Australia has been the dominant force in pro surfing since the sport's earliest days. In the 40-plus years since the WSL Championship Tour (CT) was forged, 16 different Australians have amassed more than 38 World Titles and no other nation comes close. More recently, there's been talk of the Australian power grip slipping, mostly because their numbers have been reduced on Tour. While some proud Australians back home are sounding alarm bells, Team Australia will be hoping to quell their fears at the upcoming WSL Founders' Cup May 5 - 6, where their team of five will feature four very popular World Champs -- more than that of any other team at the event. Here's a look.
Captain Stephanie Gilmore
Stephanie Gilmore has arguably done more for women's surfing than any of her predecessors. While her six World Titles and her current spot on top of the Jeep Leaderboard speak volumes, it's her groundbreaking style and incredible performances that have shattered barriers. While she's long been a hero in the realm, every fan and even fellow competitors have her on their favorite surfer list, and Gilmore's inspired a generation of boundless women as a result. As for the Founders' Cup, just know this: Steph's stylish brand of tuberiding at the Surf Ranch has been called by many, including Kelly Slater, as the best in the business.
After the three-time World Champ wrapped one of the most remarkable professional careers in history at Bells Beach in April, he said he was looking forward to three things: catching perfect waves, hanging out with good friends, and fighting for bigger causes. Fortunately for Australia, the notion of representing his country in a team event like the Founders' Cup checks all those boxes, and he's been intent on keeping his blades sharp for this one. As we saw at Bells, Fanning is dangerous when he's having fun. That makes him downright lethal in this environment.
The 2012 World Champion has been at this game for more than 18 years, and his silky-smooth style has served as the benchmark for good form the entire time. Like Fanning and Gilmore, his style was streamlined in the speedy tunnels found on Australia's Gold Coast -- waves that bear a striking resemblance to those at Kelly Slater's landlocked creation. It didn't take long for Parkinson to fall in love with the Surf Ranch, and with a few warmups under his belt you can expect the artistry to hit new levels.
Tyler Wright is always looking for new ways to motivate. After winning back-to-back World Titles that game gets a little tougher, but earlier this year, during the Australian Boardriders championship, we saw how much team events matter to Wright, as she and her brother Mikey helped lead their tiny Culburra Beach Boardriders Club to a prestigious national title. It's one thing to represent your home town, an entirely different one to represent your very proud surfing nation. Wright won't be needing to hear any pep talks…she'll likely be delivering them.
No surfer on Tour has reinvented their surfing the way Matt Wilkinson has over the past few years. For the majority of his career, the colorful and cagey CT veteran was just struggling to stay on Tour. The fun-loving thrill-seeker didn't have much desire for silly stuff like discipline -- at least not until he realized what was really at stake. When reality hit, he made the very smart move to inject a little more purpose into his routine. Nothing drastic. He's still the same, fun- loving guy. But with a compass, a clock, and a little better understanding of what makes his surfing better. The results have been his incredible surge into the realm of World Title contender, and a shot at proudly representing the world's most dominant surfing nation on this stage.
Watch the WSL Founders' Cup of Surfing live daily on the WSL and Bleacher Report (US only).