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Posted by Rick Civelli | 09.30.2011 | WB Surf Camp News

Pro Surfing Mysteries Unraveled Part 1: The World Title Race vs. World Rankings

The world of professional surfing can often be a tricky, mysterious, and confusing concept.  There are free surfers who search out far and wide for exotic waves in a seemingly carefree lifestyle. Then there are those climbing the ladder and competing in the ASP World Rankings to get to the top…The creme of the crop, the ASP World Title Race. In this 2 part series of blogs over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be breaking down the complexities of each level so that all you new surfers (or old surfers) out there know what’s going on, understand why its exciting, and be able to better follow the world of professional surfing.


We’ll start at the top of the ladder and work our way down. In its 31 year history the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) World Title Race is more exciting then ever. They call it the “Dream Tour” these days because they’ve managed to plug in every world class surfing locale into their itinerary giving us spectators the greatest show on earth. No one wants to watch the best surfers in the world surf in knee high mushy waves all year (which has been the case in the distant past), so venues such as Trestles, Fiji, Tahiti, and of course Hawaii are met with their respective level of special wave performance requirements. We get to watch these epic contests go down via live web casts from every exotic surf spot that hosts a competition. There’s even an iPhone app (ASPtogo) that lets you watch it from anywhere in the world. World Title competitors go head to head in heaving barrels some weeks and rippable skatepark-like ramps on others. With a new school crew of fresh young talent able to thread thick monstrous barrels and take to the air in a flurry of 360s, every heat in the water is extremely exciting to watch and is anyone’s game on any given day. What’s more this season, 10x World Champion Kelly Slater, who already owns every record in the record books, is on his way to a potential 11th World Title!

Now, “How does it work?” you may ask. “How do you win a World Title?” In 2010, the ASP instituted changes to the way the male surfers qualify for and gain ranking points towards the ASP World Title. The WQS (World Qualifying Series) and WCT (World Championship Tour) were done away with and replaced by combining them under the ASP World Rankings and World Title Race.

This new system gets a little confusing though. From 2011 onwards, this new ASP World Rankings will decide who gets to compete in the ASP World Title events and eventually decide the ASP World Champion. These ASP World Rankings also decide the selection order and seeding for all men’s events from ASP World Title through PRIME to 1-Star events. The first 6 events of the World Title events see the the top 34 from the prior year battling for precious points on the Gold Coast, Bells Beach, Rio de Janeiro, J-Bay, Tahiti and New York. Any additional Prime to 1-Star contests they do will help boost their points in the World Rankings system if they’re not doing so well in the Title Events Rankings.

After New York, and an exciting final between Slater and young Aussie Owen Wright (Owen won!), we saw the Top 32 surfers from the ASP World Rankings (plus two surfer wildcards making it the ASP Top 34) replacing the top 32 World Title competitors and surfing Trestles (3rd consecutive final between Slater and Wright…Slater won!) last week and for the remainder of the year (Hossegor, Peniche, San Francisco and Pipeline). Now most of them were the same guys, because the Title Events award way more points than a Prime to 1-Star event. But there were a few Title surfers who had a bad season to start and it allowed the guys who were doing really well in the Prime to 1-Star events to push past them in points mid season. So they got replaced. CJ Hobgood, Bobby Martinez, Cory Lopez, and Gabe Kling got replaced by 4 fresh new faces. Two super groms, John John Florence and Gabriel Medina took over along with Tom Whitaker and Miguel Pupo.

The wild cards are another twist and get inserted via a trials competition prior to the contest or a via the major sponsor for each competition. It’s always at their discretion and usually comes from their local team. There are often times injury replacements and alternates as well, so sometimes the rare surfer from under the rankings radar will pop up in a contest bringing a fresh face and unique challenge to each contest. For winning a Title Race Competition a surfer receives 10,000 points, for second place they receive 8000 points, and so on down the scale. The surfers eligible for the Title must be already in the Title Race using only the top 8 scores from Title Race Competitions.

At the end of the year, the surfer with the most points from just their highest 8 ASP World Title Race event scores will be crowned the 2011 ASP World Champion. This year has been especially exciting watching Kelly Slater, who was rumored to have been considering dropping off the tour after last year’s 10th Title, looking at a potential 11th Title. After the first few contests of this year, with Slater being a no-show at J-Bay, South African, Jordy Smith clenched the number one slot with a win in his home country. But after being injured in Tahiti, and 3 consecutive finals between Owen and Slater, Jordy slid to 8th with Owen close on Slater’s heels at the top of the World Title Race. Ready for the confusing part? On the World Rankings, Jordy is actually second to Slater with Wright being in 3rd. That is due to a strong finish in a prime event that Owen did not do so hot in. The field is always changing which keeps it fun and interesting. If you’re still confused, pop into our WB Surf Camp Forum and we’ll be happy to break it down further or visit the ASP World Tour website.