The Top 8 Women in Surfing

Women are beginning to become ubiquitous in surfing, but this wasn’t always the case. In spite of the surge of estrogen in the water, the ladies are still far outnumbered, but these are some of the shining female stars in the sport today.

Courtney Conlogue 1California native Courtney Conlogue got her first taste for waves at age four, when her surfer dad put her on a board during a family vacation. The currently top-ranked surfer on the Women’s Championship Tour of the World Surf League says she hasn’t gotten out of the water since. Given her tendency to treat the waves like her own personal thrill ride, why would she? When she does dry off, Conlogue can be found training like a Spartan, creating fine-art masterpieces, modeling, doing philanthropic work, and mastering yo-yo tricks.

Carissa Moore 2Carissa Moore is a two-time women’s-surfing world champion. She was also, in 2011, the youngest person to win a surfing championship title at 18 years old. But winning isn’t everything, Moore says. Success is a product of incredible passion for sport, not a result of blood-thirsty competitiveness—though she and arch-rival Stephanie Gilmore do seem to thrive on topping each other’s numbers. Moore has channeled the sheer joy of shredding waves into a training routine that keeps her riding high. “Fun surfing for me is when I’m working towards something and I achieve something,” she said in an interview posted online.

Sally Fitzgibbons 3Veteran surfer Sally Fitzgibbons spent the last season revamping her style. “I started to look at style, and placing emphasis on different parts of the wave and looking to draw fresh lines,” she told one sponsor. Fellow surfers say Fitzgibbons has never looked better. To give fans an insider glimpse at her life, she recently coauthored her memoir, Live Like Sally, which is expected to be released in time for Christmas.

Bianca Buitendag 4Out on the waves, the fluid uncertainty of the ocean inspires South-African surfer Bianca Buitendag. “Being super dependent, trusting in something much greater than yourself: every wave is different, you can never get bored,” she said in an interview posted online. With 2013 rookie-of-the-year honors and the number two spot on Roxy’s Pro Gold Coast ASP Tour in 2014, that faith has proven well-placed. Still, sunset surfs with her family, not competitions, top Buitendag’s favorite moments on the water.

Lakey Peterson 5At age 15, Lakey Peterson won the National Scholastic Surfing Association Open Women’s Title by becoming the first female to perform an aerial maneuver in competition. In her rookie professional year, Peterson won the Women’s U.S. Open of Surfing, an auspicious beginning and a feat she repeated this year. But Peterson’s work in the water goes well beyond her surfing career. She is a spokeswoman on behalf of Hands4Others, an organization that installs clean water systems in developing countries.

Johanne Defay 6French surfer Johanne Defay assumed the sixth-ranking spot on the Women’s World Surf League tour with her win at the U.S. Open this year. Defay got early experience with waves some surfers find daunting. Growing up on Reunion Island, where the Indian Ocean serves up a tumult of wild waves, she honed her craft. In 2014, her rookie year, Defay made a strong showing in Fiji, a spot where many competitors saw their numbers fall.

Tyler Wright 7Tyler Wright was named the Association of Surfing Professionals (now WSL) rookie of the year in 2011, and her level-headed, humorous approach to life keeps her going strong. Her family fostered her sense of competitive drive early on. Intense surf contests with her siblings gave Wright a thirst for surf that has never been slaked. Of the friendly family rivalries, she told website The Inertia, “it’s been a great help! They are always offering little coaching tips and they really know what they’re talking about, it’s definitely a plus.”

Malia Manuel 8As a baby, Malia Manuel crawled along the sandy shores of Wailua, Kauai, getting the salt air and sea into her emotional lexicon, an education that has made her one of the best surfers around. She is not only a highly ranked competitor but also an artist who paints her own surf boards with Polynesian-inspired designs.

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