The second half of the women's Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour season will begin with the Swatch Women's Pro September 9 at Lower Trestles. With only four events left in the 2015 season, the surfers' Jeep rankings have more significance than ever.
Several of the Top 17 women discussed their standings at the last Championship Tour (CT) contest, the Vans US Open of Surfing. Carissa Moore (HAW) surfed in her first Round 2 heat of the season at Huntington Beach, indicating a rougher start than the perennial Tour leader is used to. (Surfers who do not win their Round 1 heats must surf again in the second round, where they face elimination if they lose). Though she was able to bounce back for a few more rounds before being eliminated in the Quarterfinals, her equal-fifth finish there is her second worst result of the season.
"I like to think [Round 2] is not different from any other round," said Moore. "You just have to take it heat by heat, and it's whatever is in front of you. But there is that nervous energy of bowing out and getting a thirteenth -- last place."
While many on Tour would be happy to add the 5,200 points to their ratings total, the result left a gap wide enough for Courtney Conlogue (USA) to steal the Jeep Leader's yellow jersey from the two-time World Champion.
The talent on Tour is arguably higher than it's ever been -- at this same point in the 2014 season, Moore counted only one better result than she has currently and that was enough to keep her in first place. Moore now sits at No. 2 with an inspired Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) clawing at her heels. Knowing her results better than most analysts, the Hawaiian is working on adapting a new mental strategy to prevent last year's outcome -- in which she finished third in the world -- from happening again.
"I think if anything, changing for the second half of the season would be to have fun and not put as much pressure on myself as I did last year," Moore said. "I'm kind of looking at it as a clean slate. The first half of the year is done and now we're starting [four] new events. It's whoever can do the best in the second half."
Conlogue may have taken the Tour leader's yellow jersey, but there are only 400 points between her at No. 1 and Moore at No. 2. While it may feel good to wear yellow at the Swatch Women's Pro, Conlogue is well aware that it's not time to start celebrating yet.
Refocusing and harnessing a competitive mindset isn't just for the Tour's leaders. Australian Nikki Van Dijk, who is currently World No. 13 and recently collected back-to-back Quarterfinal finishes, made active efforts to work on her mental strategy during her time between events.
"I think definitely getting knocked out in Round 2 three times in a row before really helped me reevaluate the year and refocus on what I'm working towards," said Van Dijk. "It's not easy to have close heats and then get knocked out. Afterwards I would just go home to my psychologist and talk it out and realize that I just need to surf and have fun and ease the stress."
Sitting two spots behind Van Dijk in the rankings, No. 15 Alessa Quizon (HAW) earned her second Round 4 finish at the Vans US Open. And like fellow Hawaiian Moore, she is doing her best to tackle every event heat by heat.
Only the Top 10 women on the CT are automatically guaranteed spots on the 2016 Tour. Quizon, then, will have to significantly improve her ranking in the last four events if she hopes to requalify with her CT points. Surfers may also requalify with Qualifying Series points, but only the Top 6 are awarded spots on the 2016 Championship Tour.
Like Quizon, Californian Sage Erickson is doing her best to back herself up on the Qualifying Series. In spite of a number of close heats and high heat totals, Erickson has yet to make it past Round 2 in any CT event.
Erickson's glass, however, might just be all the more full: Following the US Open, she headed to Central America to compete in the Copa El Salvador Impresionante where the Californian claimed victory. As the second-to-last QS 6,000 of 2015, Erickson gained valuable points to increase her chances at requalification, moving up three spots in the rankings to tie Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) for first place.
With four events left in the 2015 Championship Tour season there is great opportunity for lower seeds to battle back and the yellow jersey to trade again. But -- make no mistake -- the points battle will only be more intense from here on out.