It's been a long winter but the 2018 Championship Tour (CT) season is finally getting underway. With building anticipation, the event window for the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, alongside the Quiksilver Pro, will open March 11 at Snapper Rocks. Not only is it time to see fresh faces and new moves, but, historically, whoever wins at Snapper has a 60 percent chance of also winning the World Title. So, to put it lightly, the Roxy Pro matters.
After a few months off, equipment has been refined and strategies have been refocused. Motivations have been reignited and confidence re-sparked. The World Title is anyone's game and every competitor will be arriving on the Gold Coast in fighting form. Of the 17 women on this years roster, a few of them have seemingly mastered the crowded Superbank at Rainbow Bay. Each of them will arrive at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast armed with the type of confidence that stems from local knowledge and intensive training -- traits that few can fake. Here are a few of the women to watch:
Last season was tough for Moore. The three-time World Champion wasn't able to break through the Quarterfinal barrier until the eight event of the year, when she finished 2nd at the Cascais Women's Pro. While Moore normally comes off poised and light-hearted, she looked stressed and flustered during the first half of the season. But by the end, after winning the Roxy Pro France, it was obvious that the Hawaiian had bounced back. And there's nothing more dangerous than a former World Champ looking for redemption.
On top of that, the 25-year-old is a two-time Gold Coast champion and although she grew up in Hawaii, Moore has spent a lot of time at Snapper throughout her pro surfing career.
Peterson earned a lot of praise last year after making it to the Final at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast against local legend Stephanie Gilmore. But it was her Round Two performance against Silvana Lima that made the biggest impression. At the time, it was being called one of the best heats ever surfed in the women's professional arena. She earned a perfect 10 on one wave and a low-9 on the second -- linking tubes with progressive maneuvers and turns. Kelly Slater was among those on site who got up from his seat to her cheer on. Although Peterson lost out to Gilmore in the Final, she showed what she is capable of at Snapper. If she's able to recreate any of that, she'll be unstoppable.
Last year Gilmore won her sixth Roxy Pro, thus ending a two-year winless streak on home turf. Prior to her win, the Australian was struggling to find her place on Tour. Fortunately, Gilmore's relationship with Snapper is undeniable and the six-time World Champ came back to winning form in the best way possible. The 30-year-old earned a perfect 10 in the Quarterfinals -- eliminating event standout Carissa Moore -- and numerous 8-point rides throughout. Dubbed the Queen of Coolangatta, Gilmore won in front of friends and family with a style perfectly suited for the legendary Sandbank.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world to win on the Gold Coast," Gilmore said. "It's the greatest place on earth in my eyes. It's my home."
In the beginning of 2016, Tyler Wright won the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, taking down favorites Moore and Gilmore along the way. At the time, Moore was coming off of a World Title win and had won 11 of their 13 previous matchups. But it was clear that Wright's strategy had changed. The Australian demonstrated a type of focus and drive that wasn't there in the years before. Wright had also just started working with coach Glenn "Micro" Hall, who also used to surf on the CT.
"On her end, she wants to succeed, so she's completely willing to take on everything I want to give her," Hall said at the beginning of the 2016 season. "It's a perfect balance when someone wants to learn and you really want them to learn."
The win had additional emotional depth, as Tyler's brother, fellow CT surfer Owen Wright, had sustained a head injury at Pipeline earlier in the year. Although unable to compete, he was able to make it to the event to cheer Tyler on. The Roxy Pro marked Tyler's consistent poise and showed the world that she was taking things seriously. The Australian then went on to win her second consecutive World Title.
Watch the world's best make their 2018 season debut live daily on the WSL during the the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, March 11 - 22.