2007 NAB Beachley Classic Day 1

Layne does everything but win her heat at Sydney's NAB Beachley Classic.

"There wasn't a separate (girls) division, everyone just went in heats together."

Layne Beachley's reminiscing about her early days surfing in board club contests at Queenscliff, Sydney, Australia.

A slip of a girl she was, back then, surfing it up against the blokes in Queensie's dribbly shorebreak.

It's different now. Layne, at 35, with seven world titles behind her, and by some distance the best-known surfer in mainstream Australia, is practically an industry. Now she's the made-up, buffed and coiffed spearhead of the ${{{100}}},000 NAB Beachley Classic, biggest event on the ASP women's world tour.

She's pulled together her eponymous event for numerous reasons, one at least being in promotional support for an activewear clothing line named Beachley Athletic. She's dragged the National Australia Bank, one of Australia's biggest banking concerns, in as major sponsor to the tune of around $400,000, a big chunk of which is going into the biggest prize purse in women's pro surfing.

Your correspondent suspects the next biggest chunk might be going on the catering. Layne knows one way to guarantee good media coverage is to lay on a great lunch. Actually Layne knows pretty much everything there is to know about getting media coverage. Danny Weidler, a Sydney newspaper sports reporter, once good-naturedly dubbed Ms Beachley "the Queen of Self Promotion".

This was a few years back; but dude, she's lost nothin'. On Monday, after little 16-year-old supergirl Sally Fitzgibbons had won the trials and earned a wildcard, Layne got hold of Sally in a bearhug and posed for the cameras, all her body language saying: "Listen, I'{{{M}}} the boss here!"

Sally, bless her grommet supergirl heart, was smiling waaaay too big to notice. And there wasn't a moment of malice in her dismantling of Layne next day.

In a classic display of competitive skill, Sally paddled Beachley and Claire Bevilacqua off the takeoff spot, then tiptoed back inside to pick off the Queensie left shorebreak and slash it to pieces, out-scoring everyone for the day – including form favourites Sofia Mulanovich and Stephanie Gilmore.

Fitzgibbons, along with Laura Enever and Tyler Wright, is the Australian wing of the Carissa Moore generation of rippers: girls seemingly destined to change the face of their sport. Next to them, 18-year-old Gilmore looks like a giant.

But she's just one of the stars at this event, where one thing's growing more obvious with each passing day: once they're out from under the boys' brigade, women's pro surfing thrives.

When the girls surf in a paired-up event, they're often swamped by sheer psyche. 18 girls versus 48 boys? But when they're by themselves, the mood among 'em visibly lifts. Current tour leader Sam Cornish has been striding around Queenscliff looking a million bucks and lapping up the press attention. Steph Gilmore seems to tower over everyone, radiating a killer athletic vibe along with an easy grin.

It'll be fascinating to see how the contest develops over the weekend, when all the trappings of a big-city event – the celebrity surf-off, the beach retail center, the catering – takes full shape. While many surfing eyes may be on northern Spain and the boys battling through hell at Bakio, Ms Beachley and her stars might just get the edge.

“Who’s The Boss”: Starring Layne Beachley and Sally Fitzgibbons

(1st & 2nd advance to Round 3; 3rd advances to Round 2)

Heat 1: 1- Samantha Cornish, 2- Jacqueline Silva, 3- Rebecca Woods
Heat 2: 1- Roseanne Hodge, 2- Silvana Lima, 3- Amee Donohoe
Heat 3: 1- Sally Fitzgibbons, 2- Layne Beachley, 3- Claire Bevilacqua
Heat 4: 1- Sofia Mulanovich, 2- Leilani Gryde, 3- Megan Abubo
Heat 5: 1- Jessi Miley-Dyer, 2- Chelsea Hedges, 3- Caroline Sarran
Heat 6: 1- Stephanie Gilmore, 2- Melanie Bartels, 3- Melanie Redman-Carr

(1st & 2nd advance to Round 3; 3rd finishes =17th)

Heat 1: Melanie Redman-Carr, Megan Abubo, Caroline Sarran
Heat 2: Rebecca Woods,; Amee Donohoue, Claire Bevilacqua