Surfing will debut in the Olympic Games next year, and there's a good chance at least one Kiwi will be in the lineup.
Through the halfway point of the World Surf League Championship Tour, Kiwi Ricardo Christie has done enough to jump into the conversation to be among the first qualifiers for the Olympic competition.
The CT is one of two Olympic qualification paths for surfers this year, with the 10 top men and top eight women qualifying. However, with an Olympic cap of two surfers per nation in each field has held the door wide open for the lesser represented nations on tour.
Through six of the 11 events on the schedule, Christie sits in the 10th qualification spot behind surfers from the US, Australia, France, Brazil and South Africa – with Japanese surfer Kanoa Igarashi getting qualification as the highest ranked surfer from the host nation.
"To be honest I'm just taking it heat by heat and trying to get through them. I'd like to place better than 17th, that's my focus," Christie said.
"The Olympics would be a cool bonus, but I'm just focusing on the tour and being the best surfer I can be and just try to improve on where I'm at."
Christie has shown plenty of improvement this season in his return to the top level of the sport. In his rookie season back in 2015, Christie exited in the first elimination round on eight of 11 occasions. This time around he had been very consistent, finishing 17th in all six events.
"I'm pretty sick of [17th place] though," Christie said. "Everything's feeling really good, just the heats aren't quite going the way that I plan."
With no CT events on the agenda until late August when the men's tour heads to the dreamy barrels on offer at Teahupo'o in Tahiti, Christie will now turn his attention to the qualifying series. He'll compete in the Vans US Open at Huntington Beach in California, one of the six major QS events - over the next week.
He won't be the only Kiwi over there, with fellow CT athlete Paige Hareb and former junior world champion Ella Williams competing in the SuperGirl Pro and Vans US Open over the same time.
The SuperGirl Pro is a women-only event which runs before the women's competition gets underway at the US Open. The Pro is worth 6000 QS points for the winner, while the Open offers 10,000 points. The men's draw also offers 10,000 points to the winner.
Unlike Christie, Hareb sits just outside the Olympics qualification spots through the halfway point of the CT season but has plenty of time to force the issue. With the women's draw stacked with Australian and American talent, Hareb is one of five athletes competing for a minimum of four Olympic qualification spots. As it stands, she's 4000 points off her nearest Olympic rival, but has plenty of time to force the issue.
Current Olympic qualification rankings
New Zealand: Ricardo Christie
US: Kolohe Andino and John John Florence
Brazil: Filipe Toledo and Italo Ferreira
Japan: Kanoa Igarashi (will qualify as the host nation's highest ranked surfer)
South Africa: Jordy Smith
Australia: Ryan Callinan and Julian Wilson
France: Jeremy Flores and Michel Bourez
US: Carissa Moore and Lakey Peterson
Australia: Sally Fitzgibbons and Stephanie Gilmore
Brazil: Tatiana Weston-Webb and Silvana Lima
France: Johanne Defay
Costa Rica: Brisa Hennessy