Carissa Moore is an exceptionally gracious winner, but after taking her second straight title at Bells Beach, it's obvious who the top female surfer in the world is. And in winning her second straight ASP event of the 2014 season, the reigning world champion has pulled ahead of five-time world champ Stephanie Gilmore by 3,500 points.
"I'm kind of speechless right now," Moore said after her win over Tyler Wright, who now sits third in the world. "Tyler is an amazing competitor and ... I look forward to every heat I have with her. I know it's going to be a great challenge, so I have to surf my best."
Wright seemed genuinely pleased with the result, most likely because she was -- rightfully -- satisfied with her own performance. As Wright has said before, taking the runner-up spot in a final like that is better than winning a final devoid of surfing.
Moore was in agreement after her semifinal defeat of Sally Fitzgibbons, she said, "I just wish we both could have surfed a bit more. It feels good to get one over Sal, but I have to admit, not like this. I'd rather have it come down to us both surfing a lot and surfing our best."
Though the two highest single-wave scores of the event helped cement her second consecutive win this season, Moore took the long way around, uncharacteristically surfing every round of the event.
"I have to be honest, I had kind of a shaky start to this event," she said. "I was a little frustrated, trying to find my groove and a good headspace, but I was stoked I was able to work through the kinks."
While the semifinalists were predictable (Gilmore, Wright, Moore, and Fitzgibbons), this event definitely had its fair share of drama, and injuries abounded. Californian Courtney Conlogue had to pull out of Round 4 due to an ankle injury she sustained during a free-surf on Monday, which allowed Malia Manuel a pass to the quarterfinals.
"I really wanted to ring that bell. It's devastating, but this stuff happens to athletes," Conlogue said. "I'm not giving up [on the world title]. I'm like "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" -- you could take my legs off and my arms off and I'd still fight."
As for the world title race, Gilmore is hot on Moore's tail in terms of points, but the most scorching rivalry in women's surfing right now is between Moore and Wright. Wednesday's 35-minute final was a re-match of last year's, but with a lot more waves on offer, and flawless four-footers on offer. The match-up was full of explosive, committed surfing, with Moore linking powerful, full-rail carves and Wright going as far as riding straight onto the rocks for the sake of the score. The tight heat came down to the final moments, ultimately ending with Moore's 16.23 barely besting Wright's 15.77.
"I feel like [earlier] in my career, I was pretty relaxed and I could get through heats -- not easily, but yeah, I feel like it sort of came to me a lot easier," reflected Gilmore afterward. "Now, you really have to work hard and you have to be in the best position for the best waves and get eights and nines every single heat. It's great. It's good for the sport, and I think it's very entertaining. The waves were great today, so I think we had a really nice canvas to work with."
The drama continues with the Rio Women's Pro from May 7-18.