It's been almost two months since the Margaret River Pro came to an abrupt halt, due to much-discussed shark activity in the area at the time. In a landmark move, the World Surf League decided to pick things up where they left off, at an entirely new location, and finish the event. The renamed events are now the Uluwatu CT and Uluwatu CT - Women's -- in a reprieve for goofyfooters -- with the next call at 7:00 a.m. local time Friday, June 8. Commissioners expect to run the contest over two days, with the possibility of extending to a third, if needed. The event will stream live on the WSL and Facebook.
So where were we, exactly, in each event? Here's a quick refresher.
Where Are We Again? Women's
The women's event at Margaret River left off with the completion of Round 3, so the Uluwatu CT Women's event will kick off with the Quarterfinals. In Round 3 way back when (actually, in April), Carissa Moore, Stephanie Gilmore and Nikki Van Dijk were the standouts, with each scoring rides in the eight-point range. Round 3 was also a watershed moment for Bronte Macaulay who, now in her second year as a member of the Championship Tour, has mostly struggled to get past Round 2.
What's new since April, however, is a meaningful rankings shakeup. The World Title race is becoming a two-woman faceoff, between Gilmore -- who was No. 1 at the time, but now sits at No. 2 -- and Lakey Peterson, who grabbed pole position with a win at the Corona Bali protected. Just behind them on the Jeep Leaderboard are the newly minted World No. 3, Tatiana Weston-Webb, new No. 4 Tyler Wright -- who jumped three spots after a runner-up win Sunday at Keramas -- and Moore, who slipped one spot, to No. 5. With all five women in the Uluwatu Quarterfinals (plus Van Dijk, Macaulay and Johanne Defay), the stakes are extremely high.
It's largely for that reason that Jessi Miley-Dyer, the WSL Deputy Championship Tour Commissioner, is especially confident on this Balinese add-on. Without the completion of Margarets, she said, each competitor still in the event would have been stuck with a fifth-place finish on her final points tally at the end of the year -- hardly a boon to a would-be World Champion.
There's also the statement that the decision to run is making. "I've done it before in the women's, where I didn't start something in France," she said. "I couldn't start in Biarritz, it was the last year we were there. We restarted the event for us in Hossegor [30 minutes north] from the beginning, because we hadn't started yet.
"It was pretty cool to be able to do that. This is something we're pretty proud of to be able to do for the surfers, to go to Uluwatu and finish an event and make sure those points for the World Title are distributed."
Where Are We Again? Men's
The men's event at Margaret River didn't get as far, rolling through Round 2, and will pick up again with Round 3. Still in that pack, though, are some of the top-ranked surfers who, like the women, are teeing up for a World Title showdown. Among them are the Top 5 on the men's rankings: Jeep Leader Italo Ferreira, who just won the Corona Bali Protected and, quite simply, is on fire. When Round 3 kicks off, he'll be facing fellow Brasilian Michael Rodrigues in Heat 4.
World No. 2, Brasilian Filipe Toledo, also of Brasil (but a San Clemente, Calif. transplant), will face yet another surfer from his home country, rookie Yago Dora. While Dora is far, far down the Championship Tour rankings, at No. 27, that may be precisely the problem. With nothing to lose and a progressive game nearly as good as his opponent's, Toledo will need every bit of experience and poise to get through this elimination round, in Heat 10.
Next up on the rankings, Julian Wilson -- now World No. 3 after the Corona Bali Protected -- faces event wildcard Kael Walsh, a Qualifying Series surfer from Western Australia. In Margaret River, Walsh most certainly would have been on equal footing, with his local's knowledge and all, but Ulu will be less predictable. Wilson, of course, was the Jeep Leader before Bali, so odds are good that he'll be fighting hard to get that Jeep Leader Jersey back. World No. 4, now Michel Bourez (he finished runner-up at Keramas, in a personal coup), who will face Connor O'Leary in Heat 8 and and No. 5, Gabriel Medina, who faces wunderkind wildcard Jack Robinson in Heat 7. If Racetracks is working well at Uluwatu -- the wave's barreling inside section -- Medina will have a real threat on his hands.
Miley-Dyer's counterpart, Deputy Commissioner Renato Hickel, is also awaiting the fireworks. The last time the WSL ran a contest at Uluwatu, he said, was a Rip Curl Search event in 2008. This time, of course, will be a little different, operationally speaking.
"We've had a few cancellations before, but never to the point that the League mobilized and put funds towards it to provide the surfers with proper results," he said. "It's not cheap, that's a lot of cost and logistics involved, and I'm really pleased to see that it's going to happen. It's going to be a first, and I'm sure it's going to be an incredible event."
The next call for the continuation of Margarets, which is now the Uluwatu CT, is 7:00 a.m. local time Friday, June 8.