With a world title secured, there wasn’t much left for Tyler Wright to prove on Saturday at the Maui Women’s Pro.
There were, however, a few nagging issues to settle on finals day to end the 2016 season. Would Carissa Moore win her third straight Maui Pro? Would Bianca Buitendag earn a spot back in 2017? Would Wright equal Stephanie Gilmore with five wins in a single season, most ever on the women’s world tour?
In short, no, no and yes.
Buitendag gave it everything she had and reached the quarterfinals for just the third time all year, but she couldn’t overcome Courtney Conlogue at that stage. Laura Enever is now assured a spot on the 2017 world tour and Buitendag will have to dip into the Qualifying Series to eventually get back.
Moore and Wright then capped off the season by both reaching the final. Despite being the top surfer for 2016, Wright was an underdog in this particular matchup. Moore has dominated their head-to-head heats and hasn’t lost a final to Wright.
Things seemed to be heading in that same direction when Moore picked up a 9.00 on her first major scoring effort. A backup of any consequence was going to make things very difficult for Wright to equal.
But it isn’t just Wright’s maneuvering on her board that has taken her to the top, she also made a clever move under priority. She took what wasn’t the best set wave, knowing Moore would be eyeing something bigger. That ride still netted her a 6.83 and kept her in position to jump ahead, which she later would by earning a 7.83.
Now it was Moore who needed a 5.66 to jump back in front, but she only picked up a 4.33 on her final attempt. While the rain came down on Kauai, sunny skies greeted the final horn as Wright rode in to victory.
Her final numbers are very impressive. Five wins, two second-place finishes and one third. Her prize money ticked just over $400,000 for the year with Saturday’s win, which is likely to top everyone on the men’s tour not named John John Florence. For as difficult as the women’s world tour is from top to bottom, Wright’s first title run is one of the most impressive of all time.
Tatiana Weston-Webb and Malia Manuel each reached the quarterfinals to maintain their positions in the final rankings. Weston-Webb finished fourth, the best ranking in her young career. Manuel finished seventh, bumping back up from 10th last season. And good on them both for finishing the year well into six figures in prize money, each making a career high in that department.
Kauai’s duo will be back on tour next year to continue competing for a world title. There will be some new faces joining the mostly familiar cast, but the level of competition continues to rise each and every season.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.