort zones, and arousal levels before competing, equipment, and much more.
Con: Freesurfing and practising whilst the event is on is probably the most torturous and frustrating part of the WQS. It’s literally like 10,000 flies on a hot turd. Except you don’t want to be hanging out on this turd, but it’s a must, as you want to feel prepared for battle in your heats.
Pro: As much as it sucks to surf with 1000 pesky surfers it’s always great to wake up at the crack of dawn, have surf and a chat with your buddies out in the water. Besides a bad day in the water is better than a day in an office.
Con: Over time the ASP has tried to allocate Prime events in prime locations for the ‘QS, but to be honest, pretty much all of the events are held in junky beachbreaks around the world. So don’t think for one moment these surfers are scoring pumping waves around the globe.
Show me the Money
Pro: Whilst you might be doing it tough financially throughout the QS, it makes you appreciate the value of a mere penny and appreciate the high life once you crack the World Tour. I feel that ‘doing it tough’ on smaller income means you have a better experience meeting the true locals and getting a good feel of the culture, rather than just showing up to a swanky hotel on the beach eating $40 Filet Mignons everyday.
Con: You pretty much need an income of a neurosurgeon to afford to compete on this tour. It’s probably more expensive than the WT due to the fact that all the events around the world never link up back-to-back like the WT.
The Ying and the Yang of Contracts
Pro: Backing yourself without sponsorship and making the Dream Tour is not only one of the most rewarding things a professional surfer will accomplish, but also you realise that you are the only one in charge of your own destiny and some big corporate companies can’t dictate your life. If you are fortunate enough to already have a sponsor then you become more marketable and appealing to them. Therefore you are in high demand and in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiating a mint contract whilst on tour.
Con: Unless you are a freak like Dane Reynolds or have the style and the flowing hair of Craig Anderson, as a WQS surfer you become unappealing to your sponsors in a very short period of time – unless you qualify for the WT quick smart. Added stress and pressure can build up in the back of your mind and have a massive effect on you whilst competing.
This is Your Whole Life
Pro: Reality is that not many changes back at home, most of your family and friends will be doing the same old things but growing a few extra crows' feet in the process. True family and friends will support you 100% whilst on tour and welcome you home with open arms after each event.
Con: Being on tour you can become so self absorbed and greedy (which is fine). Sometimes this is what it takes to accomplish your dreams whether it be professional surfer, banker on Wall St, famous architect etc.
Freedom Within Reason
Pro: Regardless of what tour you are on, freedom would have to be my greatest motivation to prolong this incredible lifestyle. There are people that love stability and are happy to stay in their comfort zones back at home. But I love nothing more than knowing that I have the opportunity to travel around this tiny globe, meet new friends, experience new flavours, and to be engulfed by what the world has to offer.
Con: Loneliness on tour, sounds weird huh? Well there are times on tour when all you is have a hot roast dinner with your loved ones, a shoulder to cry on, or simply have a cold beer with your best mate.
So there you have it, through my eyes the World Qualifying tour is what you make of it. It can be the most frustrating, tedious and torturous time of your life. On the other side of the spectrum it can be the best years of your life. It all depends on your frame of mind and if you can separate success from happiness. Yes there are people that take it for granted, and others that feel blessed that they have this opportunity in their life. At the end of the day, regardless of what tour you are on, its hands down one of the best gigs on earth. The majority of time is more fun than a fat pig rolling in shit. It keeps you youthful, healthy and most of all it keeps you open-minded to the endless opportunity the world has to offer.