Hedge sets himself for another shot at the top
AGELESS surfer Nathan Hedge will continue his redemption story after narrowly missing out on a spot on next year's World Championship Tour.
Hedge, 35, will compete in next year's World Qualifying Series, hoping to earn his place alongside the world's best surfers for the first time since dropping off the elite tour in 2007.
The former Caloundra grommet showed glimpses this year of the form that made him a top-10 performer in 2005 and 2006, producing several scene-stealing cameos on this year's WQS, but finished 32nd, outside WCT qualification.
"I improved from 66th last year to 32nd this year so I jumped 34 spots and I was only within a result away from getting back on the tour, so it would be silly to walk away just yet," Hedge said.
"I'm going to be doing the Prime events next year and then doing any trial events to try and get into the main events."
One of Hedge's biggest moments of the year came when he recorded a perfect 10 after qualifying for the WCT event in Tahiti.
"I feel like there's a few pet events on the tour I could really do some damage in," Hedge said.
"It's just a matter of getting through the qualifying series and maybe being a little bit more patient.
"I've just got to remember that I wasn't anywhere near surfing on the tour three years ago."
After Hedge dropped off the tour in 2007, Rip Curl's subsequent decision to end a sponsorship arrangement that had started when he was only 14, along with the lack of industry jobs, forced him to sell his dream home on Sydney's northern beaches in a collapsing market.
The death of his dad, who he loved dearly, only added to the dire situation.
With his mother living on the Coast, Hedge returned and began to rediscover his love of the sport while working his way up from local surfing events to major qualifiers.
He eventually made his way back to the WQS, where competitors face off for spots on the WCT.
Each year the WCT takes the top 22 surfers from the previous year's WCT and the top 10 surfers from the WQS (excluding those who were in the WCT's top 22).
Hedge finished the season with 8370 qualification points, 3195 behind the lowest qualifier, New Zealand's Ricardo Christie.
Another quarter-final appearance in a Prime event would have given Hedge enough points to surpass Christie.
"I know I can do it and this year gave me a lot of confidence," he said. "I'm pretty pumped heading into next year and hopefully I can qualify for the tour in 2016."
- JOE FLYNN