Two events down and it’s two wins for Carissa Moore, who is setting herself up nicely for a run at her third world title. Moore topped Stephanie Gilmore in the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach final to keep her spot atop the women’s Championship Tour leaderboard.
It’s as good a start as the Oahu native could ask for and she’s gotten the better of Gilmore in both finals. The pair has combined to win the past eight world titles but the veteran Aussie, at the ripe “old” age of 27, already has six in her pocket. Moore certainly has the talent to have a similar career, but she’s still dealing with Gilmore in her prime and a crew of other hugely talented surfers all hungry to prove themselves.
Australia has historically been a strong spot for Moore. It’s her third straight year winning at Bells Beach and she’s taken first place at six of the past eight CT contests Down Under. It also makes three straight CT contests she’s won, period, dating back to the final event last season in Maui. While 2014 was considered something of a struggle by her lofty standards, Moore must once again be looked at as the favorite to maintain that top spot in the rankings.
Things can change rapidly with such a deep and talented field flooding this year’s top 17, but Moore and Gilmore have both begun to box out the rest of the competitors. Tyler Wright and Courtney Conlogue are tied for third and Sally Fitzgibbons sits in sixth, but reaching finals are what make world champions.
Tatiana Weston-Webb reached the fourth round at Bells and has now reached at least that point in all five of her Championship Tour contests. She sits tied with Fitzgibbons for sixth place with the strength of her semifinal appearance on the Gold Coast. Weston-Webb has given reason to understand the lofty expectations many are placing upon her future and is already competitive with the best in the world. She may be a rookie, but hers is not a name the veterans have been excited to see in their own heat draw.
It will be a small blip for Malia Manuel, who had reached the quarterfinals at Bells in two of the last three years, but her second-round exit this time around shouldn’t be much of a detriment in the long run. The throwaway score gives her a little less maneuverability, but to remain at or above her fifth-place finish from last season, she’ll be needing big results anyway.
Coco Ho did reach the quarters at Bells, which is her highest finish in the last five contests. She, like her island mate Moore, obviously likes the Victoria break and has gotten to the quarterfinals in four of the last five years. The result puts her into a tie for eighth place on the season.
One more Aussie stop kicks off Wednesday with the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. We’ll see if Moore and Gilmore continue to write the 2015 script without any additional input, or if someone else is able to chip into their points lead before the tour heads to Fiji.
It would be back-to-back three-peats if Moore is able to win at Margaret River, where she’s finished on top the last two years. Her contest will start against Ho and an event wild card in the opening non-elimination round.
Weston-Webb will be matched up with Fitzgibbons and Oahu’s Alessa Quizon, who knocked out Manuel at Bells. It was just the second time in seven contests that Quizon has reached the fourth round, so hopefully the injury troubles that plagued the back end of her 2014 season are in the rear-view mirror.
Manuel won’t have the red jersey in round one as she takes on Conlogue and Dimity Stoyle. Those in red have done well in the opening round so far, winning eight of 12 heats through two events.
The men’s side is scheduled to open the same day and Kilauea’s Sebastian Zietz will take on Brazil’s Adriano de Souza and American C.J. Hobgood in round one. Zietz has reached round three for Equal 13th results at each of the season’s first two stops.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.