Courtney Conlogue (USA) has won the Women’s Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach today after defeating Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) in four-to-six foot (1 – 2 metre) conditions at the prestigious Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
The third stop of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Rip Curl Women’s Pro is the longest running elite surf competition in the world, and is one of the events that every surfer dreams of winning.
This win, however, was especially important to Courtney’s repertoire of championships, as it is the second (and consecutive) time she has gotten the chance to ring the coveted bell (Courtney took the win in 2016, as well).
She unleashed her aggressive power surfing to take down a stacked field of competitors, including six-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), reigning World Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) and three-time World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW).
“Winning it last year felt so good, but to back it up is amazing,” Courtney said. “I’m so speechless. The first two events of the Australian leg did not go that well for me, so I’m stoked to finish it off with a win. I have always loved coming to Bells. It’s an amazing arena with all of the fans down here. It’s a really tricky wave to master, so to have two wins here is really special.
“Coming up against Stephanie [Gilmore] in the final heat was incredible. She is such an amazing surfer and really tough competitor. Maintaining composure at the end was key. I had a lot of last-minute wins this contest and that’s why I know that it’s true that you should never give up. It’s not over until it is over.”
The final saw an exciting battle between Stephanie and Courtney. Steph got the edge on the opening exchange with an excellent 8.33 (out of a possible 10) to Courtney’s 8.00. The women continued to charge, again posting excellent-range scores and keeping it a close race throughout the entire heat. In the last 5 minutes, however, Courtney took off on the biggest set wave of the final and unleashed her trademark power hacks and jams into the pocket to post an excellent 9.00-point ride for the lead. With only seconds left, Steph attempted to scratch into a medium-sized set but was unable to make it, leaving Ms Conlogue to win her second consecutive Bell with a heat total of 17.00.
“This was an incredible event,” Stephanie said, post heat. “We’ve had some awesome waves over these past few days and it was a special Easter weekend to have everyone down here. To surf in front of this crowd is a really special experience. I always try my best, but it is a tough field to beat so I am happy to come away with a second and still hold onto that leaders rating. I will hopefully hold onto it for as long as I can.
The first Semifinal saw Courtney blast two near-perfect 9-point rides for the win over 2016 World Champion Tyler Wright. Even with the solid scores of a 7.17 and 7.83, Tyler was not able to overcome the Californian and finished her run in the Rip Curl Pro with a third place. Tyler has made the final series at each of the events on the Australian leg, including a runner-up finish at Margaret River and fifth place on the Gold Coast. Today’s result will see Tyler stay in third place on the Jeep Leaderboard.
“I am really happy with my performance on the Australian leg,” she said. “It has been really fascinating for me being able to use everything I’ve been working on this past year that I may not have had the opportunity to actually put into action. It has been really fun to move forward knowing I have more to give. I am really excited about it. Last year I was definitely a first year, but this year I have a general idea of what needs to be done. It is quite fascinating to be seven years in and just doing this now.”
On the other side of the draw, Californian Lakey Peterson (AUS) was not able to hold on in the second semifinal against Stephanie. Lakey’s third place result matches her best finish at Bells in 2013.
“This is a great result, but I want to win,” she said. “It was fun to come up against Stephanie [Gilmore], but hopefully I will get her in the next one. Maybe it is a good thing that I haven’t gotten the win because it keeps me hungry. I feel like I’ve come close and I am surfing well and showing myself that I can be there in the finals. To be in the race is a great confidence boost. I am enjoying competing and loving the challenge. The Australian leg seems like a good start to the year for me.”
The Women’s Rip Curl Pro Bells is run and done, but the men are still battling it out for the win. Tune in over the coming days to see which surfer will have the honour of ringing the Bell.