By Lincoln Feast
(Reuters) – Hawaii’s Carissa Moore dominated the pool at the Surf Ranch Pro in Lemoore, California, on Sunday to climb to the top of surfing’s world tour rankings and improve her chances of qualifying for the Paris Olympics to defend her gold medal.
California’s Griffin Colapinto took out Brazil’s 2019 world champion and Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Italo Ferreira in a high-scoring men’s final.
Moore was flawless going both left and right in the artificial waves, and was too strong for young Floridian Caroline Marks in the final.
“It’s a perfect wave but it’s really difficult to ride,” said five time world champion Moore. “It always takes a couple of surfs to figure out the timing again and just to calm the nerves.”
Deep in California cow country more than 100 miles (160 km) from the coast, the Surf Ranch has been something of a divisive stop on the world tour for both surfers and spectators.
While the giant, solar powered foil delivers unrivalled, high-performance waves peeling for 700 yards (640 meters), the predictability and struggles with the format of the competition have drawn criticism.
Changes this year included more head-to-head battles and the introduction of a one wave, do-or-die night session from which just two men of 12 losers from the first round progressed to the quarter-finals.
Both Colapinto and Ferreira survived that crucible and rode their momentum on finals day, mixing high-risk aerials with deep tube rides and huge turns to progress to the championship round.
Colapinto took the lead in his final run, and would have gone further ahead if he had landed a giant flip.
The high-energy Ferreira thought he’d done enough on his second-last ride but the score came up short and the Brazilian fell on his last ride to hand the title to Colapinto.
“I’m so psyched,” said Colapinto. “I’m over the moon. It hasn’t really soaked in yet. But I made three finals (this year), I was like, you gotta win one eventually, so yeah, I got one!”
Like Moore, Colapinto climbed to the top of the world tour rankings with four more events before the top five men and women compete in a one-day finals event in Southern California in September.
Coveted spots at next year’s Olympics are also up for grabs, with the top 10 men and top eight women at the end of the tour booking a ticket to the perfect reef pass of Teahupo’o in Tahiti.
(Reporting by Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates)