With five events down and five events to go on the 2019 Women’s Championship Tour of the World Surf League, no individual has been able to run away from the field.
But two countries have.
Surfers from Australia and the United States occupy all top six positions in the tour standings at the season’s halfway point. All five winners this season are in that group. But who will emerge on top at the end? And which ones will find themselves in position for Olympic qualification for the sport’s debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Those storylines and more will provide plenty of interest as the 2019 WCT rolls on.
Download the Team USA app today to keep up with surfing and all your favorite sports, plus access to videos, Olympic and Paralympic team bios, and more.
Who Is In Line For The Olympic Games?
Maybe even more contentious than the race for the 2019 world title is the race for Olympic spots. The WCT is one of the qualifying events for surfing’s debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, with the top eight women earning spots on their country’s Olympic team. But with a maximum of two surfers per country, that means some Team USA surfers will get skipped over. If qualifying ended today, Carissa Moore and Courtney Conlogue would make the 2020 U.S. Olympic Women’s Surfing Team. With five surfers in the top eight, it’s highly likely Team USA will qualify both its female surfers via the WCT standings, but those spots are still very much up for grabs considering the top-ranked athletes have varied greatly from event to event.
When Will Carissa Moore Get Her Win?
The second-ranked Moore has been oh so close to winning this year, first in Australia in the season opener and this past weekend in Brazil, coming up short in the finals both times. The 26-year-old — who represents her native Hawaii on tour — is the only contender in the top six without a win this season. But she has been a model of consistency, never finishing outside the top five. She had a chance to take over the yellow jersey Sunday in Sao Paulo, but fell to Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons, who took over the top ranking instead, in the final. Moore has won three world titles, which is the cumulative season ranking, and won two of last season’s final three stops.
Is This The Year For Courtney Conlogue?
The fourth-ranked Conlogue, from Santa Ana, California, has been a top contender for a world title before. She finished runner-up in 2015 and 2016, and finds herself in the hunt again this year as she proves she’s suffering no ill effects from an ankle injury that caused her to miss four events in 2018. She won the second event of the season at Bells Beach, and since has scored three top-five finishes.
Which Lakey Peterson Will Show Up?
No. 5 Peterson has been up and down this season, going from ninth in the season opener, to third at Bells Beach, to ninth in Bali, then winning in Margaret River, Australia. Those two podium finishes have kept her in the top five, but she’ll have to add more of those if she wants to match her career-best second-place tour finish from 2018.
Can Teen Sensation Caroline Marks Continue Her Rise?
The 17-year-old Marks, ranked sixth on tour this season, became the youngest surfer in Championship Tour history when she qualified as a 15-year-old in 2017. She surfed in just one event that year, but was Rookie of the Year in 2018 and finished seventh overall. Marks announced her intention to beat that finish with her season-opening win in Queensland, which made her the first woman to earn the same first-place earning as the men ($100,000). All she had to do was beat seven-time world champ Stephanie Gilmore in Gilmore’s home country.
Will Malia Manuel Make A Comeback?
Manuel — who also represents Hawaii with Carissa Moore — had a hot start to the season with a third in Queensland and a second-place finish at Bells Beach. But she’s since faltered with three ninth-place finishes in a row and finds herself ranked eighth. The 25-year-old is still seeking her first WCT victory, something that would go a long way toward boosting her back into Olympic contention.
Will Any Other Nations Step Up?
The top quartet of Team USA surfers and two perennial Australian contenders in Gilmore and Fitzgibbons form a tough bunch for anyone else to break into. But keep an eye out for Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb, who just scored a second top-five finish of the year in her home country. Currently ranked seventh, Weston-Webb was fourth on last year’s tour. The top countries in women’s surfing are so dominant that as of today you have to go to No. 16 on the list to reach eight Olympic qualifiers – since there is a maximum of two per country – which would yield two athletes each from Australia, the U.S. and Brazil, with one apiece from Costa Rica, France and New Zealand.
Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.