Sportette’s Guide to the 2016 Women’s World Surfing Tour
By Ben Squiers
The stunned gaze of the surfing world has been on the spectacular point breaks of the Gold Coast for over a month now. Professional and weekend surfers have looked on in amazement as Tropical Cyclone Winston gifted the east coast of Australia a late Christmas present. While the amazing run of conditions and associated madness is now confined to the glossy pages of surf magazines and YouTube archives, the focus remains fairly and squarely on the Gold Coast ‘Superbank’. This week the crowds move from the lineup to the golden sands as Snapper Rocks plays host to the opening stop on the Samsung Galaxy World Surf League Championship Tour.
Sportette previews the year ahead and dusts off the crystal ball to find out who will ultimately take home the coveted World Title in November. With the Roxy Pro set to get underway we will dip our big toe into the Pacific Ocean and predict who will be chaired up the up the beach to accept the Roxy Pro trophy.
The 2016 World Tour has a lot to live up to!
It has a hard act to follow. The Women’s Tour has been able to enjoy the ‘off season’ basking in the afterglow of what was widely seen as the most exciting year in the sport’s history. The deciding event in Maui put a huge exclamation point on that! The title was on the line, the waves turned up and arguably the best women’s surfing event ensued. So what of the 2016 Tour?
- 5 Hawaii
- 6 Australia
- 3 USA
- 1 South Africa
- 1 France
- 1 Barbados
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
The graceful and systematic way in which the 24 year old Hawaiian dismantled both the Honolua Bay lineup and her competitors on the way to claiming the 2016 World Title has been eternally etched into memory of all her rivals. This alone gives her a psychological advantage leading into the 2016 season. Seemingly superior in all conditions and the 3 time World Champion just seems to be getting better. It is clear her rivals are going to have to step up to the her level – and beyond, if they wish to wrestle the crown off the natural footer. Two firsts and a second in the opening three events in 2015 got the smiling assassin off to a flyer and was never headed. The only question mark on last year’s title was the long term absence of her fiercest rival Steph Gilmore. But don’t be fooled by Carissa’s smile, she is a natural born killer in the water.
For all the hype surrounding the way Carissa claimed the World Title, let us not forget it was Courtney that pushed her to all the way to the final day of the final event and in the process claiming three events on her own. It really was a breakout year. If not for two ninth place finishes in the final two events (her to worst results of the year), we could be talking about her maiden World Title. Did she choke? Only she can answer that. Will she come back ready to rumble? You can bet your life on it – she set up camp on the GC a month ago in preparation. All the right ingredients are in place for the California natural footer to claim the title she is so destined to win.
Will she??? Won’t she???
Win a World Title, that is. Little Miss Consistent had a season that was on par with Carissa and Courtney, with one major defining difference. She could only convert one of eight ¼ final appearances into a win. She is superfit, super focused and has started the season off in the best possible way, by beating Steph Gilmore in the Qualifying Series Taggart Women’s Pro. She will be desperate to a kick the season of with a bang. An uncharacteristic ninth place at last year’s Roxy Pro Gold Coast put the Gerroa natural footer behind the eight ball from the get-go. A perennial contender, that needs to step it up when it counts, maybe even find that X factor that can get her over the line.
Steph’s back and judging by the Cyclone Winston footage coming out of the Gold Coast – she’s on point. 2015 was a season to forget. Two finals appearances at the first two events gave an indication it was business as usual for the Queen of Snapper. BANG… leg injury – Season Over. No 7th World Title. A totally fit Gilmore will paddle out at her local break in the Roxy Pro looking to get her groove back – fast. Familiar surroundings and an event tailor made to her surfing style should prove advantageous in her endeavours. At her best, she is the most stylish women in the line up. Precise – like a world renowned surgeon. Even after the write off that was 2015 – she is front and centre in the contenders list.
A threat whenever she throws on a competition rash vest. 2015 was consistent without being outstanding. She lacked the big results in the middle of the year that would have put her in the thick of the title race. She has the competitive drive and ability that will see her back in the mix.
NIKKI VAN DIJK
5..5..5..5..5..5 That’s the way she finished off 2015. So close yet so far. The former World Junior Champion will be desperate to take that next step. Having just claimed the WQS Australian Open of Surfing, her plans could well become reality. The one to watch.
The Hawaiian goofy footer burst onto the scene with a rookie of the year performance. Consistent ¼ final appearances rocketed the 20 year old to an end of season 7th position. With a season of experience under her belt, she could well be in the mix for the Top 5 position. Second year syndrome could be the only barrier in her way. Stay focused, stay motivated and she will be on the money.
If the trend continues for the South African, the 2016 season should be top shelf. Her debut season yielded an 8th overall. She stepped up a rung in 2014 with a 7th. The improvement continued last year where she moved into the upper echelon with a 4th. So here is this year’s million dollar question… Can she step it up and move past the sports ‘Big 4’. The key? She will have to convert last season’s three finals appearances into winner trophies for this to happen.
Australia’s Keely Andrews officially steps up to surfing’s top tier for the first time, but don’t be fooled, the Sunshine Coast surfer was able to cut her teeth at four tour events last year as Steph Gilmore’s injury replacement. No doubt this valuable experience puts her in front of the game. A high pressure game that has seen some of the most talented rookies enter with much hype only to see them wilt under the pressure and spat back out to battle it out back in the ‘bare knuckle’ Qualifying Series.
A third in her first competitive outing (Burleigh Pro) got her year off to a flyer but rookies can have a tough existence meeting top seeds in early rounds. The 22 year old natural footer will be out to take down some big names on the way to automatic requalification.
Barbados… That’s not a country you normally associate with a surfer on the Professional World Tour. Enter Chelsea Tuach. The 21 year old natural footer from Bridgetown, Barbados finished 4th on the 2015 Qualifying Series to earn her ticket to the big dance. The girl obviously can surf with a 2015 win at the Pantin Classic Galicia Pro. But will that translate to success at the elite level? A ¼ final finish last month at the Taggart Women’s Pro suggests… Yes, but it’s widely believed that the 1st year on tour is the hardest. Chelsea could well be a case study in this theory.
Call us superstitious but there is a pattern forming. Since 2007 Steph and Carissa have had a mortgage on the title. Infact since 2010, they have taken turns, one for one. If you believe in trends put your house on Steph. We expect the big 4 (Steph, Carissa, Courtney and Sally) to continue, but the gap to the rest in ever decreasing. It will be close once again. Don’t be surprised to see multiple contenders come Maui. Agree or disagree, Carissa’s 2015 title was slightly tainted by Steph’s absence but like a boxing title fighter wanting to prove they are the undisputed champion of the world, Carissa will prevail on the final day of the year to prove she is the best.
- Carissa Moore
- Steph Gilmore
- Courtney Conlogue
- Sally Fitzgibbons
- Nikki Van Dijk
- Tyler Wright
- Bianca Buitendag