Bethany Hamilton will make three Kauai wahine in the 18-woman field at this week’s Swatch Women’s Pro at Lower Trestles. I know I’m not the only one, but I sit in astonishment any time Hamilton competes in any event these days, let alone at the highest level in the world. It feels like I shouldn’t be shocked or awed by her accomplishments because she seems to keep achieving in such a matter-of-fact manner, but I just can’t help it. She receives the event wild card to take on the very best the Championship Tour has to offer.
In terms of their own results, the rest of the field would probably rather see someone other than Hamilton take that extra spot. Last time she was given such an opportunity, she made the most of it with a semifinal showing at the Fiji Pro earlier this year. At that event, she knocked out top-ranked Tyler Wright and Nikki Van Dijk before losing to eventual champ Johanne Defay.
If she is to make a similar run in California, it will begin with an opening-round heat against both of those women eyeing revenge — Wright and Van Dijk. That’s just a bit of lucky (or unlucky) coincidence, but it should be quite entertaining.
Tatiana Weston-Webb enters Trestles coming off her first ever Championship Tour victory back in Huntington Beach. Pure joy and elation were the last emotions we saw from Tati after winning that contest, which has propelled her to the outside of the 2016 title race. At No. 4 in the world and just on Carissa Moore’s heels for third, Weston-Webb opens up against Sage Erickson and Alessa Quizon in round one. Erickson comes in hot having just won the Pantin Classic Galicia Pro in Spain last week and has been having one of her best years both on the CT and Qualifying Series.
Malia Manuel is also coming off her best CT result of her career, finishing runner-up to Tati in Huntington Beach at the U.S. Open of Surfing. That has earned Manuel a comfortable cushion inside the world tour’s top 10 and she now has a great chance to continue moving up from her current No. 8 position. She’ll start off in round one against Lakey Peterson and Sally Fitzgibbons.
The men’s Hurley Pro will be the first contest for John John Florence in the yellow jersey. After his charge to the final in Teahupoo netted him the tour’s top ranking, Florence is in the driver’s seat for what could be just the first of multiple world titles.
He’ll be opening up against Aussie Davey Cathels and a familiar face on the California coast, Brett Simpson. Making his 2016 CT debut, Simpson shouldn’t ever be taken lightly as he and wild card Tanner Gudauskas could wreak some havoc of their own amongst the regulars.
Sebastian Zietz has a tough opening heat against Michel Bourez and Alejo Muniz. Zietz is still in good shape and ranked 12th on the season, but he and Bourez have a one-sided history. Seabass has never topped Bourez in a head-to-head matchup, so the Tahitian might have the mental edge in this non-elimination heat. But Zietz has gotten off to good starts recently with round one wins in his last two CT events.
Kelly Slater, who suddenly finds himself an unlikely late entry to the world title race after winning in Tahiti, has an all-star opening heat against Filipe Toledo and Jeremy Flores.
Just four contests remain for both the men and women. With Labor Day in the rear view, it truly is the home stretch of the CT season and it all gets going today.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.