"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others," wrote George Orwell in Animal Farm. Now if we can take the liberty of both paraphrasing the great Orwell and assuming he had watched the recent Swatch Pro at Trestles, he might have said that while all Championship Tour (CT) wins are special, some CT wins are more special than others.
Earlier in the year, we could apply this theory to Owen Wright's incredible victory on the Gold Coast. His comeback from a potential life destroying head injury provided an emotional heft that elevated the win from a major upset into something revelatory and truly inspirational.
While that win rates easily as one of the most special victories of the year, Silvana Lima's victory at Trestles might be next in line for emotional resonance. It's been seven years since the Brazilian last won a CT event. In that time, few athletes in surfing have worked harder to keep their dream alive than Silvana.
Over that period a series of knee injuries, sponsorship difficulties and financial pressures have all threatened to end a career which started in 2006. Back then Lima burst onto the scene as one of the most progressive women surfers the sport had ever seen. She would use her explosive aerials and pocket rocket speed to win her a two-time World Title runner-up and easily claim the unofficial title of Brazil's greatest-ever female surfer.
"At 32, she's the lone survivor of a distant age where the women's Tour suffered from an identity crisis and was perennially on life support," wrote Sean Doherty in Surfermag.com. "Silvana is now the lone surviving Brazilian woman anywhere on Tour and the last survivor of the dark days before the WSL got the women's Tour on parity."
However buckling knee injuries played their part in Lima dropping off that stage in 2013. When she hit the age of 30 and failed to re-qualify in 2014 and 2015, many thought her career may be over. During this time she resorted to breeding French Bulldogs and selling the puppies to finance her QS travels. She also set about rehabilitating her injuries with one of the most intense fitness and training regimes on Tour. Her persistence and sheer will to succeed saw her win the Qualifying Series in 2016 and at the age of 32, make an incredible return to the elite surfing stage.
Despite that incredible journey back to the top, few predicted that she would scale the heights that she did on the cobblestones at Trestles. Her CT form had been poor, even if her results on the QS had shown what she was still capable of. From the very first heat at Trestles though, it was apparent that Lima was surfing as good as at any stage in her career. Her average heat score throughout the event was an incredible 16.95 and none of her opponents remotely threatened her dominance. No one could touch her.
It was emphatic, but more than that, it was emotional. A seven year wait of which a large portion has seen Lima sacrificing everything she had to simply stay in the game had finished with a surfing performance of the highest standard. Special doesn't quite cover it.