The race is on. Unlike the Men's tour, where Kelly has secured a 1400-point lead over fellow competitors, halfway through the Women's tour season only 12 points separate former world champions Steph Gilmore and Sofia Mulanovich, with 7-time champ Layne Beachley not far behind.
After five days of torrential rain and onshore winds forced the contest into a prolonged intermission, the Billabong Pro Rio finally finished up today. Defeating Sofia Mulanovich in the final, Hawaiian Melanie Bartels clinched her second elite-tour win and jumped to 6th in the ratings.
"The waves finally became surfable and I lost an insane heat to Melanie Bartels, the eventual winner," said Steph who ended up in equal third. "Not a bad result, but the race is extremely close now between Layne, Sofia, and myself—it keeps it exciting, of course!"
The next event, the Beachley Classic, taking place at the Northern Beaches in Sydney, begins October 9th. "Layne has been surfing really well all year," said Sofia. "She is an amazing competitor and I am sure she will be hard to beat in Manly. But Manly is a beachbreak too, so there is a lot of luck involved—all the girls surf good at beachies."
So with a genuine title-race in full effect, and with the almost unanimous cry from the title contenders that it truly is anyone's game, Stop No. 5—as well as the rest of the tour—should be nothing short of dramatic.