The race for the five spots in the women’s season-ending event at Trestles is seriously tight. Carissa Moore is all but guaranteed a spot, but outside of her, no one is safe. The return to Barra de la Cruz will be the second last contest before those five spots are decided, so pressure will be at an all-time high, and performances in Mexico will go a huge way to deciding who gets a shot at the world title. So who are expected to be the biggest challengers at one of the world’s best point breaks?
There could very easily just be one name under this sub-heading, with Carissa Moore stamping her authority with increasing vigour at each and every contest this year, and heading into this one she is the comfortable favourite. Surprisingly she’s only won a solitary event on the CT this year, but she’s yet to miss out on the final four and heads to Mexico with a gold medal from Tokyo hanging around her neck. She has an almost 10,000-point lead on the world rankings, and barring a catastrophe will be heading to Trestles to surf for a world title – and most likely as the number one seed. She is a powerful, skilful surfer in all conditions, and based on her season to date she will almost certainly be there or thereabouts when the whips are cracking at Barra.
Johanne Defay might be her biggest threat. The Frenchwoman has long been a consistent presence on the Championship Tour, but it wasn’t until recently that she really stepped up her game and became a contender for the world title. Her season started out in the same vein as many of her previous years have; plenty of quarter-finals appearances, but not much more. At Rottnest Island, however, she made it to the final, before she took out the very next event at the Surf Ranch to leap into second place in the world rankings. Her ability to surf aggressively while minimising mistakes makes her a dangerous proposition, and it would be no surprise to see her take this contest out.
Sally Fitzgibbons has been on the tour for a lot longer than Defay, but their careers have followed a fairly similar trajectory in recent times, particularly this season. The 30-year-old Australian, despite consistently finishing seasons in the top handful of spots, has failed to really challenge for a world title with the exception of 2018, but she’s put herself right in the hunt this year courtesy of an excellent last couple of contests. After a solid start to the year, she knocked off Defay in the final at Rottnest Island before making a semi at the Surf Ranch Pro, and is now just a couple of hundred points off second place in the world. She was devastated to miss out on the medals in Tokyo, and will be keen to make amends and secure a spot in the top five in the world in Mexico.
The Next Tier
Caroline Marks has headed into most events this season as one of the favourites, but she’s gradually dropped down the pecking order due to what can only be described as a consistent run of inconsistency. After winning the Narrabeen Classic a few months ago, she failed to make it past the Round of 16 in consecutive events before being knocked out in the quarterfinals at the Surf Ranch Pro. At the Olympics, that event-to-event inconsistency turned into heat-to-heat inconsistency – a number of huge scores were followed by a couple of tiny ones, and she failed to get on the podium as a result. At her best she is probably the only surfer in the world who can match it with Wright, so she’s still a massive chance here, but she needs to find a way to string it together a little more regularly.
Steph Gilmore has the opposite problem. Only once in the six CT events this season has she failed to make it to the quarterfinals, but she has also only once made it past that stage. At her best she’s still a dangerous surfer, but now aged 33, she’s struggling to regularly match it with the likes of Moore. But write off the seven-time world champion at your own peril; she knows exactly what it takes to win, and while she may no longer be at the peak of her powers, she’s far from a spent force. She’ll be desperate for a spot in the final five in the world rankings, and a good performance here will go a long way to securing that position.
Tatiana Weston-Webb will have the same intentions in Mexico. Currently ranked fourth in the world, she has a solid hold on a spot at Trestles, but that could all change with a poor performance here. Conversely, if she can make it to the final four – or ideally win the contest – then she would be all-but-assured of that spot. The goofy-footed Brazilian will be surfing her backhand at Barra, but she hasn’t demonstrated too many qualms with that in the past and has an elite ability to hit the pocket with some serious power when going right. Her backhand barrel riding might pose a few more issues, but she has more than enough ability to challenge whichever direction she’s surfing.
Is it fair to call Tyler Wright a roughie? Probably not under ordinary circumstances, but she’s had an injury-interrupted few months after an injury-interrupted few years, and the lack of consistency with which she’s been able to get out into the water mean she’s a lot less fancied to do damage here than she typically would be. The two-time world champ started the season with an historic win at Pipeline, but since then has made it past the quarters just once and had to withdraw from the Surf Ranch Pro. She finds herself back in seventh place in the world rankings and is up against it to make it to Trestles, but if she can overcome her lack of recent competitive practice, she’s more than capable of taking this out and jumping into the top five.
With so many surfers competing for a handful of spots in the top five in the world rankings, the Corona Open Mexico is almost undoubtedly the most important contest of the season to date. World number one Carissa Moore will head in as the deserved favourite, but the plethora of women trying to squeeze into the last four spots at Trestles are right on her heels. None of the seven aforementioned surfers would be surprise victors next week, and with a couple more who we haven’t mentioned not far behind, this is as wide open an event as you could hope for.