Courtney Conlogue wore a huge grin between blowing comical kisses as she was chaired up the beach after winning the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic on Saturday. Her bearers? Sally Fitzgibbons and Steph Gilmore. Nearly all of Conlogue's 17 thwarted challengers showed up to cheer as she received her first ASP Women's World Tour trophy.
"Thanks so much to Steph and Sally for chairing me up the beach," Conlogue said later, "It meant a lot."
The 19-year-old sophomore defeated hot Hawaiian rookie Malia Manuel in a close final at Sydney's Dee Why Beach, which has a history of favoring underdogs. In the comp's seven years, it has twice been won by wild cards. (Although you might not call Tyler Wright and Steph Gilmore underdogs.)
"This event's kind of known for [bucking top seeds]," Wright said. "There's only been, I think, three winners: Steph, Carissa, and myself. It's good to see someone else win it."
Saturday's sets were smaller but cleaner than the previous day's. The finals were surfed in thorny conditions and persistent lulls. On Friday, Conlogue dethroned defending champion Carissa Moore, who was also ranked third in the world. On Saturday she threw No. 2 Fitzgibbons to the wolves and Manuel bested No. 1 Gilmore in the quarterfinals.
The Fitzgibbons-Conlogue matchup was one of the day's most exciting heats. The good mates started the race with a split peak and mirrored vertical snaps. Conlogue got the better of that exchange, but many more followed and the lead vacillated every few minutes. Conlogue clenched a 9.00 about halfway through and Fitzgibbons was never able to make a full recovery. When Conlogue felt safe, she went for (but didn't make) a frontside single grab air and a little 360 reverse.
"I was just goofing off," Conlogue said, laughing. "My dad, he's like, 'Court, why don't you start throwing a few little tricks in your heat?' So I decided I was in the lead, I had priority, and I may as well do a little kickflip, chop-hop air."
Fitzgibbons tactfully absorbed her loss, saying, "She's a good friend of mine and I'm really stoked to see her move through. She trains and surfs really hard and I think her hard work paid off today."
Manuel met Wright, who won the Beachley Classic as a 14-year-old, in the first semifinal and despite the fact the waves seemed to be off finding lunch, lots of explosive surfing ensued. Manuel took the battle by a skinny 2.17. Meanwhile, Conlogue found a worthy opponent in Tour vet and local hero Bec Woods, who had toppled a pumped-up Coco Ho in the third quarterfinal. Woods' equal third-place finish was her best Tour result since 2008.
The final itself was actually quite slow: 18 waves were caught, but the scores weren't off the charts. Again, the rivals volleyed the lead early on, but Conlogue staked her claim with a 360 revo and her usual slew of technical snaps.
"It's actually a relief to get to the final. I've had so many fifth places, I was kind of wondering if I could get to a semi, so I'm super stoked," Conlogue said. "Malia -- she's absolutely an amazing competitor and I've been competing against her since we were like 9 years old, so to have our first final together is amazing. It was a great result for both her and I, and it will help us both requalify for next year."
"I'm pretty excited for Rio," she continued. "It's always an adventure."
Manuel said, "I'm looking forward to the next few events and I'm just really thankful that I have a solid result. I didn't mean to [throw a wrench into the title race]!" she laughed. "All of the girls this year are so amazing and anything can happen."
Conlogue is now $30,000 richer and sits in fourth on the ASP's world ranking. The next stop on the Tour is the Billabong Pro Rio de Janiero, which is scheduled to begin May 9 in Brazil.
COMMONWEALTH BANK BEACHLEY CLASSIC FINAL RESULTS:
1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 13.17
2: Malia Manuel (HAW) 11.56
COMMONWEALTH BANK BEACHLEY CLASSIC SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) 12.67 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 10.50
SF 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.33 def. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 10.10
COMMONWEALTH BANK BEACHLEY CLASSIC QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.43 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 12.50
QF 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) 13.00 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.47
QF 3: Rebecca Woods (AUS) 11.73 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 8.73
QF 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.97 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.34
CURRENT ASP WOMEN'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TOUR TOP 6 (after the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic):
1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
3: Tyler Wright (AUS)
4: Courtney Conlogue (USA)
5: Carissa Moore (HAW)
6: Laura Enever (AUS)
6: Malia Manuel (HAW)