COTE DES BASQUES, Biarritz/France (Monday, July 9, 2012) - The world's best female surfers have congregated in the south of France this week for Event No. 6 of 7 on the 2012 ASP World Championship Tour, the Roxy Pro Biarritz, taking place from July 10 - 14, 2012.
The penultimate event on this year's elite ASP Women's World Championship Tour, the Roxy Pro Biarritz will play a vital role in both the determination of the 2012 ASP Women's World Champion and the requalification campaigns of the world's best female surfers.
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 24, four-time ASP Women's World Champion and current ASP Women's World No. 1, has had a banner year in 2012, collecting two elite tour wins and placing in the Quarterfinals or better in each event thus far. While Gilmore has a chance to clinch the 2012 ASP Title in Biarritz, the young natural-footer is cautiously optimistic when discussing the possibility.
"I haven't spent much time thinking about the end results as I feel you start to lose focus on what you actually need to do when you start that," Gilmore said. "Obviously, though, the emotions are warm."
In closest contention to Gilmore's 2012 ASP Title campaign is compatriot Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 21.
"Sally (Fitzgibbons) is an incredible athlete, a wonderful surfer and she's driven to succeed," Gilmore said. "You can never underestimate her or any of the girls for that matter."
As defending Roxy Pro Biarritz winner, Gilmore's affinity with the French beachbreaks will be a major advantage heading into this week's competition.
"I adore France and always seem to feel at home there," Gilmore said. "We had some nice waves in the last year's event and although the summer in Europe is not the best time for waves, there always seems to be something fun to compete in. I've been surfing on some new shapes from DHD, smaller and a bit wider in different points than my usual, to try and suit the waves in France and Huntington."
Gilmore has drawn Paige Hareb (NZL), 22, and Jacqueline Silva (BRA), 32, in Round 1 of the Roxy Pro Biarritz.
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 21, current ASP Women's World No. 2, has had a superb run throughout the last several events, posting wins at Bells Beach and Rio de Janeiro. A two-time ASP Women's World Runner-Up, Fitzgibbons would love nothing more than to claim a maiden ASP Women's World Title in 2012.
"A World Title would obviously be the dream outcome of any season, but there's a lot of hard work to be done before looking that far ahead," Fitzgibbons said. "I'm stoked with the way I've built throughout the year so far and I'm feeling stronger as the year goes on. Being in the Title race for the past few years has definitely given me a lot of confidence in knowing my surfing is on the right track and that I have continued improving, which is what I see as the most important thing."
A standout in beachbreaks, and defending winner at this season's final event in Huntington Beach, Fitzgibbons is considered a strong possibility to upset Gilmore's lead on the ratings.
"I love surfing beachbreaks," Fitzgibbons said. "I've always felt at home surfing them. I really enjoy the challenge of finding the perfect peak on the day and the variety it brings out in your surfing. The next two events are going to be really exciting. I think whatever position you are in going into the last couple of events, you have to own it and make it work for you," Fitzgibbons said. "This time around, it will be the come-from-behind win if I get there, which does spur me on for sure. I love being the chaser and it makes it so much fun and makes me strive and work even harder."
Fitzgibbons will battle compatriot Rebecca Woods (AUS), 27, and the event wildcard in her Round 1 bout.
Carissa Moore (HAW), 19, reigning ASP Women's World Champion and current ASP Women's World No. 3, has not enjoyed the same dominance that saw her roar to victory during last year's ASP World Title race, but the young Hawaiian is still in the hunt and focusing on the positives heading into the business end of the season.
"It's not over until it's over," Moore said. "I'm always going to go into an event fighting for a win and I know that with two events left I've got a lot of work to do so I'll just give it my best shot and see what happens."
Moore makes no mistake about her respect for her competitors this season and acknowledges that the entire field has lifted their collective game.
"I think all the girls have just a really polished performance from surfing a wave to making good decisions in the lineup to fitness and their routine," Moore said. "Seems like everyone has it dialled and is really fired up to win. My main goal is to have fun and enjoy the last two events."
Moore will take on Sofia Mulanovich (PER), 29, and Justine Dupont (FRA), 20, in Round 1 of competition.
The current scenarios for the 2012 ASP Women's World Title are as follows:
– If Gilmore wins the Roxy Pro Biarritz, Fitzgibbons needs 2nd to send the ASP Women's World Title Race to the Nike US Open.
– If Gilmore gets 2nd at the Roxy Pro Biarritz, the ASP Women's World Title Race will go to the Nike US Open.
– If Gilmore gets 3rd at the Roxy Pro Biarritz, Moore and Courtney Conlogue (USA), 19, will need to win the Roxy Pro Biarritz to join the race along with Gilmore and Fitzgibbons. The race will then be decided at the Nike US Open.
While the primary focus this week will be on the race for the elite ASP Women's World Title, the world's best female surfers will also be battling for requalifation onto next year's tour.
Pauline Ado (FRA), 21, current No. 14 on the elite ASP Women's World Championship Tour ratings, broke an unlucky streak with an impressive Equal 5th showing at the last event in Rio de Janeiro and the stylish natural-footer will look to consolidate this effort at the Roxy Pro Biarritz.
"I hope this big result was the start of a new season for me and I can get a few more for the second part of the year," Ado said. "But I think what I really needed was to go home after the long Australian leg to see my family and step back a little bit. I felt way better in Brazil and it was a good confidence boost."
One of two locals seeded amongst the ASP Top 17, Ado is hoping her years of experience in the French beachbreaks will serve her well this week as she battles for survival amongst the elite.
"The local knowledge can be an advantage as Biarritz is a beachbreak and always changing," Ado said. "I grew up competing and surfing on those beaches. But it's also an additional pressure. Hopefully I'll be able to handle it like last year and put on a good show!"
Ado will face Laura Enever (AUS), 20, and Malia Manuel (HAW), 18, in the opening round of competition.
When the Roxy Pro Biarritz commences, up first will be Courtney Conlogue (USA), 19, Coco Ho (HAW), 21, and Sarah Mason (NZL), 17, in the opening heat of Round 1.
The Roxy Pro Biarritz will be webcast LIVE via http://roxylive.com/roxyprobiarritz/2012/
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
ROXY PRO BIARRITZ ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Coco Ho (HAW), Sarah Mason (NZL)
Heat 2: Tyler Wright (AUS), Lakey Peterson (USA), Sage Erickson (USA)
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Rebecca Woods (AUS), TBD
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Paige Hareb (NZL), Jacqueline Silva (BRA)
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW), Sofia Mulanovich (PER), Justine Dupont (FRA)
Heat 6: Laura Enever (AUS), Malia Manuel (HAW), Pauline Ado (FRA)