As Italo Ferreira and Carissa Moore soak up their victories from the first event of the Australian leg, they must now steady themselves, refocus and prepare to face a hungry field of competitors who are eager to solidify their Final Five spot for the season-ending showdown at the Rip Curl WSL Finals.
The waiting period for the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic presented by Corona kicks off April 16, and there's plenty to dive into when it comes to a promising forecast, some epic matchups and insane wildcards. Before the circus comes to town, here are the top six things to look out for:
1. The Return Of Mick Fanning
Fanning will be a serious threat to the men's draw with his veteran competitive knowledge and comfort at Narrabeen. He also has a special connection to the Event Wildcard status, winning the first event of his career 20 years ago as a Wildcard at the 2001 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. But for the last year he's also been enjoying dad life with his young family, so snapping into comp mode is going to take some work.
"I don't think I'll feel bad. The amount of wildcards that ruined my dreams over the years, they didn't feel bad," Fanning told the WSL. "The biggest hurdle is actually getting ready to compete at a level that I think is right there to try and take people out."
2. Ferreira V. Medina
As rivals and Olympic teammates, the relationship between Ferreira and Medina is something to pay close attention to at Narrabeen, and throughout the entire season. With his win at Newcastle, Ferreira will be in the Yellow Leader's jersey. And we've already gotten a glimpse of what he has in store for us in Narrabeen.
Medina is notoriously dangerous during the back half of the season, but is currently enjoying the best start of his career. Two events, two runner-up finishes, it's only a matter of time before he breaks through to the top.
It's difficult to say who has the advantage here. Perhaps Ferreira has the momentum, while Medina now has the motivation. On opposite sides of the draw, could we see them meet up in the Final again?
3. Goofyfooter's Galore
Narrabeen will be the first real high-performance left for the goofy-footers since Mundaka was last on Tour in 2009. Though Narrabeen can have right-hand sections, if the swell is primarily out of the northeast, the waves pouring into the lagoon will be lefts. Though they're located on opposite ends of the globe, Narrabeen and Mundaka share a lot of similarities, including bathymetry, barrel sections and even water color.
Goofy-foot surfers have grown accustomed to the iconic right-handers on Tour over the past decade, refining their backhand attack at waves like J-Bay, Snapper and Bells, but this will be a refreshing and exciting change of pace for both Tour leaders, as well as those hoping to upset the upper echelon of the WSL Leaderboard.
4. Home Field Advantage
Another Event Wildcard to look out for is North Narrabeen local, Laura Enever. She'll be bringing a host of tricks to the event, from her intimate knowledge of the bank to her devastating backhand hammers.
In 2016, Enever bagged a perfect 10-point-ride at Cloudbreak and was one of the standout surfers of the event. Though she didn't go on to win in Fiji, most of Enever's top results have been at home in Australia, most notably the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, where she finished 3rd in 2011 and 2nd in 2012.
5. The Rookie Has Something To Prove
Jack Robinson qualified for the Tour at 22, but many felt he deserved to qualify sooner. Before he was even a teenager, Robinson was regarded as one of the best young surfers to grace the sport. Now that he's on Tour, he's got extra pressure to put up big results.
At Pipe, Robinson bowed out in the Round of 16 after drawing the Kelly Slater in a tight exchange. Then at Newcastle, Robinson suffered an early loss after incurring an interference against Julian Wilson in the Round of 32. Will he be able to get his first event win in New South Wales or will he have to wait until he's on his home turf in Western Australia?
6. Airs, Airs And More Airs
Carissa Moore's frontside air reverse was one of the best airs seen in women's competitive surfing. It was high, committed and super clean. And Medina's full rotation was massive. He gained at least 30 feet of distance while rotating above the lip.
There's still plenty of chatter about why these weren't perfect rides. Regardless of the score, the bar has been set very high for Narrabeen, and it's clear the judges and the fans are looking for something even bigger before calling it "perfect."
The waiting period for the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic presented by Corona begins April 16th. Keep it locked here for all the news.