From late July to mid-September, California becomes the central battleground for women's professional surfing. Three of the season's biggest events -- the QS 6,000 Paul Mitchell Neon Supergirl Pro, Vans US Open of Surfing - Women's CT and Swatch Pro -- are stretched over the six week span.
Beneath the headliners, however, there's been quite a bit of movement on both the Championship Tour (CT) and Qualifying Series (QS). Heading into the Swatch Pro at Trestles, here's a snapshot of who's hot and who's not.
Up one spot to World No. 3, after taking 3rd at the Vans US Open of Surfing, Conlogue is the hottest surfer on Tour at the moment. Prior to the US Open, she'd won three out of the last four events she'd entered (1st at Bells, 9th in Rio, 1st in Fiji, 1st at Supergirl Pro). She's the only surfer on Tour to have pocketed two CT wins so far in 2017, but she'll rue the 9th in Saquarema. It's her second of the season, both of which will likely be throwaway results at the end of the year. That leaves no margin for error in the final four Tour stops remaining.
Erickson's the big mover of the California leg, leaping up three crucial spots to World No. 6. The Rincon local earned her first CT victory in Huntington Beach at the US Open, walking with a giant wad of cash as well as heaps of confidence and valuable momentum leading up to the Swatch Pro. Her equipment -- specifically a magic, red-railed Channel Islands -- looks better under her feet than at any other time in her career. Erickson placed 3rd at the Lowers last year, losing to Wright by less than half a point.
Not far behind the Californians in terms of current form looms Hawaiian Tatiana Weston-Webb, who is up two spots to No. 8 and has turned her season around after a tepid start. Her 2nd place finish to Conlogue in the Outerknown Fiji Pro, held in thumping conditions at Cloudbreak, sparked her own run of good form. The Hawaiian followed up with 3rd in O-Side at the Supergirl Pro and a 2nd in Huntington at the US Open. She's picked up the pieces from a shaky start and now looks to regain the confidence that led to a No. 4 overall ranking in 2016.
The Jeep Leader's ranking remains unchanged at No. 1. She'll retain the Yellow Jersey at Lowers with a tenuous 1500-point lead on Sally Fitzgibbons. Wright was bounced unceremoniously by a fired-up Coco Ho in the Quarterfinals at the US Open, but remains well positioned to repeat as World Champion. Wright won the Swatch Pro last season, one of her incredible five event wins in 2016, contributing to an unheard-of 50 percent strike rate.
Fitzgibbons' position remains unchanged at No. 2, as well, following her Quarterfinal exit at the US Open at the hands of eventual winner Sage Erickson. She's matched Wright's exact results in the last two events, which has neither helped nor hindered her pursuit of an elusive first World Championship. She can take some solace in that she remains 1600 points up on Conlogue, but the Californian has regained 4800 points on her and Jeep Leader Wright in just two events.
Defay, who finished 5th at the US Open, remains static at No. 4. The Reunion Island native who surfs under the French flag (just like her countryman Jeremy Flores on the Men's CT) has cooled off after a start that included a 3rd at Snapper and a loss to Wright in the Final at the Oi Rio Pro. Defay, whose growth into a World Title contender continues to evolve with every stop on Tour, could play a significant spoiler role in the Title chase.
Nikki Van Dijk
After a 9th at the US Open, Van Dijk drops down one spot to No. 7. It's been Van Dijk's best year ever on Tour in her young career, which includes her first-ever trip to the Semifinals at the Oi Rio Pro. But she'll be disappointed with a Round Four exit in Huntington Beach via a low-scoring loss to Weston-Webb. She'll need to recapture the calm, confident form that carried her to a 3rd at Lowers last year.
Since relinquishing the Jeep Leaders' Jersey at the Outerknown Fiji Pro, Gilmore has fallen to No. 4 on the CT. She now trails Wright by over 6500 points, falling well off the point leader's pace in the span of just two events. Fortunately, Lowers plays right into Steph's wheelhouse, and is a wave much closer to her beloved Snapper Rocks in its dynamics than the semi-closed out beach break of H.B. pier. Gilmore finished 2nd at Lowers last year, a performance which included 9-point rides on three out of her final four scoring waves -- two in the Semis and one in the Final.
Carissa Moore's confounding 2017 struggles continue. Following the US Open, Moore dropped to No. 9 on the Jeep Leaderboard, not a familiar place for the 3x World Champ. She seemed to have regained her edge in Fiji, but fell back again with a 9th in H.B. As one of the Tour's most gifted talents, Moore's problems seem to be between the ears rather than performance-related. Moore has 18 CT wins in eight years on tour, but her last victory was the Roxy Pro France in October 2016. In 2017, she has yet to advance past the Quarterfinals. It's quite a conundrum for the Hawaiian, which oddly is the same stumbling block 6x Champ Gilmore struggled through in 2016. Is it due to changes in her team, mainly the absence of her father, who is not traveling full-time with Moore for the first time in her decorated career?
Of this group, Peterson's taken the biggest tumble down the rankings, dropping three spots to No. 10. Peterson, who may be the most athletically gifted surfer on the Women's Tour, started strong with a 2nd and 3rd in two of the first three Tour stops, but has failed to make the Quarterfinal round since Bells. Often sidelined by injury, Peterson has the style and technique, as well as the experience, at Lowers from her decorated amateur days, to drop a season-turning result at the Swatch Pro. If she finds her groove early, the third of three Californians in the Top 10 rankings could be the threat of the entire event.
WSL Women's World Championship Tour Jeep Leaderboard, after Vans US Open Of Surfing:
- Tyler Wright
- Sally Fitzgibbons
- Courtney Conlogue
- Stephanie Gilmore
- Johanne Defay
- Sage Erickson
- Nikki Van Dijk
- Tatiana Weston-Webb
- Carissa Moore
- Lakey Peterson
The third stop of the California leg, CT event #7 of the Women's Championship Tour, the Swatch Pro (running concurrently with the Men's CT Hurley Pro Trestles) runs Sept. 6 -17 at Lower Trestles.