Australian Tyler Wright has provided further evidence of a changing of the guard at the pinnacle of women’s surfing with a dominant victory over American Courtney Conlogue in the final of the Margaret River Pro.
It was Wright’s second victory of the year, following her season-opening triumph on the Gold Coast, although 23-year-old Conlogue retains the overall leader’s yellow jersey heading into next month’s fourth stop on the World Surf League (WSL) tour in Brazil.
Wright, 22, is chasing hard in second spot.
The pair have put a sizeable gap on the chasing pack including defending world champ Carissa Moore (third) and Australian Stephanie Gilmore (fifth), who have had a shared stranglehold on the previous nine world titles.
Wright took command early in Friday’s final at Margaret River and never let Conlogue back into the contest.
The Australian had two huge nine-point rides as she won 18.67-14.70.
“I knew Courtney was dropping nines in every heat so I had to be smart and very selective in what kind of waves and turns I had and not get too excited,” said Wright, whose best ride of the final included a spectacular barrel.
“Every wave I had felt dreamy.
“And I was stoked because I didn’t hit the reef on any of them, so that was a double bonus.”
Wright pledged to not get fixated with the overall standings as she and Conlogue both push for what would be a first world crown.
“I got caught up in the points stuff at Bells (when she lost to Conlogue in the quarter-finals) and I really didn’t like that event for me,” she said.
“This event I talked to myself and said ‘let’s just bring it back to what it’s about’.”
The closing stages at Margaret River were a near replica of Wright’s season-opening win on the Gold Coast, where she also beat Gilmore in the quarter-finals, Moore in the semis and Conlogue in the final.
After opening the 2016 campaign with back-to-back wins at Snapper Rocks and Bells Beach, runaway men’s WSL leader Matt Wilkinson was bundled out in the fifth round at Margaret River on Friday by American Nat Young, 16.37 to 8.83.
“That obviously was disappointing – I just had a really slow heat and fell on one pretty critical wave,” said the 27-year-old.
“But I’m stoked to be coming out of the Aussie leg with a bit of a lead. That was kind of unexpected.
“I feel like everything has clicked. I’m feeling good and hopefully this ninth will be my worst result.”
WOMEN’S WSL STANDINGS AFTER THREE OF 10 EVENTS
1. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 26,000 points
2. Tyler Wright (Aus) 25,200
3. Carissa Moore (Haw) 19,500
4. Tatiana Weston-Webb (Haw) 18,200
5. Stephanie Gilmore (Aus) 15,600
6. Sally Fitzgibbons (Aus) 14,950