- WSL / Damien Poullenot
- WSL / Damien Poullenot

Californian Lakey Peterson has long been a dark horse on the elite women's Championship Tour. Since joining the CT in 2012, she's finished inside the Top 10 five of her six seasons. She dropped below that just once, in 2016, when she was sidelined for half the season with an injury.

While Peterson's track record reflects her highly competent approach to competing, the best may be yet to come. Looking back at the year's best scores, the 23-year-old earned three of the top five highest heat totals of 2017. Not bad for a surfer who didn't win an event all year. And that stat bodes well for Peterson's next chapter. With one of the best progressive games on the women's CT, she's always been a stealthy beast in the lineup, capable of taking down the tour's top tier (read: Stephanie Gilmore, Tyler Wright and the like).

Lakey Peterson: Contender
At the Roxy pro Gold Coast -- the first event of 2017 -- Peterson earned two of what would become the highest-scoring heats of the season.

This past season featured the case in point. At the first event of the year, the Roxy Pro Gold Coast last March, Peterson was simply en fuego. Despite being relegated to the Round Two elimination heats, she fought back in style, earning a 9.27 and a perfect 10 to efficiently defeat Silvana Lima. Her combined score of 19.27 is the second-highest heat total of 2017 (she went on to top herself -- but more on that below).

Later in the same event, in the event on the Goldy, Peterson scored big again. Her combined 18.60 was more than enough to dispatch French surfer Johanne Defay. At year's end, it also stands as the fifth-highest heat total of 2017.

Lakey Peterson Takes Down Carissa Moore
It was back on home turf, at the Swatch Pro at Trestles, that Peterson outdid herself.

While Peterson had a great start to the year in Australia, it was back on home turf that she shined the brightest. Having grown up in Santa Barbara, just south of California's Central Coast, she recently moved further south, to the state's wave Mecca of San Clemente. So it should come as no surprise that it was there, during the Swatch Pro at Trestles, that she did her best surfing of the year. In a tough Quarterfinal battle against perennial top dog Carissa Moore, Peterson pulled out all the stops.

Moore put a 9.77 on the scoreboard -- a typically dominant run for the three-time World Champ. But that's when Peterson stepped it up a notch. First, she nabbed a 9.70, showing incredible confidence in the face of her heavyweight opponent. Next, she attacked the lip on an unsuspecting right for a 9.87. her combined total -- 19.57 -- stands as the highest of the year, among all Top 17 women's competitors.

Shining Bright on Home Turf
Lakey Peterson takes down Carissa Moore in the Quarterfinals.

After surfing in the shadows of some of her tour mates for six seasons straight, punctuating them with moments of brilliance, 2018 might just be the year that Peterson steps into the spotlight. Her fans, her coach, her family, and even she herself know that she has what it takes to break through to the upper tier of the tour. With the kind of scores that she has been throwing down combined, perhaps, with a more finely-tuned approach to competition, it's only a matter of time.

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