Win Maui, Win The Title. That's the simple premise facing Sally Fitzgibbons, Tyler Wright and Courtney Conlogue as, yet again, the World Title race is going down to the wire at the Maui Women's Pro this weekend. Except for last year, when Tyler Wright's dominance meant the race was wrapped up in France, the Maui event at Honolua Bay has hosted some of the most dramatic finales in the history of women's surfing.
Joining those three, although with a fair amount of ground to make up, are Carissa Moore and Stephanie Gilmore. The Maui Women's Pro has hosted some ridiculously tight races, but a five-way tussle is unprecedented. The event's pivotal history will however be of no surprise to the surfers in contention. At various stages they have all played key roles in those dramatic finishes.
It was two years ago when Conlogue was left as the only competitor who had a chance of wrestling a third World Title away from the ratings leader Carissa Moore. The two had battled all year, with Moore winning the first two events, before the Californian claimed the next two. However, after 10 months of dueling, for Conlogue it came down to the last five minutes of an intense, fluctuating Round Four matchup against Coco Ho to keep the race alive. When Ho eventually won the heat she handed Moore, her fellow Oahu native, the World Title. Moore would go on to win the event to ice the cake and cap a dramatic year.
Conlogue had also been in the mix in 2014, along with Fitzgibbons, Wright and Gilmore. The four-way tussle was so tight that each heat came stacked with drama and changing permutations of fortune. When Steph lost in the Quarters, Sally could have claimed her maiden World Title with a win. However when she stumbled in her Semi that left the door open for Tyler. In what was a tantalizing situation, if Wright won the Final she would have drawn equal points with Gilmore and the two would have needed to engage in the first ever world title surf-off in CT history.
Unfortunately for Wright, and for surf fans relishing that prospect, it was Moore who yet again was the fly in the ointment. She nailed a 9-point ride with less than five minutes remaining to defeat Wright in the Final and give Gilmore her sixth World Title. Yet again the flawless walls of Honolua Bay had provided a day of extremes, as competitors dealt with the soaring highs and crushing lows of chasing their dream, often transitioning between the emotions within the space of single waves.
There is absolutely no reason to suggest that the 2017 version won't reach the same levels of tension, drama, sadness and triumph. Each of the five contenders have been in this situation before, some leaving Maui crushingly disappointed, others with the World Title in hand. They are experienced, talented and determined. More simply they are five of the best surfers in the world. Yet five doesn't go into one. There's only one option: Win Maui, win the World Title.