After ten months, the Championship Tour is back -- and judging by the performances throughout the opening day of the Maui Pro presented by ROXY, it was an explosive return.
There were some huge statements made as the best women in the world pulled the jersey on for the first time in almost a year and got to work on the highly-rippable four-to six-foot waves groomed by a light wind.
Reigning World Champ Carissa Moore didn't miss a beat and looked as dangerous and confident as ever. Meanwhile, Tyler Wright, donning the Progress Pride flag on her jersey, went perfect and knocked the winningest surfer ever at Honolua, Stephanie Gilmore, out of the event. Here's what you need to know:
It's Good To Be Back
The opening day of the new Championship Tour started with all kinds of aloha vibes -- there were whales breeching out the back, double rainbows and perfect surf at Honolua Bay. Needless say, it felt good to be back.
The World Champ Picks Up Right Where She Left Off
There was a lot to talk about on the opening day of the season. But it starts with the performance of reigning World Champ Moore, who clearly has no intention of relinquishing her top spot. And with her dog Tuffy watching and wagging from the bluff, she snapped right back into contest mode.
Building momentum all day long, she advanced through her first heat without breaking much of a sweat. In the Round of 16 she faced wildcard Bettylou Sakura Johnson, and while it was billed as a generational clash, Moore shut the door on her pretty quickly. Then in the Quarters, facing island rival Malia Manuel, Moore went to work under priority, building scores and boxing in the surfer from Kauai.
Wright Returns With Progress, Pride And Perfection
The two-time World Champion returned to surfing's biggest stage with a simple, beautiful message that "surfing is for everyone" amplified by the Progress Pride flag emblazoned on the shoulder of her jersey.
And her subsequent performance? It's not too early to call Wright a title threat this year. She is looking super fit, is armed with a clean quiver of Pyzel shapes and is surfing with reinvigorated passion and purpose. She rolled through all of her heats and posted the CT season's first 10-point ride in the Quarterfinals against Gilmore. After the first day of competition, she's positioned herself as the in-form surfer of the newly minted season.
"It was all feeling, really," Wright explained afterwards.
Erickson Returns To Tour And Takes Out World No. 2
Maybe it's the fact that she's faced up to adversity and fought her way back on Tour. Or maybe it's the recent support of the GOAT, Kelly Slater and his squad at Outerknown. Or maybe it's the fresh Channel Islands' sleds under her feet. Whatever is fueling Sage Erickson's fire at the moment, it's working. Handing Caroline Marks an early exit in the Round of 16, the Ojai Kid is back and means business.
Not Bad For A Rookie Who's Never Been To Maui
This has been a hard year to be a rookie on the Championship Tour. After putting a lifetime's worth of work into achieving their dreams of competing on surfing's main stage, they've been forced to sit and wait for their opportunity all year long. Before landing on the Valley Isle a few days ago, Isabella Nichols had never been to Maui. But you wouldn't have been able to tell -- she Posed the day's first nine-point ride in her Elimination Round heat, if there were any questions about how the rookie was going to adjust to the big leagues, consider them put to rest.
She was rolling until she met future Brazilian Olympian Tatiana Weston-Webb, who dropped a nine-point ride of her own and introduced the young Aussie to the hard knocks of Tour life.