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Our Tips for the Women’s Surf City El Salvador Pro

After the Championship Tour returned to G-Land for the first time in over two decades last week, the new stops keep on coming as we head to Punta Roca in El Salvador. A long, raking right-hander renowned as one of the best in the world when it’s on, if we get conditions to suit this could be one for the ages. And with just four events left until the five competitors who will head to the WSL Finals at Trestles are decided, one bad heat could spell disaster for the surfers fighting for those spots. Let’s take a look at how the women’s Surf City El Salvador Pro is shaping up.   

The Favourites

She’s the dominant surfer in the world and has been for years, but despite the fact that she’ll head into this event with the yellow jersey on the back, Carissa Moore must be starting to feel slightly frustrated about her lack of wins so far this season. She’s made three finals and another semi in six events, but hasn’t been able to break through for a victory in any of them. It is, however, all academic, and she still appears all but certain to make it through to the WSL Finals, most likely in one of the top couple of spots. She’ll break through for a win soon enough, and there’s no reason it can’t be over the next week at Punta Roca.

Wright is viewed by many as the most likely challenger to Moore’s title hopes this year, and though she sits back in fourth place in the world rankings, she could easily be as high as first were it not for a little bad luck last week. After the Opening Round at G-Land she tested positive for Covid and was forced to withdraw from the event, meaning she was given the number of points she would have received had she been knocked out in the Elimination Round. She’ll be eager to make up for the points she lost there, and her second win of the season would be a great way to do just that. 

The Next Tier

Steph Gilmore has been gradually working her way up the leaderboard after a slow start to the season, and four consecutive appearances in at least the quarterfinals have seen her climb to seventh place and under 1,000 points outside the top five. She is clearly a step behind Wright and Moore at this point in her career and is still struggling to break through to the absolute business end of events, but she’s consistently putting herself in a position to do so. Though her solid but unspectacular results suggest otherwise, her best surfing is still good enough to win events, so she has to be considered a threat.

Courtney Conlogue probably falls into a similar boat. The experienced Californian hasn’t made it to a final yet this year, but she has made two semis and a quarterfinal in her six appearances and is also within striking distance of the top five. Breaking through the latter stages of events has been something of an issue throughout her career and is continuing this season, but like Gilmore she’s fairly consistently finding herself in the final eight. From there, anything is possible. There’s no doubt she too is a tier below Wright and Moore, but she’s more than capable of winning this event. 

Another of the many surfers wedged into the deadlock between fifth and tenth is Lakey Peterson, an outside title threat who has also failed to snare a win so far this season despite making numerous appearances in the final handful. She was a quarterfinalist at Pipeline, a semi-finalist in Portugal and a quarterfinalist at the most recent event in G-Land, but none of those efforts have translated into the full 10,000 points. Still, those results are good enough to have her sitting in sixth place and within a breath of fifth place, and a good performance here could see her jump into a finals position.

The woman who Peterson is trying to catch in fifth is Weston-Webb, who, in contrast to the consistent performances of most of the surfers around her, has had a year of major ups and downs. In fact, her semi-final appearance at G-Land was the first time this year that she hasn’t either been knocked out in the Round of 16, or won an event. Last year’s runner-up will be keen to find some consistency, but there are plenty who would argue that they would rather be in the camp of a surfer like herself, as capable of winning as she is of bombing out early, than someone who consistently falls a little short. It hasn’t been the best year of her career, but Weston-Webb’s best is still very, very good, so underestimate her at your own peril.

Rounding out the list of major competitors is Johanne Defay, who is coming off what was a really important victory at G-Land for her. She had been the epitome of the aforementioned consistent but unspectacular form which has defined many of the surfers on the women’s tour so far this year, making every single quarterfinal in the first five events, but also losing in that round every time. When she finally broke that drought at G-Land she made the most of it, and surfed brilliantly to knock off Moore in the final. Now third in the world rankings, perhaps that win will be the catalyst she needed to kickstart her season.

The Roughie

Following year after year after year of falling just short of an inaugural world title, veteran Aussie Sally Fitzgibbons had an uncharacteristically slow start to the 2022 season and was given the mid-season chop as a result. She was, however, given a reprieve courtesy of wildcard Caroline Marks’ absence at G-Land, where she ended up making her way through to the quarterfinals. She’ll get another chance to work her way up the leaderboard this week. She certainly hasn’t been surfing at her best so far this year, but last week was a step in the right direction, and her experience and talent means that she can’t be counted out, no matter what her previous form might look like. 

Our Tip

As has so often been the case this season, there are two standout favourites for the women’s Surf City El Salvador Pro, and a host of competitors nipping at their heels with decent claims of their own. A victory to Moore is inevitable sooner or later, while Wright will be desperate to make up for the points she lost due to Covid in Indonesia. Despite that, I’m looking elsewhere for the winner. Weston-Webb looked dangerous at G-Land, and though she’s been disappointing in four of the six events so far this season, at her best she is tough to stop. She can earn a second win of the season in El Salvador, and consolidate her spot in the top five in the process.

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