Californian Courtney Conlogue has cemented her reputation as the modern day master of the Bells Bowl with her second World Tour event in succession at the notoriously tricky venue.
Bells Beach, which is located on the Victorian surf coast in Australia, is a slow, unpredictable wave that favours smooth drawn-out lines and expert wave selection. Conlogue's formula of impeccably timed hooks in the bowl and pure power proved unbeatable, taking down 11-world titles worth of experience on her way to back-to-back Bells.
"It's such a tricky wave to try to master and I'm really happy that I get another one — it's surreal right now," she said following the win.
Conlogue was forced to draw on plenty of her trademark grit) to get there. Her quarterfinal against three-time Women's World Champion, Hawaiian Carissa Moore, was as fiery as it gets with the pair engaged in a tense paddle-battle to begin the heat. Conlogue would get the better of the Hawaiian by a slim margin of 1.23 points before spending the first half of her semi-final against reigning world champ, Australian Tyler Wright, completely waveless. Forced into a combination situation (where you require more than one score to take the lead) with ten minutes remaining, Conlogue racked up a pair of near perfect nine-point rides with her only two waves for the win.
It was much the same in the final with six-time women's world champion and perennial style master, Australian Steph Gilmore, taking a significant early lead with a pair of eights. Conlogue responded with an eight of her own before registering a nine point ride in the final seven minutes with a series of powerful rail turns in the bowl.
"There's a lot of times when it comes down to that last 90 seconds and you've just got to maintain that composure especially against world titlists like Steph," she said on the broadcast.
"It was amazing to compete against her in that final and it was tit for tat — every single set came through and she was on and then I was on and vice versa — such a great way to have a final."
The win, by 0.67 of a point, sees her move into fourth place in the title race heading into the tricky beach breaks of the Oi Rio Pro, Brazil, beginning on the 9th of May. Steph Gilmore's runner-up sees her finish the Australian leg of the tour with the yellow leader's jersey.
Conlogue broke a six-year drought for mainland America when she qualified for the World Tour several years ago though came close to giving it all away due to a lack of financial support for women's pro surfing.
"At one stage I was like, I'm not figuring it out. I was ready to go to College. There was no money in it, it was still the ASP. The women were just scratching to get from event to event. It was super expensive. I thought, I don't know how long I can do this for," she recalled last year.
She has long been an advocate for the growth of women's pro surfing and aims to "create a platform" for future female surfers.
"I just wanna create a platform for women who want to be pro surfers," she says. "I wanna make it nice for them, where they can reach for the stars and become world champs if they wanna be.