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By Jake Howard
For the ladies of the WSL, the Swatch Pro is a critical stop in the world title race. With three-quarters of the season in the books already, Lowers is the most dependable wave they’re going to see the rest of the season. The next two contests will take them to Portugal and France, and while the waves can be good, over the years it’s become evident that anything can and usually does happen in the inconsistent Old World beach breaks. The Atlantic has a funny way of scrambling things before the women head to Honolua Bay on the island of Maui, site of the final contest of the 2017 season. On its day, Honolua can be as good as any wave on the planet. The drawback is that its fickle and doesn’t get epic all that often. That leaves Lowers.
Defending Swatch Pro champion and reigning world champion Tyler Wright has to be considered the clear favorite this year. The worst result she’s had all year is a quarterfinal finish, and as such, she’s currently leading the 2017 world title race.
“It’s a great wave and a great opportunity to really get technical with your surfing,” said Wright after her win last year. “You really have to have the variety and the combination of maneuvers to succeed here because it’s such a consistent wave.”
Hot on Wright’s heels in the title race is Sally Fitzgibbons. Another technically brilliant Aussie, a big result at the Swatch Pro could shoot her back into the lead and give her the advantage she needs to capture her first world title.
“It’s a long season, but this is a great opportunity for me to elevate my surfing and find my benchmark.” said Fitzgibbons.
Even for the women at the top of the leader board the road to the final isn’t going to be easy. Three-time world champion Carissa Moore and six-time champ Stephanie Gilmore are tough to beat when the waves are firing. Both have a wide-ranging arsenal of maneuvers at their disposal and impeccable style.
“I started competing here in the NSSA contests when I was really little and I feel pretty comfortable here,” said Moore, a former winner at the Swatch Pro. “It’s one of my favorite waves and kind of like a home away from home.”
Hailing from nearby Santa Ana, Courtney Conlogue is also well suited to win the contest. With two contest wins this season already, she’s sitting in third behind Wright and Fitzgibbons. A win in San Clemente could put her in the pole position. Another California girl to keep an eye on is Ojai’s Sage Erikson. Fresh off a stunning victory at the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach earlier this summer, Erikson is having a career year and now finds herself ranked sixth in the world.
“Trestles is such a groomed wave that it gives you a chance to showcase your style, and your surfing, so I love that the girls get to show that,” said Erickson.
There’s a lot more riding on the Swatch Pro than an oversized winner’s check and bragging rights. A world title literally hangs in the balance.
Read more of the Hurley Pro/Swatch Pro special section edition HERE: