We're entering a new era in women's pro surfing. If the Roxy Pro taught us anything it's that the days of an elite few utterly dominating the pack are over. More women have found the winners circle, which means the aura of invincible champs like Stephanie Gilmore, Carissa Moore and Tyler Wright is fading. Sage Erickson, Lakey Peterson, Tatiana Weston-Webb, Silvana Lima, Nikki Van Dijk, and Johanne Defay have all visited the podium recently while perennial threats like Sally Fitzgibbons and Courtney Conlogue are as strong as ever. As we take a look at this year's women to watch, we're focusing on three individuals at very crucial points in their respective careers.
The 16-year-old rookie is surfing with nothing to lose. She's seeing her first season as purely a learning experience, which keeps her expectations in check. It's much easier to stay loose and enjoy the process with that kind of attitude, and it showed at Snapper where she got the edge over Gilmore, Lima and Erickson with her powerful backhand attack, which, if you squint your eyes a bit, can be mistaken for vintage era Occy. She surfs low, with her springs always loaded, and the release of that pent up energy is very potent off the top. Caroline's Florida years taught her how to milk every ounce of energy out of a wave, which is something that comes in handy at Bells. Her California years have been spent at Trestles, too, a slopey righthander that will feel quite familiar to her. Rookies on the women's side have been known to crack the Top 5 in their first season: Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Tyler Wright and Carissa Moore are perfect examples. Don't be surprised if Marks does the same.
Moore's fifth place finish at Snapper wasn't the result she was looking for, but judging from how well she's surfing at the moment it's hard to see her enduring another slump like she did in 2017. Truth be told, there's no better place for Carissa to demonstrate her dominant rail-surfing game than Bells Beach, which is why she won the event three times in a row in 2013, '14 and '15. In fact, over the past five years nobody else comes close, despite her disappointing fifth place finish in 2017 when she lost in a very tight battle with Courtney Conlogue in the Quarterfinals. The newlywed is looking calm, relaxed and content these days, which is a welcome sight. 2017 was a transitional year for Carissa, and she's coming into this year with a much more open embrace of the challenges in front of her. She's got all the pieces in place to make a run back toward the top, and if that's indeed the case there's a strong probability it will start right here.
Hot off the second Championship Tour win of her career Peterson is looking a lot like a World Title threat, but we'll learn for sure if that's the case at Bells Beach, where she finished third last year. She's added a few miles-per-hour to her already speedy surfing, and speed sells at Bells. So does the color yellow. She'll be sporting the Jeep Leader Jersey for the first time ever when she hits the water. The question that lingers with Peterson is whether she can string together a long list of solid results. Fortunately, Bells is one place that she finds familiar. The right points in the Torquay region bear some resemblance to her Santa Barbara stomping grounds. Heck, the outside section at Bells is called Rincon, so Peterson should feel right at home. Last year she knocked out two-time winner Sally Fitzgibbons and went 1-1 against three-time event champ, Steph Gilmore, losing to her in the Semis. Peterson would love to be the next Santa Barbara surfer (Tom Curren, Kim Mearig) to bring the Bell trophy home.