June 4 was the last day we got to watch the women square off in Championship Tour (CT) competition with Courtney Conlogue beating Tatiana Weston-Webb at solid Cloudbreak. After a nearly two-month break, fans everywhere are ready to tend to their Fantasy teams and make some picks again. Lucky for us, the Vans US Open of Surfing is gearing up for the best run of swell this event has seen in years.
While Tier A usually houses event favorites, Huntington Beach tends to have a mind of it's own. Of the top three seeds this year, only Sally Fitzgibbons (13.37) has an Average Heat Score (AHS) in the Top 5 of surfers currently on Tour. Stephanie Gilmore and Jeep Leader Tyler Wright fall all the way down to 8th and 10th respectively with AHS of 12.44 and 12.2.
Fitzgibbons does make up for whatever she lacks in AHS by leading the way in Heat Win Percentage (HWP), where she cruises at a 69 percent clip. Having won in 2011, she's one of the six women on Tour to win this event over the past six years.
While Fitzgibbons has the edge in consistency here, Wright has come on as of late with a win in 2014 and two Semifinals, in 2016 and 2013. Keep in mind she was only 17 when this event became a CT in 2011 and has clearly stepped her game up to a new level over the past two seasons, and is dominating this year with a 14.96 AHS, 12 of them being Excellent Heats (with two top scores of 8.00 or above).
You wouldn't consider this one of Gilmore's pet events, since she's only cracked the Semifinals one time in her five attempts at Huntington, but she did go on to place 2nd during this event in 2014. Groveling has never been her forte, which hopefully won't become much of an issue with a solid forecast on tap.
Tier B will make your head spin, knowing you can only pick two women from a strong field of nine options, four of whom have won this event.
Now in her fourth season on the CT, defending event champ Tatiana Weston-Webb was having a rough go this year until Fiji, where she fought her way back to a Final appearance. She holds a pair of 9th at HB to go with her 1st last year and recently improved her seeding enough to hold off the top rated women until the later rounds.
Courtney Conlogue is always fired up to battle when she puts on the jersey, but especially at a hometown event where she's never won on the CT level. You may remember her dominant win back in 2009 when the contest was a QS 6,000. That was the last time HB received double-overhead conditions which, if we're lucky, it can potentially reach again.
Not far up the freeway from HB lives 2012 US Open champion Lakey Peterson. She's cracked the Quarterfinals every year except 2013, owns the highest AHS of any woman, with 14.03 points, and the second highest HWP at 65 percent. Lakey is deadly in most beach breaks, but especially this one.
From 2011-2013, Carissa Moore placed 3rd, 2nd, and 1st, and looked well on her way to Huntington Beach GOAT status. Since then, she's cooled off quite a bit only managing two 5ths and a 9th here last year. This has easily been her toughest season on tour to date, sitting in a career-low 8th place on the Jeep Leaderboard. No one doubts Riss' ability to bounce back at any moment and we fully expect her to shatter some high seeds' dreams during the back half of the season. It could start soon, because Moore owns an event-high of six Excellent Heats at the pier.
To round out Tier B, we can't forget about Johanne Defay, who came out of nowhere to grab her first career CT victory here in 2015. Holding only one 9th in her scoreline for 2017, winning the Vans US Open again would put her directly in the World Title conversation. Even more so, because the women's tour is heading into another one of her favorite events, the Swatch Women's Pro Trestles.
Although it's a bit of a sleepy Tier C, a couple of women have found previous success on the Pier Bowl left. Pauline Ado managed a career-high 3rd-place finish in 2013 and injury replacement Bianca Buitendag placed 3rd as recently as 2015, to go with a 5th in 2013.
Malia Manuel is still on the mend from her MCL injury that she suffered during the Drug Aware Pro Maragret River, but recently got back in the water to surf again. We hope to see her back for Trestles, barring any major setbacks.
For further research, make sure to check out the action in Oceanside this weekend for the Supergirl Pro and remember to lock in your teams before Monday, July 31st.
Watch the Vans US Open of Surfing live daily on the WSL website and app from July 31 - August 6.