Another lay day on Tuesday sets up what should be the crowning of a new world champion either today or tomorrow at Honolua Bay’s Maui Target Pro. The two wahine eyeing the title are still in the field with Carissa Moore already into the quarterfinals and Courtney Conlogue set to face Coco Ho with the winner moving into the quarters. Moore holds her destiny in her hands, but it’s still up for grabs if Conlogue can keep making heats.
As a two-time world champ, conventional wisdom would seem to be that Moore may not be as hungry for the title as Conlogue, who is yet to accomplish her professional dream. But Moore has been on a mission all season since capping her 2014 with a win in Maui. She has consistently indicated not only her increased motivation, but her improved comfort and confidence in the water.
It’s been a perfect run for Moore so far, avoiding both elimination rounds by winning her three-surfer heats. She will await a head-to-head battle in the quarterfinals, but she is two heat wins away from clinching the 2015 title. Moore reaching the final heat would knock Conlogue out of the running, even if the duo were to meet at that point.
But if Conlogue wins the contest and Moore loses in either the quarter or semifinal round, the California product will have her first world title in one of the closest one-two battles in tour history.
There is also still the possibility of a surf-off between the two if Moore loses in the quarterfinals and Conlogue loses in the final.
Before getting that far ahead of ourselves, Conlogue must focus on the most immediate task, which is her elimination heat with Ho. Though she didn’t take first in her previous heat, Conlogue has been in top form this week. She came out very strong in round one but was barely outpointed by Nikki Van Dijk to force a round four appearance. She and Ho already surfed against one another in round one and while Coco is more than capable of putting up some big numbers in big conditions, it would be a major upset if she were to earn the win.
Both Kauai’s Tatiana Weston-Webb and Malia Manuel have surfed very well and are still alive in the fourth round. With neither sweating re-qualification and secure in their 2016 standing, they are free to go for big scores and try to play spoiler. Each won their first-round heats, but both were topped by Moore in round three.
Tati now has a matchup with Lakey Peterson, while Manuel follows in her heat against Tyler Wright. Wright is a tough customer at Honolua, where she reached the final last season.
Weston-Webb has had a terrific rookie season and will easily remain in the top 10, thanks in large part to a pair of second and third-place finishes in her past two events. Manuel has earned her re-qualification with another elite Qualifying Series season, though she is also eyeing another top-10 Championship Tour finish.
While the top of the leaderboard can still see some movement, here isn’t much re-qualification drama to speak of. Manuel, Ho and Van Dijk are all still battling for the final two spots in the CT’s top 10, but the third will still be back with her QS ranking.
The 16 automatic qualifiers for next year’s tour appear to be Moore, Conlogue, Sally Fitzgibbons, Peterson, Wright, Bianca Buitendag, Johanne Defay, Weston-Webb, Manuel, Van Dijk, Ho, Sage Erickson, Chelsea Tuach, Keely Andrew, Alessa Quizon and Laura Enever, with Stephanie Gilmore then receiving the 17th spot as an injury wildcard.
But that’s next year. There is still very much to determine this year and the conditions seem to indicate we’ll have all those answers either today or tomorrow.
I think Moore is primed for her third title and she’ll do so by taking matters upon herself. She will make the final heat and perhaps face Conlogue in what would be a great showcase honoring this season’s two dominant competitors.