- WSL / Kenny Morris

Carissa Moore has already clinched her spot to the inaugural Rip Curl WSL Finals. Johanne Defay, Tatiana Weston-Webb and Sally Fitzgibbons are collectively comfortably nestled in spots two through four on the women's WSL Leaderboard. And then there's Stephanie Gilmore, holding on by a thread to the critical fifth spot of the WSL Final 5.

The stakes couldn't be higher for the seven-time World Champ. If Gilmore is able to maintain her position for the remaining two events of the 2021 Championship Tour she has a chance at making history by capturing a record eighth World Title. But it's hardly that simple.

Caroline Marks, currently in sixth, is a mere 730 points away from Gilmore. And behind them, Tyler Wright is only about 2,000 off the pace for that fifth spot.

Looking ahead at the schedule, both Gilmore and Marks will keep their foot on the competitive gas as they gun it towards surfing's Olympic debut. Meanwhile, Wright will get to take a breath and let her body bounce back from the grueling four-stop Australian leg.

Corona Lay Days: Stephanie Gilmore Aus Lockdown Edition
Stephanie Gilmore spends her Lay Day catching up with friends after a year spent in lock-down.

From there, the CT is off to Mexico for the first time since the Rip Curl Search in 2006, and for the women, it will be their first time competing there. The obvious favorite in Mexico has to be Gilmore. A warm-water, sand-bottom, right-hand point, Barra De La Cruz couldn't play to her strength any better. Look for her to tap into her affinity with Rainbow Bay and Kirra to potentially post a big result here.

Marks will be on her backhand, which can be trickier in the hollow, down-the-line conditions. Wright's shown moments of brilliance this year, but she's also had a couple shockers, so it just depends on where her mind and body are when it's game time, but yes, she's going to be dangerous here.

After that, the women are back at Teahupo'o for the first time since 2005. Judging by recent video footage, Marks would be the favorite here. She's developed a relationship with the Wall Of Skulls, and being on her forehand will be a big advantage.

Wright won the Pipe event back in December, but a lot of her work there was done on the rail. She certainly has the strength and ability to push over the ledge at Teahupo'o, and given that her older brother, Owen, is one of the best out there, she'll certainly be well coached and know what she's looking for out in the lineup.

Gilmore is a bit of a wildcard at Teahupo'o. Here forehand surfing on long point waves is such a thing of beauty that it's largely overshadowed her backhand tube-riding skills. Of course, one doesn't win seven World Titles by having a hole in their game. Gilmore will undoubtedly be solid here, and just maybe the new wave-scape will provide a spark and some motivation to once again break some barriers.

So, as we enter the homestretch of the 2021 Championship Tour and those spots in the WSL Final 5 become more established, it's that oh-so important fifth spot that remains a toss up. With the lead and a stop in Mexico, Gilmore's bid for an eighth Title is trending the right way, but expect Marks and Wright to do anything they can to alter the course of history.

Stay tuned for the Corona Open Mexico presented by Quiksilver kicking off August 10, 2021.

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