- WSL / Kelly Cestari
- WSL / Kelly Cestari

The Big Five was a term first coined by big-game hunters who classified the five most difficult and dangerous species to hunt. What's this got to do with surfing? Well, on the eve of the World Title-defining Maui Women's Pro, it is clear that women's surfing has its own Big Five whose half-decade dominance of the sport is set to continue for some time.

Breaking It Down: The 2017 Women's Title Showdown
Here's what each of the contenders need to seal the deal on Maui.

Since 2012 Sally Fitzgibbons, Tyler Wright, Courtney Conlogue, Carissa Moore and Stephanie Gilmore have roamed the upper plains of the Championship Tour savannah. They are quintet of apex predators that have resisted all attempts to be hunted down or drawn back to the chasing pack.

Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) , Tyler Wright (AUS), Carissa Moore (HAW), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)  and Courtney Conlogue (USA) during press session of the Maui Women's Pro 2017 at Honolua Bay Five women, 10 World Titles and half a decade of dominance . - WSL / Damien Poullenot

Sure, there have been times when one of these five have temporary dropped out of the mix. In 2014, Courtney Conlogue's ankle injury took her out of the equation, and Malia Manuel stepped into that vacant spot.

Conlogue, however, bounced back stronger than ever in 2015, only for Gilmore to succumb to a knee injury. That year her top five spot was, temporarily, taken by Bianca Buitendag. In fact it was only last year that there was any evidence that this elite group of women surfers had any vulnerabilities. Despite surfing in all the events on the calendar in 2016, Gilmore and Fitzgibbons both finished well out of the World Title contention.

Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) placed 1st  in Heat 6 of Round One at  Maui Women's Pro Steph surfing in Maui last year. She ended up finishing as World No. 6. - WSL / Poullenot/Aquashot

When the young guns Joanne Defay and Tatiana Weston-Webb stepped up into their coveted top five spots it looked like we could be on the verge of some type of generational shift. But, like Manuel and Buitendag, their ascent was temporary. Since 2012, those four are the only surfers to have cracked the Big Five's dominance, and none could sustain their breakthroughs past a single year.

This year, when Gilmore won at the Gold Coast and Fitzgibbons in Margaret River, they quickly proved that 2016 was a minor blip and set about reclaiming their spots at the very top of the sport. As the year has progressed, Conlogue and Wright have maintained incredible consistency and had moments of pure brilliance. Moore then added a late charge in Europe to ensure that all the members of surfing's top table now have mathematical chance of taking the Title at Maui's Honolua Bay

Sally Proves Her Class At Margarets
Sally Fitzgibbons got the edge over Stephanie Gilmore in their Semifinal heat, heading to the Finals with Tyler Wright.

It's the very least they deserve. Right now we are in a golden age of women's surfing, with five of the most highly gifted and committed surfers in the history of the sport all fighting for its biggest prize. For half a decade they have been operating at a level that none of their peers have matched for any length of time. No matter who wins in Maui, that doesn't look set to change for a little while yet.

Courtney Conlogue (USA) carves into Honolua Bay. Courtney has been in fighting for a World Title since 2012. Will 2017 be her year? - WSL / Poullenot/Aquashot
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