Women Only

The vibe at Duranbah (forget the Stuporbank) turned down a notch today. Notonly was the surf a little smaller, but the Roxy Pro was on.

In an echo of years past, before women’s surfwear earned billions, the girlsstill draw a marginally smaller crowd. But the competition these daysdeserves more. This year’s women’s WCT is a mirror image of the men’s – abunch of hot young rookies against some powerfully seasoned pros – and it’snever looked more legitimate.

For an example, you didn’t need to go past the first heat: Jessi Miley-Dyerand Megan Abubo. Jessi’s the world junior champion, a big strong girl,aggressive and forceful, and she wandered the lineup like an animal off theleash, looking for waves. By way of contrast, Megan got priority, sat withit, scored her two good waves and inevitably controlled the heat. Jessi cameout of the water looking minorly sandbagged, but sounding a bit like she’dexpected it. “There’s a lot of person-on-person heats in the juniors, theyhave priority, so I know about that,” she reckoned. “But this is different.Megan just knew what she was doing; I’m still trying to figure it out.”

“This is the WCT,” said Megan. “When I started out I was nervous as hell.”

Stephanie “Happy” Gilmore is a rookie, except she isn’t. Steph carriesherself with the loose-limbed ease of a natural winner. Watching her takedown the current world champ (and buddy) Chelsea Georgeson, it was hard toescape the feeling that you were watching a surfer destined to take thewomen to another level. Steph was the only girl to try to take on theSnapper Weekend Massacre. “Yeah, I went out and got swept to China,” shelaughed. “Ended up at Kirra and thought wow, this is a bit scary! Sandsucking off the bottom and everything. Chelsea and I have been talking aboutgetting a ski for ages. Now we have the room to store it, so .” Wouldn’tthat put the chills up Macho Ski World – a couple of blonde chicks on apink(??) Waverunner, whipping into the next Goldie megaswell? Cripes.

This is a big shift since the days when the only real women’s contenderswere the top four royalty. Rochelle Ballard, who just got an edge on thesmall yet dynamic Claire Bevilacqua, has been on tour since before LisaAndersen started winning world titles. “The (new) girls are coming in withway more experience than we ever had,” she thinks. “They’ve done five yearsof major contests before they get here. The skill level is higher but thatisn’t anything we can’t handle. But it has evened things up for sure.”

The women seeds still make elementary errors, the kind no top male seedwould make except in nightmares. Mel Redman-Carr, well in the lead witheight minutes to go and holding wave priority – a situation where you NEVERcatch a wave unless it’s a slam-dunk nine-plus – did just that, caught awave and scored a 2. Mel was saved by her opponent Julia Christian’sinexperience, but only just.

This following Sofia Mulanovich’s painful defeat by the super-hot Brazilianrookie Silvana Lima. Actually, thanks to the rookies, there’s almost noworld champs left in this event now except one. About the only seasonedpro not to meet a rookie hell-chick, in fact. Layne Beachley demolished thegutsy South African Heather Clark, whose every move she’s known for adecade, and top-scored for the second round in a row. Later she took sometime to explain to the world how she’d forgone surf industry backing to runher own race, and how her main endorsement in 2005 was SPC, a canned fruitmanufacturer.

Here’s the real dissonance between the blokes and the chicks, if you will.Imagine Kelly Slater relying on canned fruit for a living.

The girl rookies today have much better opportunities; many are pulling downsix figures. But Ms Beachley is relishing the lack of pressure. TheIndustry’s eyes are on the grommets, and she’s just smacking her lips.


Ht One: 1 Megan Abubo 13.5, 2 Jessi Miley-Dyer 11
Ht Two: 1 Layne Beachley 15.66, 2 Heather Clark 10.83
Ht Three: 1 Sam Cornish 12.77, 2 Keala Kennelly 11.83
Ht Four: 1 Stephanie Gilmore 16.34, 2 Chelsea Georgeson 7.{{{90}}}
Ht Five: 1 Silvana Lima 11.50, 2 Sofia Mulanovich 10.37
Ht Six: 1 Rochelle Ballard 12.20, 2 Claire Bevilacqua 10.37
Ht Seven: 1 Trudy Todd 10.33, 2 Rebecca Woods 6.23
Ht {{{Eight}}}: 1 Mel Redman-Carr 14.83, 2 Julia Christian 13.87