Next weeks Billabong Pro Maui will usher in a new era of women's surfing next week with recently crowned Sofia Mulanovich, 21, (Peru) entering as world champion in place of the long reigning Layne Beachley (Aus). Thirty-two-year old Beachley (Aus) exited her six years as world champion in perfect style taking first place over Mulanovich at the recent WCT event on Hawaii's North Shore.
The ousted but not out Beachley (Aus) could still manage to rewrite the sports history books at the Billabong Pro Maui by claiming a third women's Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title. Already holding an unprecedented two crowns, having won, in 1997 and '98, Beachley is leading the series over Mulanovich, Chelsea Georgeson (Gold Coast, Aus) and Maria Tita Tavares (Brz). There is an additional US $10,000 winner-takes-all purse for the woman who performs the best over the two Hawaiian WCT events.
Beachley who is now ranked at no.3 in the world is also in contention for the 2004 runner-up position requiring a third or better if current no.2 Rochelle Ballard (Haw) finishes with a ninth on Maui. Also in contention for the world no.2 position are Georgeson, Tavares and Jacqueline Silva (Brz). Over her career Beachley has won a total of 27 WCT titles but never the Billabong Pro Maui.
"I have mixed emotions about Maui, primarily due to the pressure ridden circumstances of my last four world title wins," said the Sydney surfer. "Even though I have won my last four titles there, I still have not won the event so if it turns on I would love to finish the year off with a win, at a place that has alluded me for so long. Winning at Haleiwa has given me a lot of confidence and I am ready and hoping to finish this year off with a win.?h
Defending Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champion Keala Kennelly became the first Hawaiian woman to win the award last year and is still a chance at no.5 on the Series ratings. 26-year-old Kennelly who also finished as the 2003 world runner-up said, "It was about damn time someone from Hawaii won, and I would be stoked if Rochelle (Ballard), Megan (Abubo) or Bartels(Melanie) won it this year to keep it in the hands of Hawaii. But I will also be giving it my best shot as well."
2005 WCT qualifier and Australia's top ranked junior surfer Rebecca Woods (Copacabana, Aus) will be one of six surfers competing in the Billabong Pro Maui Trials for the lone wildcard on offer. The wildcard winner will be thrown straight into the deep end, taking on world champion Mulanovich and Heather Clark (Sth Africa) in the opening round.
Woods was full of praise for Mulanovich's world title win saying "It's awesome. She has already pushed the level of surfing so much further on her way through to the top and now she will push it that much harder. Sofia will take what Layne has achieved for the sport and run with it. She has shown all the young girls coming through that you can achieve your dreams."
The super talented natural footer has already carved out a big reputation and if she wins the wildcard will give the worlds top 17 women surfers a serious run at Honolua Bay, Maui. The break is one of the most picturesque line-ups in the world with long right-hander's offering a number of sections, with large open walls and hollow tubes. The Billabong Pro has become synonymous with the famous Maui break, showcasing the world's top rated women unlike any other event.
The Billabong Pro Maui will decide the top 10 WCT performers who will re-qualify for the 2005 Women's WCT, with the top six World Qualifying Series (WQS) moving up as well. After the completion of the final 2004 WQS event , the top six WQS finishers are Chelsea Georgeson, WQS champ for the year, followed by WA's charger Melanie Redman-Carr (Aus), Melanie Bartels (Haw), future star Woods (AUS), defending Billabong Pro Maui champion Samantha Cornish (Crescent Head, Aus) and Claire Bevilacqua (West Australia). Four of those girls are current WCT surfers though, who may qualiffy via the WCT ratings, and not need their WQS rating. Of those four, only Chelsea Georgeson is currently qualifying as Top 10 WCT surfer.
The Billabong Pro Maui holding period is December 8th to 20th, 2004. Competition is can be hold over a minimum of two days within the 13 day waiting period in the best possible waves.
Mahalo to Hawaiian Airlines – the Official Airline to the Billabong Pro Maui
Current ASP Ratings.
1. Sofia Mulanovich (Peru) 5484
2. Rochelle Ballard (Haw) 4392
3. Layne Beachley (Aus) 4176
4. Chelsea Georgeson (Aus) 3924
5. Maria Tita Tavares (Brz) 3846
6. Jacqueline Silva (Brz) 3738
7. Laurina McGrath (Aus) 3336
8. Keala Kennelly (Haw) 3318
9. Megan Abubo (Haw) 2898
10. Trudy Todd (Aus) 2544
11. Melanie Redman-Carr (Aus) 2376
12. Pauline Menczer (Aus) 2376
13. Samantha Cornish (Aus) 2352
14. Melanie Bartels (Haw) 2238
15. Heather Clark (SAfr) 2172
16. Lynnette MacKenzie (Aus) 1620
17. Prue Jeffries (Aus) 1440
Details of the TV satellite feeds from the Billabong Pro Maui will be advised throughout the event.