South African Rosy Hodge spent four years competing on the World Surf League (WSL) Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour (CT) from 2007-2010, before joining the WSL broadcast team. As a former competitor at the elite level, Hodge weighs in on who she thinks should round out your Women's Fantasy Surfing lineup.
Tier A: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) won the Roxy Pro Gold Coast as a 17-year-old wildcard in 2005. The wave is in her backyard, so her hometown advantage and comfort in the water at any break along the Goldie and Northern New South Wales (NSW) is second to none. Four of her six World Title runs have begun with a win at the Gold Coast (2009, 2010, 2012, 2014). The recent run of cyclones and groomed sandbars means we could see amazing conditions like the ladies had for the opening event last year, which she won. Gilmore is an easy Tier A selection.
Tier B: Courtney Conlogue (USA)
Sitting out 3 of the 10 events of the 2014 women's Championship Tour after suffering an ankle injury at the Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach and still finishing in the Top 10? Courtney Conlogue is one of the most dedicated surfers I know and her competitive drive is evident. I have a feeling Courtney has already clocked more water time at Snapper Rocks, done more offseason training and is already feeling confident that she'll place near the top of the women's CT at the end of the Roxy Pro Gold Coast.
Tier C: Coco Ho (HAW)
With so many moments of brilliance and heartbreakingly close calls last year, I think Coco Ho is about to find her formula for success on the Championship Tour. I love the technically perfect surfing she was doing at the Swatch Women's Pro Trestles last year and her form at Snapper is always beautiful to watch. I hope we see Coco string all the elements of confidence, surfing poise and luck together this year at the Roxy Pro.
Tier B: Malia Manuel (HAW)
I hate making the sit 'em picks! Especially knowing all the hard work that has been going on in the offseason. We haven't seen the ladies compete since the end of the Target Maui Pro last December. Snapper always brings out the best in every competitor on the Championship Tour and the caliber of surfing always exceeds expectations. If I have to sit someone I would pick...Looking at the Top 5 on the rankings again, all of them are capable of winning the event. Based on past results alone, Malia Manuel is the only lady in the Top 5 who hasn't made the Final at the Roxy Pro in her career. I expect 2015 to be the year that Malia finds her stride and makes a solid run for the World Title.
Tier B: Silvana Lima (BRA)
2015 sees the return of Silvana Lima to the Tour. After watching her upset Stephanie Gilmore's run at the Billabong Rio Pro last year and knowing she was a close runner-up to the World Title in 2007, I find it difficult to sit Silvana for this event. I know she has had nagging knee and ankle injuries...but her surfing ability is always on point.
Tier C: Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW)
With some incredible performances in Fiji and smart heat strategy in Brazil last year, Tatiana Weston-Webb is a dangerous mix of surfing ability and heat management, in one goofyfoot package. The first year, and especially the first event, of your rookie season on tour is nervewracking. If Tatiana can find her confidence in the early rounds and her rhythm at the right point she can upset the top seeds. But for now, the top girls have a lot of knowledge and experience that they will bring to every heat, which might trump even the most polished rookie performance.
Dark Horse: Laura Enever (AUS)
Anyone see some of the footage of Laura Enever getting barreled at P-Pass? Wow. With a recent win at the Hurley Australian Open of Surfing, I expect her to carry that confidence and light into the event at Snapper and her 2015 campaign.