The ladies decended onto Dee Why Beach in Sydney yesterday for Round One. It does seem that they have got a somewhat of a title race on their hands with Sally Fitzgibbons, Chelsea Hedges, Sofia Mulanovich, and Melanie Bartels all within striking distance of World Tour leader and reigning champ, Steph Gilmore. Gilmore currently has 2760 points, and her challengers are all sitting between the 2280 and 2076 points of her. It's safe to say the level of women's competitive surfing is at an all-time high this year.
Gilmore recently won the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and Rip Curl Prol Bells. She took a rare early exit it Round Three of the TSB Bank Women's Surf Fest last week at Fitzroy Beach, New Zealand, allowing tour rookie Carissa Moore (World #6) to win the event.
In the fun three-foot waves of Round One, Gilmore bested wildcard/ World Junior Womens Champ, Laura Evener and veteran Jessi Miley-Dyer. Gilmore won this event as a wildcard in 2006 and in her rookie season of 2007. The TSB early exit aside, it looks to be a serious challenge to keep her from winning it a third time.
"The bank's really fun out there," she said in the ASP press release, "Curl Curl has dished up the goods for us today. The water is warm, kind of bikini weather. I'm looking forward to the rest of the week in Sydney. Hopefully, there'll be some better waves." ( Did she say "bikini weather?" That is one press-savvy world champ.)
She will face Evener again when Round Three resumes. Hedges faces Mile-Dyer, Moore has Rebecca Woods, Fitzgibbons has Lee Ann Curren, and Mulanovich squares up with Clarie Bevilacqua. This is the final event of the Oz/NZ leg of the tour.