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by Ed Temperley on Monday 6th June, 2011 99744 Views
6 of 6
PICKING your way up the central aisle at the bleachers in the blazing French summer sun it was hard not to be struck by how complete and sudden the revolution had become.
An equal mix of boys and girls squeezed shoulder to shoulder, cooing, ahhing and cheering each blistering turn, not Kelly verses Taj or even a World Tour event. This was the semifinal of the Swatch Girls Pro, a 6-Star Prime, and Sally Fitzgibbons and Courtney Conlogue were at it hammer and tongs, offering no quarter and expecting none in return.
If this all sounds a bit dramatic then you'd better believe this was an engaging spectacle. Sally ended-up ripping an 8.5 in the final seconds under Courtney's priority and went on to win the event. And this is it, state of the nation, 2011 heralding a golden generation of quirky characters all pushing themselves and their sport onwards and upwards. © 2013 Joerg Mitter
So when did girls surfing become so damn engaging for everyone? The age of Steph? Last year? At the Quik Pro or was it Leave A Message? A revolution televised, blogged and colourised in HD. Gil Scott Heron would probably have quite a lot to say about the surf industry, but if he could spend 10 minutes sitting down with this new generation he might find it difficult to not be won over by their honest youthful enthusiasm.
And they are young, 20 or under, this vanguard of progression kicking the living hell out of the idea that their turns are shaky and manoeuvres uncommitted. Four times World Champ Steph Gilmore is their mentor and she's only 23. Courtney Conlogue was born in 1992, I remember 1992 as the year my brother told me abut Nirvana. These girls are into Rihanna and Beyonce, savvy and in touch with their natural appeal, whilst still ripping the bag out of any watery wall. © 2013 Lachie McKinnon
Coco Ho, One of the leaders of the pack, comes and sits down. So Coco, you can't all be mates surely? Trying to tease out some conflict from the love-in. "Yes" she states determinedly, "The reason it works is we're all so different, everyone has a charm about them. If everyone was the same we'd start tearing at each other."
And that's it, nail-on-the-head moment which gets hammered in as a few of the girls come over and talk. Coco's the young wise one. A product of Hawaiian surfing royalty and a natural ambassador with the fastest backhand hack around. Her big influences must be obvious?
"I admire everything that Steph (Gilmore) does. My brother was always telling me to surf like a boy and I saw her surfing and thought 'that's it, surf like that'. Most people watch videos and I look at my dad across the kitchen table. My uncle Derek was the first world champ so I have that network set-up." As it turns out Coco never intended to qualify for the World Tour when she did. "I qualified by accident and my dad was like 'whoa'! He came to every event after that."
Do you feel like you're part of the golden generation everyone talking about? "Yeah we are, we're so lucky, everyone's progressive but we all like to be girly. It's totally changing. We're stoked about it, everyone's watching what we're doing these days. Leave A Message has definitely played a big part in that."
"So what next for the girls in terms of stepping it up? Should they do all the same tour stops as the men? "No says Coco very definitely. We will always get put in the worst conditions and that's when we struggle and our heats don't look as good. Look at this event the beach was packed and we surfed in the best conditions." © 2013 Dom Daher
Next up, Courtney Conlogue, tough, vibrant and fiercely articulate she's the all American track and field girl with attitude.
"On tour I dream of good surf in Java or Sumatra." She says "That's why they call it the Dream Tour."
It's her rookie year on tour and she sits at a credible number 7 but wants to be the champion. Watching her talk you can feel the strength of her desire to win.
"Everyone wants to win the World Championship, to be there holding the cup, have the champagne shot at them, spraying in their face. Next year I'm aiming for the top five."
"At Snapper the women's was the one everyone was talking about, this whole next generation, we're just trying to push the limits." © 2013 Joerg Mitter
Event winner, Sally Fitz buzzes over, complete with infectious enthusiasm and more get-up-and-go than a freebasing frother. Sally claims she only came over to France to watch the tennis and ended up winning the event. Sitting in the number two spot with only a mathematical chance of taking the title I assume she's given up on this year's title chase, "hell no" is the response.
As for the new generation Sally is right up there in the vanguard. "Women's surfing right now, we might look at the men but our sport is blossoming in it's own right, I think the women are going to continue to develop our own identity."
Sally's a self confessed sports nut, looking everywhere for the inspiration and drive of the champion. "You can see it in their eyes" she says, "The will to win, the effort they need to put in to get there." © 2013 Dom Daher
When Alana Blanchard comes over and talks bikinis, Sports Illustrated and being cute you're reminded of a time when everyone talked more of bottoms than bottom turns. Surfing for her is life and fashion is her pleasure.
When asked about whether she dreams of being World Champion one day she laughs and says "It's gnarly even to win a heat right now." Reportedly she just signed a deal worth a couple of million dollars so she probably isn't crying too hard at night about heats.
And this illustrates even more the diversity within this group. Coco Ho calls her travelling partner Alana "the hot cool one" whereas Alana more often than not calls Coco the winner.
Above all it's a group of girls managing to team an aesthetic appeal with super solid surfing. And in the main successfully turning the conversation away from an obsession with looks and to where it should be, performance, progression and ability. © 2013 Dom Daher
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