Coco Ho, Alana Blanchard, Sally Fitzgibbons & Co. Join Ranks
This year was a record year in the women’s competitive surfing arena: we saw the youngest ASP World Tour event winner, the youngest U.S. Open winner, and the youngest Vans Triple Crown of Surfing event winner. As the 2008 ASP Women’s World Tour and the ASP WQS draw to a close, the fresh new blood entering the 2009 Dream Tour were announced, and this year, a crew of teenage rookies joins the ranks. Exhibiting a level of surfing previously reserved for the seasoned, the fresh and feisty faces joining the tour fall into the youthful 17-18 age bracket. Not only will their eagerness and ability push the tour to new heights next year, but its likely just the simple fear of being beat by teenagers will give the current tour surfers an added edge. Here are the new faces joining the 2009 ASP Women’s World Tour:
Sally made ASP history back in March by receiving enough points qualify for the 2009 ASP Women’s World Tour earlier than any other ’QS ever—male or female. The 17-year-old Aussie dominated the 2008 ’QS season, finishing with a 1672-point lead over her nearest competitor. The happy, spunky regular-footer surfs with a power, ease, and innovative unpredictability that sets her apart from other teenagers. Sally, or “Gobbles” as the other girls call her, surfs (and eats) more than anyone—perhaps that’s the key to her insane ability and competitive prowess. She’ll definitely be a force to be reckoned with on tour next year. “She is one of the most talented, well-rounded athletes that I’ve ever met and one that will continue to push the sport in the right direction,” said World Champ Steph Gilmore. “Great to have her on tour next season.”
Though Australia has blessed the surf world with hundreds of tour-worthy surfers over the years, the small nation off its Eastern coast can’t make nearly the same claim. Up until now, the Pacific has played favorites: New Zealand hasn’t had one surfer reach Women’s World Tour status. But this year, 18-year-old Taranaki resident Paige Hareb became the first New Zealander ever to qualify for the ASP Women’s World Tour. She received a wildcard to compete in the last World Tour event of the year, the Billabong Pro Maui, and wowed spectators with her smooth, quick backside ease. In 2009, Paige and Bruna Schmitz will join 2008’s lone goofyfooter, Jessi Miley-Dyer. “It’ll be good having another goofyfooter on tour,” said Jessi, while watching Paige surf her Round Three heat. “I feel like the judges sometimes don’t know how to score me because I’m the only one going backside and they have nothing to compare it to. It’ll be good to not be the only one.”
Previously known only as the girlfriend of world tour surfer Jeremy Flores, 18-year-old Bruna Schmitz proved her own tour-worthy ability this year. Her sixth-place ’QS finish—well within the qualification bubble—deemed the pair the first couple to qualify for the ASP Men’s and Women’s World Tours at the same time. Hailing from Brazil, Bruna is relatively unknown in the American surf scene, but as an avid competitor—having won dozens of titles in Brazil—it’s likely the smooth goofy-footer will be eager to continue asserting her dominance once on the world stage.
Alana may have gained a majority of her popularity based on her good looks (there’s even an “Alana Blanchard Appreciation Society” group on Facebook with a healthy helping of members), but she’s definitely no slouch on a surfboard. Alana grew up on Kauai, where she spent her childhood surfing Pinetrees with some of the top surfers in the world. Through the competitive camaraderie there she honed her skills as both a progressive free-surfer and a zealous competitor. We’ve seen Alana win the Rip Curl GromSearch as well as the first Women’s Pipe event, so if she can maintain her focus and translate her progressive ability to the Dream Tour arena she’ll be another watch out for come next year.
Sunset Beach’s Coco Ho was one of the several WQS surfers who was on the bubble for requalification—having to wait to the last few hours of the last World Tour event of the season before being officially welcomed on the 2009 tour. And the welcome came almost unexpectedly for Coco who only competed in the bare minimum of five events this year (and didn’t even make it past her first heat in one of them). Next year, she will be the youngest surfer to grace the tour, and though she’ll be missing out on parts of her senior year in high school, she’ll be gaining priceless experience both in and out of the water. “Coco’s a really exciting surfer—she’s graceful, progressive, and fluid,” says fellow competitor and friend Carissa Moore. “She’s an all around great girl with a great personality and I think she’ll do really well on tour next year.”