After eight consecutive Lay Days at the Target Maui Pro, the Women’s WSL World Tour’s last stop of the season finally got underway in perfect 4-6ft Honolua Bay barrels. The flawless conditions allowed contest organizers to run a full three rounds of competition and got one heat closer to possibly crowning a World Champion for 2015.
Hawaii’s Carissa Moore and California’s Courtney Conlogue have been in a heated battle for the number one spot for the last 5 events. The pair have dominated all other competitors throughout the year and are the only surfers in contention for the title. While both surfers won their Round 1 heats, Courtney failed to advance in Round 3, forcing her to compete in elimination Round 4. If Courtney loses the heat, Carissa Moore will the the 2015 WSL World Champion.
Moore looked every bit a World Champ in her Round 1 heat. She dissected the hollow rights with laser-like precision, releasing her fins on snaps and putting her whole rail in the water on her turns. She snagged two 8 point rides with ease and combo’ed the other two surfers – Silvana Lima and wildcard Dax McGill.
When Carissa hit the water for her Round 3 heat, she faced two of the day’s strongest surfers in fellow Hawaiian’s Malia Manuel and Tatiana Weston-Webb. The long lulls allowed each surfer to get only 3 or 4 waves throughout the 30 minute heat, so each surfer had to surf mistake free if they wanted the heat win. Malia started off strong with a committed closeout re-entry for an 8.50, but couldn’t find a good back-up wave for the rest of the heat. Tatiana never found her form in the heat and struggled for a wave that didn’t closeout. Carissa on the other hand, seized the opportunity and caught the second and third best waves of the heat. Each wave saw the two-time World Champion perform a series of powerful arcs and smooth snaps. She looks to be in tune with Honolua’s tricky reef as she never made any mistakes with timing the sections. She never had a bobble or caught a rail in anyway all day.
“[Courtney and I] can’t really affect each other in the World Title race,” Moore said in her post-heat interview. “There’s other factors and we won’t be each others’ factors, so we just have to go out there and do our thing and surf our best.”
In Round 1, Conlogue was also in fine form. On her first wave of the heat the powerful regular-foot free-fell smoothly into an overhead barrel. After exiting the tube she smashed the lip several times and scored an excellent range 8.93. Her back up was equally good and the World No. 2 easily advanced straight to Round 3.
“It was so great having the bay to myself with just two other women,” Conlogue said after the win. “It was a really fun heat, a bit slow at the end but the conditions are definitely promising today and with the tide dropping it’ll only get better.”
Conlogue was in control for nearly the whole heat in Round 3, with both Nikki Van Dijk and Johanne Defay needing near 8 point rides to advance directly to the Quarter Finals. Courtney has to make it to the Quarters to keep her title hopes alive, and didn’t want to have to battle it out in elimination Round 4. Conditions may have been perfect, but long lulls plagued the heat. When a solid set approached towards the end of the heat, Nikki had priority and waited patiently for the best wave of the set as Conlogue and Defay caught the first two waves. Unfortunately for Conlogue, Nikki’s wave was one of the best of the day, scoring an 8.67 on a huge tube and closeout floater. This regulated Conlogue to Round 4 where she must defeat a fiery Coco Ho to keep up with Carissa Moore.
The rest of the Top 17 women relished in the perfect surf, and all performed well throughout the day. Notable standouts were Malia Manuel, Lakey Peterson, Alessa Quizon, and Sally Fitzgibbons. Malia showcased her graceful yet powerful approach in both her heats, just came up one back-up wave short in Round 3. Lakey has been surfing great throughout the last half of the season and continued her solid rail surfing in Maui. Alessa had two sick waves in Round 3 to for the win and her best result of the year, while Sally moved through to the Quarter Finals under the radar with no pressure if a World Title race.
A drop in swell saw the Target Maui Pro off for Monday. Tuesday looks small as well, but contest organizers hope to get the women back in the water on Wednesday as a new solid swell approaches the islands. Courtney needs Carissa to falter, and to make the Final if she wants to have a chance at the title. When the contest resumes, the following scenarios will lead to the crowning of a new World Champion.
If Moore finishes in 5th then Conlogue must win the event. If Conlogue finishes runner-up instead, it would be a tie and a surf-off.
If Moore finishes third (Semifinals), then Conlogue needs to win the event.
If Moore finishes runner-up she will win the World Title.
Check out these highlights from the first day of competition:
Watch the action live when the Target Maui Pro continues Wednesday at 7:30am Hawaiian Time at worldsurfleague.com
TOP PHOTO: Target Maui Pro 2015 lineup. – Epes Sargent