Carissa v Courtney – Women’s World Surfing Title Showdown Lowdown
By Ben Squiers
Carissa Moore and Courtney Conlogue go head to head for the World Surfing Title. PHOTO: Peter ‘Joli’ Wilson
The Women of the 2015 Samsung Galaxy Women’s Surfing World Tour had made their way to the traditional season ending location of Honolua Bay in Maui. The idyllic Hawaiian location will once again play host to a World Championship shootout but for the first time in 15 years there will be no Australian surfer in contention. This year the title comes down to a battle between two time World Champion Carissa Moore and first time contender Courtney Conlogue.
It will be hard to top the drama of last year’s tour decider with Steph Gilmore crowned World Champ in the final heat – on the final day of competition. An event that saw no less than three surfers (Steph Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Tyler Wright) enter the crystal blue water with aspirations of taking home the crown. Title momentum switched from one to another on numerous occasions and with the real possibility of a ‘surf-off’ on the horizon to decide the title, it was Tyler Wright that faulted in the final, ironically at the hands of this year’s contender Carissa Moore. The final day was lauded by many as the best day in Women’s surfing history.
The four 2014 contenders will take a back seat this year and must be satisfied with the ‘spoiler’ role, as Carissa and Courtney duke it out in an equally close race. In reality, Carissa takes to the water with what equates to a heat and a half lead over Courtney. Once again the improbable chance of a mouth watering high pressure winner-takes-all ‘surf-off’ is real if the cards fall the right way.
Once again the improbable chance of a mouth watering high pressure winner-takes-all ‘surf-off’ is real
Courtney’s breakout year comes off the back of an injury riddled 2014 but she arrives at the Target Maui Pro with ground to make up on title front runner Moore. Heading into the penultimate tour stop in France, consistency (3 firsts, 2 thirds and 3 fifths) put Courtney in the driver’s seat, needing only another top five to cement her case for the crown. However, she dropped the ball, finishing with a ninth place finish. Her performance looked out of step and had many questioning whether she was succumbing to pressure and was thinking about the title too much.
Carissa Moore Photo: Red Bull
In the same event, Carissa had a semi final finish (third), which once again catapulted her into a position that has meant that it is now her title to lose. The 2015 season started with a bag for the Hawaiian claiming the first two tour stops and following it with a second and third respectively. However, two ninths and a fifth created somewhat of a hurdle through the mid section of the tour. If the pattern of world titles (2011, 2013) continues, things look ominous for Courtney.
Honolua Bay is a high performance right hand point break that undoubtedly suits both natural foot surfers. The wave forecast could and will play a role in the title outcome. Courtney will be praying for the large open water swells to batter Maui for the duration of competition. If it does the whole equation flips in her favour. The American is unrivalled in powerful surf. Last year provided a glimpse of such conditions, with Courtney claiming a perfect 10 in an amazing display of power surfing.
The early Surfline forecast suggests these conditions won’t be on hand, for at least the first half of the waiting period. Advantage – Carissa. She has an impeccable rail game that is tailor made for small/medium Honolua Bay. She looks at home in these conditions and it would be a major upset, if she was beaten by a challenger in an early round upset.
Courtney Conlogue warms up for Margaret River Pro where she beat Carissa in the final.
Carissa has had some uncharacteristic losses in the middle of the season, but following the French Stop, the momentum is back in her tilt. Courtney is gunning for her maiden World Title, how will she deal with the pressure? She needs someone to do her a huge favour and upset Carissa in an early round. Enter Steph Gilmore!* This time last year she was in her prime, but an injury plagued 2015 sees her languishing in 12th position. Depending on how the seeds progress, that could mean an early round appointment with the six time World Champ for one of the contenders. A high pressure, high stakes heat against a proven performer with nothing to lose, that could determine this year’s World Champion.
The competition window runs from November 21 until December 4. Will it see Courtney win what many see as an inevitable World Title or will Carissa win her third World Title in five years?
*Steph Gilmore has withdrawn from the Target Maui Pro