As the first event of the World Surf League’s elite Men’s Championship Tour (CT) 2017 draws near, many are looking forward to a highly competitive season. With this year’s lineup being a mixed breed of world tour veterans, CT rookies who emerged victorious from the bloody 2016 QS battle, and some sophomores who still have unfinished business in the World Tour, the level of competition has increased to a higher degree. The big question is, who will dominate the rankings, who will keep his CT slot and who will fade away and lose re-qualification to the 2018 Tour?
While a lot of media attention is set on the top-notch surfers of last year’s tour, we shed some light on one of the most promising sophomores in the lineup. Stu “The Giant Killer” Kennedy finished 19th last season, not bad at all for a CT rookie who turned from an injury replacement into a full-time CT competitor.
When Stu hit the water at the 2016 Quiksilver Pro in Gold Coast as Owen Wright’s injury replacement, many were quick to write him off. But he proved everybody wrong. Armed with a funny-looking Firewire surfboard, he took down world champs and top caliber surfers including Kelly Slater, Gabriel Medina and John John Florence all in a single event, which led him to an incredible 3rd place finish. Stu didn’t stop there though.
Stu Defeats John John Florence:
In July, the World Surf League finally offered Kennedy a full-time slot on the CT for 2016. And Stu made the most of the opportunity he was given. He had a solid 5th place finish in the Hurley Pro at Trestles and got incredible results in the European leg to secure his requalification.
He was an instant celebrity after his performance at Snapper Rocks. His performance was explosive, relentless, fast, powerful and innovative throughout the event. And the board he used, Slater Designs’ Sci-Fi, became an instant hit and the most talked about stick in 2016. The guys at Firewire are still struggling to keep up with the demand.
“I’ve never experienced this kind of media attention in my life,” Stu relates after the event. “I got home and had 200 text messages.”
But before all this happened, Stu almost gave up on pro surfing two years ago. While he had a blistering career during his teenage days, which culminated in a lucrative Rip Curl contract, and held the record for the fastest Australian Junior Series win, life struggles started to get in the way of his pro surfing dreams.
At age 22, his sponsor dumped him. With a mortgage to pay and a kid on the way, he was nearly about to pursue a job he did not like because of the growing needs of his family, when he decided to give the Qualifying Series one more shot.
“You only get one shot and no sense giving it up at 23 years old for a job you don’t like, just to be chipping away at life,” said Stu referring to his past situation.
He finished the 2015 QS season ranking 12th, which was short of qualifying to the 2016 World Tour. Then due to a few injuries, he got into the elite league for the first 2016 CT event held in Gold Coast, and he made it count! He beat Kelly Slater on one of Slater’s own Firewire designs and never stopped competing after that.
Stu Takes Down The King:
This year, if Stu can repeat his solid performance and turn the dial up on his efforts, his grit and electric brand of surfing can be a serious lethal weapon in the World Tour. He has proven that he can take down the world’s best surfers before, and he has a lot more to prove in his unfinished business with the said event. Stu is definitely one of the elite surfers on tour that everyone should watch out for.
Stu’s fans and everyone at BlinkSurf wish him well in the upcoming Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast on March 2017. May he find his rhythm early in the season and continue to surprise the world with his performance.
Here’s another look at Stu’s rise into the 2016 World Tour:
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