Bombing 8-foot pits, a world title race between best friends, a storm-ravaged contest. It's a tough act for the fledgling women's Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour to follow, but knowing 18-year-old Hawaiian surfer Coco Ho, she probably didn't take much notice. From growing up in Hawaii's first family of surf, cutting her teeth on the famed North Shore, the girl's spent her whole life among the fray, so why should one day in Portugal be any different?
Why? Because for the first time in her just-starting-to-sprout career, in her first season on tour, Ho has won a World Tour event.
"I'm trying not to think about too much," she admitted in her postfinal interview. "I love my trophy. When I started the year, I set a goal to make quarterfinals or better at every event in order finish top-five by the end of the year, and I'm doing my best to accomplish that."
She's accomplishing a lot more than that. With only one event remaining on native Hawaiian soil Ho would appear to be a lock for rookie of the year honors, and depending on where things fall in the end, could find herself rated even higher than she already is (No. 3).
All told, Ho represents the tip of the spear when it comes to the youth movement in women's surfing. This win is but the first in a huge generational shift we'll see in years to come. Next year Coco will be joined on tour by Carissa Moore, and then there's upstart Malia Manuel waiting in the wings. And those are just a few of the girls from Oahu. Young Aussie Sally Fitzgibbons is on a role of her own, and she'll soon be joined from more like-minded young ladies from Down Under.
"This year, I was kind of questioning my ability a bit at the first event with these young girls like Coco and Sally [Fitzgibbons]," said 28-year-old Chelsea Hedges, who finished second at the Rip Curl Pro Search. "They are surfing so good, and it really pushes my surfing and makes me look at what I am doing. It felt really good to take out Steph [Gilmore]. She is the best out there in my opinion; her surfing still has that little edge. I still feel that, come the end of the year, she is going to be the one to beat."
Like the men, the ladies of the ASP are now headed to Hawaii for the final stop of the 2009 season. Given the amount of early-season swell already hitting the islands as well as the closeness of all the title races, we should be in for a good show come December.
Check out the Coco Ho profile: All In The FamilyRIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO SEARCH FINAL RESULTS:
1: Coco Ho (HAW) 15.83
2: Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 9.37
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO SEARCH SEMIFINALS RESULTS:
SF 1: Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 11.17 def. Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 5.10
SF 2: Coco Ho (HAW) 14.84 def. Silvana Lima (BRA) 8.66
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO SEARCH QUARTERFINALS RESULTS:
QF 1: Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 8.30 def. Melanie Bartels (HAW) 7.13
QF 2: Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 12.16 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.73
QF 3: Silvana Lima (BRA) 11.67 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 9.34
QF 4: Coco Ho (HAW) 15.06 def. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 9.16 RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO SEARCH ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Melanie Bartels (HAW) 13.50 def. Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 7.90
Heat 2: Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 9.74 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 7.67
Heat 3: Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 17.70 def. Samantha Cornish (AUS) 12.40
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.83 def. Megan Abubo (HAW) 9.00
Heat 5: Silvana Lima (BRA) 13.40 def. Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 13.13
Heat 6: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 17.67 def. Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 13.07
Heat 7: Coco Ho (HAW) 12.40 def. Amee Donohoe (AUS) 11.23
Heat 8: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 13.00 def. Alana Blanchard (HAW) 10.30 RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO SEARCH ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 17.00, Alana Blanchard (HAW) 10.17, Pauline Ado (FRA) 8.23
Heat 2: Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 10.66, Megan Abubo (HAW) 9.33, Rebecca Woods (AUS) 5.57 CURRENT ASP WOMEN'S WORLD TOUR TOP 5 (After RC Pro Women's Search):
1. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS): 3,793 points
2. Silvana Lima (BRA): 3,636 points
3. Coco Ho (HAW): 2,923 points
4. Sofia Mulanovich (PER): 2,691 points
5. Melanie Bartels (HAW): 2,535 points