Sophie McCulloch proves anything is possible, wins at Haleiwa to qualify for 2023 Championship Tour

Published on 06/12/2022

The final stop of the WSL 2022 Challenger Series has been held at iconic Haleiwa in Hawaii, with two more Aussies securing their spot on the World Championship Tour.

Coming from deep in the rankings Sophie McCulloch (Alexandra Headland, QLD) needed to win the event to qualify. And she did just that with an upset victory over local favourite and defending Haleiwa Challenger champion Bettylou Sakura Johnson.

“It means so much to me, and I actually had a lot of self-doubt heading into this event,” she said.

Sophie McCulloch has qualified for the 2023 WSL Championship Tour

“Those girls have been ripping. Bettylou is so good out here, so that was kind of a blessing in disguise. Before the final, someone told me it’s not over, so I didn’t know exactly what needed to happen and just knew I needed to give it my all. To be honest it added some nerves, but I’m really proud of my ability to regroup and just have the same intention.”

McCulloch will join the top Tour alongside fellow Aussie qualifiers Macy Callaghan and Molly Picklum.

Ryan Callinan (Newcastle, NSW) will also return to the CT, after finishing second in the qualifying series. While Liam O’Brien (Benowa, QLD) will have a shot at redemption on the CT this upcoming season as he qualified for the 2022 CT but was not able to compete due to an injury.

The 2023 tour will kick off with the Billabong Pro Pipeline in Hawaii next January.

Final 2022 Women’s Challenger Series Rankings
1. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 29,970
2. Macy Callaghan (AUS) 28,920
3. Molly Picklum (AUS) 28,630
4. Caitlin Simmers (USA) 28,630
5. Sophie McCulloch (AUS) 25,490

Final 2022 Men’s Challenger Series Rankings
1. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 26,915
2. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 26,030
3. Rio Waida (IDN) 22,650
4.4 Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 18,695
5. Ramzi Boukhiam (MOR) 17,765
6. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 17,470
7. Ian Gentil (HAW) 17,470
8. Joao Chianca (BRA) 16,235
9. Liam O’Brien (AUS) 16,050
10. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 15,770

Haleiwa Challenger Women’s Final Results:
1. Sophie McCulloch (AUS) 15.00
2. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 14.23
3. Teresa Bonvalot (PRT) 7.70
4. Eweleiula Wong (HAW) 6.56

Haleiwa Challenger Men’s Final Results:
1. John John Florence (HAW) 16.77
2. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 14.87
3. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 11.76
4. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 11.20

Image credit: WSL / Tom Bennett

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