Can women surfers directly compete with their male counterparts? This is a question certainly worth debating, now more than ever with the current caliber of talent on display from the lineup of ladies laying it down on the World Surf League circuit, from the Samsung Galaxy Series down through the Juniors.
One matter not up for debate is Carissa Moore’s WCT dominance. As she claimed her third title at the Target Maui Pro, it became obvious we were witnessing an apex athlete raising their game to a new level.
Toggling back and forth from what was going on in Maui to what was happening concurrently on the men’s side at the Vans World Cup, it was clear the best surfer wearing a jersey on the entire North Shore of Hawaii at the time was Carissa Moore. The point was further emphasized as she crushed it at the Women’s Pipe Invitational. She was in a zone–a place we all wish to be at one point or another whether competing for money and a trophy or just getting wet on the weekend at a favorite right-hand point.
Three factors stand out as putting Moore head and shoulders above any others.
1. Line work: There was no one drawing finer lines as the 2015 season wrapped up. Moore’s current rail-to-rail game is the best in the business. Precision surfing = points. She was racking up plenty of those, thanks to on-point technical prowess.
2. Grace and Power: These two elements are not easy to combine within a 35-minute heat. Yet, the ladies seem to be pulling it off now on a consistent basis. The progression is quite noticeable. Whether it’s Moore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Courtney Conlogue, Lakey Peterson, Coco Ho, etc., the adjective “smooth” comes to mind even amid the most intense paddle battles. Yet, there is no shortage of stabs and spray shooting above the lip. All competitors did their fair share of throwing buckets, but Moore truly made it rain.
3. The Fun Factor: To adequately illustrate this, I’m going to dust off the oft-used Phil Edwards quote, which interestingly, he probably didn’t actually say: “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.” In the water and out of it, Moore always seems to be sporting a smile. And why not? She is clearly enjoying life right now, and her Zen is translating into one thing: winning.
Next season is going to be fun to watch unfold, especially with Steph Gilmore returning to the fray. The women’s comp is no longer just an opening act or second fiddle. It is grabbing more of the center stage with each and every event.
Recently, it was reported the English Surfing Federation’s decision that women would make equal prize money to the men during the 2016 season. Although the women’s prize money in the WSL is correlated to the amount of surfers on tour (there are less women on tour than men) and a more even dispersement of prize money was voted on by the women, the announcement puts pressure squarely on the WSL to follow suit, and the powers-that-be know it. At this past season’s Swatch Women’s Pro, the ladies took home the same prize payout as the boys who battled in the Hurley Pro at Trestles. This marked a milestone for the WSL. The breakthrough appears to be a trend and not an anomaly.
The current state of the women’s surfing worldwide is strong and gaining momentum. Now is not the time to discourage, but to encourage, embrace and reward some of the sport’s best ambassadors and role models accordingly.