re-sized Sally Fitzgibbons

SWATCH GIRLS PRO France 2011 and the Estoril Surf & Music Billabong Girls Pro

The girls are taking pro-surfing to a whole new level. What a spectacular weekend it was for both competitors and spectators in Hossegor, France and again in Pria do Guincho, Portugal the following weekend. These were the last of the ASP Women’s Star Tour events until they recommence in September…

Hossegor, known as Europe’s surf mecca, has been popular with the international surfing community since its induction into the world championship competitions in 2001. The area benefits from the depth and funnel shape of the Bay of Biscay that rises abruptly in front of the coast which, with the combination of the numerous small rivers and streams that pour into the sea, creating many off-shore sandbars which in turn create powerful waves.  On top of all that natural potential, the region also boasts 160 miles of uninterrupted sandy beach along the Atlantic and some of the best surf and steadiets swell to be found anywhere in Europe. A mecca indeed.

The other advantage, or perhaps to some – disadvantage, is that due to the changing winds and the huge tidal range, the waves can evolve with incredible speed. The sandbars orientation favour rights, while lefts tend to be very hollow because of the consistent North to South undertow.

The atmosphere on the final day in Hossegor was electric and the conditions were great – fast crashing waves and strong currents. The unexpected had already happened in the early days’ of the competition when last year’s winner and 4-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and top favourite Coco Ho (HAW) were eliminated.

The competition was fought bitterly until the very end by contenders Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) and Sage Erikson (USA). Both put on consistently outstanding performances of technical, smooth and stylish surfing brilliance that thrilled the crowded beach, but it was Fitzgibbons who triumphed at the end of the day with 35-minutes of critical, committed backhand surfing to take an early lead which she held onto throughout the rest of the day and which won her the 6-Star SWATCH Girls Pro France 2011. The trophy stays in Australia.

Sally Fitzgibbons, Sage Erikson and Sarah Baum are the top 3 SWATCH GIRLS PRO France winners

Sally Fitzgibbons takes the podium at Hossegor

A bubbling Sally said, “I am really excited to get the win here with everyone surfing so well. It was super challenging with the conditions so to come out on top I am really happy. It is a great confidence boost and I came here for a little holiday but to get the win was a bonus for sure.”

With her third major ASP win this year, Sally Fitzgibbons is now rated World No. 2 in the ASP World Title Series. Sarah Baum the 17-year old from Durban, South Africa took equal 3rd place. “I am super stoked with a third here. I didn’t expect to get this far in the event and last year I made it to the Round of 12 and I am really pleased to beat that. It is my best result for sure and all the girls are ripping and it is a great feeling to be part of it. I am heading down to Estoril on Tuesday and I am now looking towards that contest.”

The Estoril is of course in Portugal where the next competition, The Estoril Surf & Music Billabong Girls Pro, took place at Pria do Guincho on Saturday, June 11th. Pria do Guincho is one of the best surfing sports in Portugal and has frequently been the setting for national and international competitions. The strong northern winds are predominant between June and August making this beach ideal and fairly reliable for surfing. Combine that with smaller north-west swells and you have a dream location.

The event was won by 18-year old Courtney Conlogue of Santa Ana CA, USA. The conditions were extremely difficult with strong cross-shore winds persisting during the final day of competition making for tricky conditions and forcing competitors to battle with the elements and 2-ft peaks. Event officials decided to run through to the finals knowing that the swell forecast for the following day was not positive and so they decided to finish one day earlier.

Podium Winner Courtney Conlogue at Estoril, Portugal

Estoril Surf & Music Billabong Girls Pro winner Courtney Conlogue.

Courtney Conlogue had finished equal third with Sarah Baum in France a few days earlier. In the Estoril Surf Competition she beat 16-year old Lakey Peterson from Santa Barbara, USA. “I feel pretty good now and it has been a crazy week and I’m stoked to be on the podium in this event. Every single heat I had to be on my toes because it was not an easy win. Now I am heading home to have some rest which I am looking forward to because it has been a long year so far,” she said.

Conlogue has consolidated her No. 1 position on the ASP Women’s Star rankings. This was the fifth of seven events on the ASP Women’s Star Tour as well as stop nº 2 of 4 on the ASP Women’s European title race. Surfers competing at the Estoril Surf & Music Billabong Girls Pro were out to capitalize on the valuable rankings points on offer in their bid to qualify for the elite ASP Women’s World Tour in 2012.

Next up? After a well earned rest, the girls will be heading to Pantin, Spain for the 6-Star Cabreiroa Surfing Girls tournament which will be held between 15th – 18th September. This will be closely followed by the 6-Star Billabong Women’s Azores Island Pro in Sao Miguel, Portugal on the 26th – 29th September.

Photos courtesy of ASP

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