In 2016, Victoria's Nikki Van Dijk wasn't really considered a World Title contender. Sure, she was a world-class threat -- she made a couple of Quarterfinals, even a Semi --but for the most part, competed slightly outside of that Top 10 box, finishing the year at No. 11.
But after the last two events, plus her impressive Round One win Wednesday over 3X World Champion Carissa Moore at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, it's clear that 2017 is a different year for Nikki. Moore, after all, has been the most dominant surfer on the women's side at Bells.
With a far better start to her year than last, Nikki has already made two Quarters and is currently tied with Carissa Moore at No. 4 in the world. The difference at the moment, though, is how Nikki is getting there. She's behaving much more like a contender than a Tour survivor.
While it's a bit of a stretch to call Nikki a Bells Beach local (her hometown of Phillip Island is three hours away) perhaps she used some home-state knowledge. More than that, however, Nikki finished every wave in her Round One heat cleanly and fired-up, plus she used priority brilliantly over Moore and Macaulay.
All in all, Van Dijk's looking like a hungry, new woman in the water this year, already upsetting past event winners and setting the tone for a big 2017 jump. But if she's to keep her current pace she'll have to get past defending champion Courtney Conlogue in Round Four. Can she keep the upsets coming? Find out when the Rip Curl Pro resumes.