For Courtney Conlogue, the task facing her at the Roxy Pro France is, while far from easy, uncomplicated. She needs to keep winning heats. Once again today at Culs Nus, losing one would mean watching Tyler Wright being crowned the World Champion.
And so, the world title is at stake every time she paddles out. She can't win it here, but can lose it. Thus preparing for that very eventuality, lenses are trained upon her adversary Tyler Wright in the surfers' area during Courtney's heats, waiting for ‘that world title moment' shot.
Courtney, you suspect, as if not fired up enough already, draws extra impetus from the spectacle, for them daring to even think it.
While Nikki Van Dijk got the best of the Californian in their Round One encounter in speedy rights, the lefthanders on offer this morning seemed better suited to Conlogue's vicious haymakers. But when the Australian put Courtney back on her heels with an 8.6, Conlogue responded in kind, with a 9.17. With a backside bottom turn that resembles a racing line on a downhill corner - starting wide, hovering diagonally before exiting with even more speed - Conlogue once again kept any champagne corks from popping at her expense delivering an emphatic payback to Van Dijk.
It's going to take implausible physical and emotional stamina to keep this up, but if there's anyone in the sport who has seemingly inexhaustible reserves of that, it's Santa Ana's finest.
"It's down to the nitty gritty right now," said an almost breathless Conlogue. Nikki, she's been surfing well and got me in the first round, and I didn't want that to happen again. This world title race is really exciting for me. I'm just simplifying it, and giving myself the best shot I have."
Wright meanwhile had something of a walk through against Laura Enever, who found herself starved of waves and never posted anything of significance in an awkward, between banks stage of the tide. Wright appears the very picture of measured energy in preparation for her heats, but in the post heat interviews, almost appears to be holding back the emotions as a tide of realization threatens to overcome her that every heat made is another step closer to a monumental moment in her life.
"I'll do my thing, that's it, that's all I really know," said Wright when asked about her upcoming Semi matchup with Tatiana Weston-Webb. "I don't know who's going to win or lose, but all I know, I know me, and what I can do. I've got a brilliant team behind me and we'll go into that heat as we do every other, trying to win every heat, every final. I can't do much more than that."
Wright comes in to finals day with her destiny in her own hands. If Courtney loses her Semi against Carissa Moore - who scored 18.24 in a demolition of Stephanie Gilmore today - Tyler is the World champion. But even if not, Tyler herself is two heat wins away from realizing her ultimate dream.