Kiwi surfer Paige Hareb will return to competition this week, but her immediate future on the World Surf League Championship Tour remains in doubt.
Hareb will make her first competitive appearance since injuring her ribs in Mexico last month when she takes to the water for the SuperGirl Pro at California's Oceanside Pier this weekend.
A major event on the qualifying series (QS), Hareb will look to add to her points haul as she tries to requalify for the Championship Tour (CT). She'll be one of two Kiwis in the event, alongside Whangamata's Ella Williams. The two-day competition runs immediately before the Vans US Open – a stop on the women's CT – however Hareb may not compete in the latter.
"(I'll decide) probably after the SuperGirl Pro," Hareb said. "You can pretty much leave it until you're on the beach in the rashie I think."
The 28-year-old suffered two broken ribs and an abrasion on her right lung after being slammed into a boulder during a free-surf before another major contest. The injuries forced her to withdraw from the QS event as well as a CT contest at Jeffrey's Bay in South Africa.
Hareb spent the last six weeks at home in Taranaki rehabilitating in a bid to be fit enough for this weekend's event.
"I've had a total of five paddles. The last one was a proper surf, the others were just paddling and going straight."
Despite having limited time in the water, Hareb said she was feeling about 85 per cent and was confident that whatever pain she was still experiencing wouldn't be a factor in the competition.
"I can feel my ribs more on certain turns on lefts. But I've been at Stent (Road in Taranaki) on right-handers amongst all the rocks and I was fine there mentally, so it was alright.
"I'm just happy to be able to do it and be back in the water."
Hareb has struggled for results in her return to the CT this season, and at the halfway point was looking likely to need the QS to hold her spot next year. The top 10 on the CT hold their spots for the next season, with the top six on the QS getting automatic qualification to the CT.
Should a top-10 CT surfer also finish in the top six on the QS, the next best is promoted.
Having only competed in three QS events this year, including two finals day appearances, Hareb will improve her season tally simply by getting in the water. However, she was hoping to do a little more than that.
"I'm always in it to try and win it...I'm definitely looking for a good result there. I would probably be happy with a fifth or better.
"I just really want to get some big results and not have it come down to the last event like it did last year and relying on other girls' results."
Current standings on the Women's QS
1. Caroline Marks (USA) – 16,200 points
2. Silvana Lima (Brazil) – 11,580
3. Keely Andrew (Australia) – 11,300
4. Tatiana Weston-Webb (Brazil) – 11,150
5. Coco Ho (Hawaii) – 10,150
6. Holly Wawn (Australia) – 9,790
13. Paige Hareb (New Zealand ) – 6,900
39. Ella Williams (New Zealand) - 3,900