First of all, let me say how stoked I am that Chris Grant asked me to do this. It has been a long time since I’ve written anything power-rankings-esque and as a student and fanatic of the sport of surfing I have to say I miss it. Truth be told, I’m writing these things in my head already regardless of whether they get published or not. The saddest thing is that Surfline cut me off right when the tour started to get interesting. That said, this has to be the most dynamic lineup of female surfers we’ve seen to date. I do not mean to take anything away from Lisa or Layne or Margo or Frieda or Wendy or Pauline or Jodie or Pam or Kim (Mearig) because they all distinctively killed it (and still do no doubt), but this lineup of talent, like the lineup on the men’s side, is one step above anything we’ve seen before.
We now have four women solidly capable of pulling airs in heats (Carissa, Silvana, Malia, and Lakey). Those less apt in the air are brutal on the lip and have proven that women’s surfing can be both radical and stylish at the same time (Sally, Steph, Tyler, Sofia, Courtney, Pauline, Laura, Sage, et. al.). Now that I think about it, the saddest thing is not that Surfline stopped running women’s power rankings but that with the deepest talent pool women’s surfing has ever seen there are only seven events for the ladies this year and once again NO HAWAII. Sad face emoticon.
This year the girls will start off with steady Australian leg at Snapper then at Bells. Thank god for Australia and its continued support of all things surfing. No other country except maybe Brasil has this kind of cultural acceptance and support for our sport.
With only one goofyfoot remaining on tour, Paige Hareb, you can bet a regular footer is going to win Snapper (not because Paige does not have what it takes, but because regularfoots dominate the Australian leg and she’s severely outnumbered). (Ahhemm: Calling all goofyfoots: QUALIFY PLEASE!) If last year’s performance and her recent win at Manly says anything, the money’s on Sally Fitz. But there are too many variables to really call it this early. Carissa is defending champ (in more ways than one) and will be looking to get to another solid start. Steph’s hungry after finishing 3rd last year and is on home turf. Tyler showed herself a force to be reckoned with last year. Silvana and her speedy smooth attack is always a threat, and then there’s the bevy of new talent waiting at the gates frothing to break through. These are all ingredients for a stupendous start to 2012 — let’s just hope the waves show up to the party.
As for the remaining five contests, well, the girls better like two things: 1. the southern hemisphere; 2. beachbreak. The girls only have two events in the northern hemisphere — France and Huntington — and four out of the seven events are to be held at beachbreaks (Taranaki, Rio, France, and Huntington), the remainder at Australian right handers (Snapper, Bells, and Dee Why).
All of this beachbreak action mixed with the most Californian girls that have been on tour simultaneously in a long time (Courtney, Lakey, and Sage) could equal a title challenge from a normally dormant sector. The Hawaiians, Carissa, Coco, and Malia, however, have all shown that they have what it takes in all conditions, and are looking like one of the most formidible island contingents yet to grace the tour. Jacqueline and Silvana are our only Brazilians this year. Bad surf could favor them, and in Silvana’s case, so could heaving barrels and a grip of landed aerial maneuvers.
2012 also sees two French women, Justine Dupont and Pauline Ado, on the tour. Pauline made some strides last year and from what I’ve seen of Justine, a few surprise upsets could come from the French quarter. And then there’s the frothing Aussies — Sally, Tyler, Steph, Laura, and Rebecca — the largest showing by any single country. I don’t think that Laura and Rebecca have what it takes to make a run for the title, but they are sure to take down some names while their fellow countrywomen attempt to bring the title back to Oz. All of this compatriotism makes Sofia the Peruvian and Paige the Kiwi the darkhorses this year. Both excel at lefts, so any beachbreak that offers up a more consistent left sandbar could spell victory for either one. Game on.
# 1 – Carissa Moore – Hawaii – carissamoore.com
We know she can pump out combination maneuvers on her forehand like Hawaii pumps out pineapples and macadamia nuts, but can she keep the juice flowing for another title? Right points and punchy beachbreak air-section wedges favor Carissa again. It’s all psychology at this point. In order to be the next Slater she’ll need to amplify her psyching powers (and maybe bic her head). Video
# 2 – Sally Fitzgibbons – Australia – sallyfitzgibbons.com
Her ability to pull carving reverses at will in addition to her stronger, smoother, faster style put Sally on the accelerated track to perennial world-title-contender-dom. Sally is a woman who has the maxim “8s or lates” firmly entrenched in her heat strategy. If she doesn’t win the title she’ll end up in the top three again, having been beaten by someone who consistently threw down 9s and 10s against her (as Carissa did last year). Video
# 3 – Stephanie Gilmore – Australia – stephgilmore.com
The wrist rattled Steph last year. As someone who has formerly broken a wrist I can totally identify with this. It’s perhaps one of the worst parts of the body for a surfer to injure. Hopefully she has regained both her strength and her wits. Also, I do not care if Steph never does a single air. She’s one of those surfers like Tom Curren who does not need to launch to win events. Smooth rail to rail power surfing shall never die and when done at Steph’s level is a thing both of beauty and high scores. Variety of turns and consistency will be the keys if she wants to unlock the door to another title. Video
# 4 – Tyler Wright – Australia
What can I say? She kills it. What I’d like to see: no pumping ever. Her strength is on the rail. She’ll need to mix up the patented layback — maybe tweak it into an inverted slide or take it above the lip. Not sure if she’s title-ready, but she’s definitely in the mix. Video
# 5 – Silvana Lima – Brazil – silvanalima.com.br
When I wrote the power rankings for Surfline I never stopped singing Silvana’s praises. A few Brazilians got mad when I put Sally ahead of her, but look where Sal finished last year. I hate to say it, but I am rarely wrong. Maybe a little snide or crass or harsh, but not dead wrong. That said, Silvana is one of my favorite surfers. I love her speed and her casual approach. Every time she’s in a heat I want her to win. But as I used to tell my buddy Shea when we did contests, “No pull no points.” In freesurfing it’s different — we all like to see air attempts, but in contests airs need to be landed to score. If and when Silvana starts punctuating rides with huge frontside lofts and clearing sections with spinners instead of floaters she will be untouchable. May that time be now. Video
# 6 – Coco Ho – Hawaii – coco-ho.com
My claim to fame is beating a 70 lb Coco Ho at heaving Newport Beach in the semi-finals of the 2005 VQS championships. I scored an 8 for a backside layback barrel that I never should have made it out of. Fast forward seven years. I teach fashion history and theory at Parsons and predominantly ride a retro fish except when Jersey is 4-6 and ramping. Coco is on tour hucking fins at will. Clearly that semifinal had no bearing on either of our futures. Depite the pure pedigree, I do not see her as a title contender, but rather a title upsetter. She’ll continue to make semis, finals, and win the occasional event or two, and she will most certainly ruin others’ runs in the process. Video
# 7 - Sofia Mulanovich – Peru – sofiamulanovich.com
Never count her out. Her pscyhology is basically unassailable. If they could figure out a way to clone Sofia’s brain chemistry we might be able to find a cure for chronic depression and low self esteem. And like I said in the overall preview, if the beachies manage to produce solid lefts Sof could have a victory or two in her this season. Video
# 8 – Courtney Conlogue – United States
Rookie shakes last year, but she showed glimpses of more great things to come. Proof that you can never count California out even when the future seems exceptionally bleak for the Golden State. If a majority of the venues see larger surf Courtney could become a massive threat to any premature rushes for the gold. I’m calling that she will also claim her maiden tour victory this year. Video
# 9 – Pauline Ado – France – paulineado.fr
Well of course the first thing that pops to mind when we see her name is the not-so-witty “much ado about….” So much ado about what? About forehand hacks it seems. Despite said hacks, however, Pauline is going to have to pump up the volume in both the strength and variety of repetoire categories if she wants to finish higher than 9th this year. Video
# 10 – Laura Enever – Australia
Laura Enever has career security no matter how well she fares on tour. With her outrageous personality and image, there is no doubt she’ll be hosting sports and fashion awards and becoming a general celebrity for years to come. And maybe it is this kind of security that will actually enable Laura to continue to push through heats. Video
# 11 – Malia Manuel – Hawaii – maliamanuel.com
She won the US Open at 15. We have seen the video clips of her tail high fin chucks and effortless roundhouse cutbacks. Definitely already in contention for rookie of the year based on expectation alone. I am excited to see how she deals with surfing against the more experienced girls. Video
# 12 – Lakey Peterson – United States – lakeypeterson.com
Pretty much ditto for everything said about Malia Manuel plus we know she has got an air game. One of the first female surfers I have ever seen pull a clean air reverse in competition. It was at Trestles and she scored a 10. If she can put that type of surfing together with consistency California might have it’s first world champ since Tom Curren. Video
# 13 – Sage Erickson – United States – midlength.blogspot.com
Another golden girl from Cali. I haven’t seen much of Sage’s surfing except in stills. She’s got a wicked forehand slash and from what I understand can be quite formidable in right points and in beachbreak, which bodes well for this year’s list of events. The jury is out. Video
# 14 – Rebecca Woods – Australia – becwoods.com
The return of the quarterfinals queen. I said it in the Power Rankings and I will say it here again: Rebecca Woods needs to push past the quarters. She has the ability and the flow, but requires wave selection. She will need to channel the “8s or lates” maxim and manifest that in her heats if she wants to keep up with all the new blood on tour. Video
# 15 – Paige Hareb – New Zealand – paigehareb.co.nz
Despite any reservations I may have about her ability to win heats I am pulling for Paige on pure goofyfooted alliance. I hope she finishes in the top five to prove that goofyfooted surfing is not dead and that she knocks a bunch of regularfoots off the tour in the process. It would also be nice if all the girls who qualify next year are goofyfoots. The imbalance is absolutely devastating. On the guy’s side of things the goofy men, still outnumbered by their right-footed brethren, are stepping up. The same needs to happen on the girls’ side and with Chelsea Hedges off tour, Paige is going to have to carry the torch. Video
# 16 – Justine Dupont – France
Darkhorse rookie of the year. I just watched her “I Surf Because” video on Youtube and am sold on her style and approach. She understands the nature of competitive surfing and is as confident as one needs to be to take down her heroes. May she do for France what fashion, butter, and democracy have! Video
# 17 – Jacqueline Silva – Brazil – jacquelinesilva.com.br
The stalwart. As long as her competitors continue to make stupid wave choice and priority errors Jacqueline will continue to capitalize upon them. What she lacks in talent she makes up for in smarts, which equals a very well rounded and experienced contest surfer. In a sense she’s like Slater in that no mistake goes unpunished. I am essentially giving all of the other girls advice for beating Jacquie: don’t make mistakes. I repeat: if you make one mistake against her, she will destroy you. Video
31 years old. Teaching fashion history and theory at Parsons the New School for Design. PhD candidate in philosophy with an emphasis in aesthetics at the New School for Social Research. Surfing for 25 years. Surf instructor for 8 years. Quick wit. Barrel master.
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