Art critics split after the World Surf League released a bizarre image honoring 11x champion Kelly Slater on his 50th birthday: “The result is an apocalyptic wallpaper!”


Sunset. Tall, unruly. It’s the kind of place that’s obviously trying to kill you, or at least put a lot of water in your nose. It looks super fun!

For starters, I have to tell you that I hate writing lists with every ounce of my hate.

But, for you people, I will make an exception. Also, if men have power rankings, surely women must have too.

Equality is what’s for dinner. Skip the salt.

Sunset. Tall, unruly. It’s the kind of place that’s obviously trying to kill you, or at least put a lot of water in your nose. It looks super fun!

I watched long and hard at the draw. I don’t think it made me any smarter. Really, next time I should just pull names from a hat. Here it is, my super unscientific pre-Sunset female power ranking.


India Robinson
Someone has to be the last, and this time this place belongs to India. Persistent concussion symptoms put her out of Pipeline, but she’s back in the draw for Sunset. India climbed the Challenger Series standings at Roxy Pro France where they finished second behind Brisa and surfed well at the Challenger Series event in Haleiwa. Nowhere to go but up!

Luana Silva
Luana grew up surfing the North Shore and is a BFF with Bettylou Sakura Johnson. Chances are, I’m ranking her way too low here, because she almost certainly spent time in Sunset’s lineup. Luana is one of the new girls, and I’ll just say, frankly, I don’t know as much about her as I should. Surprise me, Luana!

Molly Picklum
Another of the new girls, Molly had a dramatic path to CT. She tied Luana in the Challenger Series and lost it in the countdown. Off tour. Then, back after Caity Simmers declined her spot. Molly looked stylish in Haleiwa and performed strongly in the junior rankings. She may deserve a higher ranking than I gave her here, but she lacks experience. Have to start somewhere.

Brisa Hennessey
During the Covid competition break, Brisa put in a wonderful edit riding the waves around Tavarua – including a nice barrel roll at Cloudbreak. His contest rounds seem random to me. Sometimes she’s brilliant, other times it doesn’t. She reached her quarters at Pipeline. Can she push through the waist at sunset?

Vaiana Jones Wong
Surfing’s new It Girl, Moana, won Pipeline in style. She has spent the past five years surfing five and six hours a day there. There is a trade-off, of course. Six-hour days at Pipe aren’t going to help at Sunset, where Moana will be on her backhand. Yes, she made some great waves for the Vans Triple Crown, but her turns aren’t on par with the CT women. Outside of Pipeline, Moana’s contest results are rare. Barrels? Sure. The upside down turns, I’m not convinced.

Sfitzgibbons ally
It’s a bit odd to place a CT veteran and top-five finisher from last year this far down the rankings. Do I know what I’m doing here? Probably not. I don’t consider Sal a girl for the big stuff. Am I wrong? Quite possible.

Isabelle Nichols
If she hadn’t been on the tour, Isabella would have gone to college to study engineering. But she qualified and here we are. One of Isabella’s first Backdoor barrels at Pipeline was so smooth and sleek. I had her firmly signed up as a beach surfer after the early events of 2021, but I’m pretty confident she has more to offer. Let’s see what happens at sunset.

Bronte McCaulay
Fresh off the plane, Bronte replaces Caroline Marks at the last minute, who is absent from the CT for health reasons. Bronte is legitimately good at solid surfing with a solid backhand. If she wasn’t fresh off the plane, I’d drag her higher in the rankings.

Gabriela Bryan
One of the many Hawaiians in the Sunset Draw, Gabriela has spent a lot of time surfing the North Shore. She knows what awaits her at Sunset and her powerful style is well suited to the wave. She regularly posts clips this winter. Looks good, so far. I would rank her higher if she had more CT experience. I may be making an embarrassing mistake here.

Johanne Defay
Johanne said on Instagram that she had a minor knee injury after getting licked at Backdoor. It could have been worse, except she trains like a demon. Let this be a lesson to you, children. The training is good. Johanne is not afraid of height, but always seems to do better on the lefts. Sunset? Rights. At least I know that.

Courtney Conlogue
With her go-for-broke style, Courtney will win or get nothing. She won Bells Beach in considerable conditions and she can handle heavy sections. Among the best women in CT, she is the most willing to pray and pray. It might just come in handy if Sunset gets unruly. The inconsistency knocks her off the top of the leaderboard, but if she wins, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised.

Malia Manuel
Her sleek, graceful style may not be particularly suited to Sunset, but she’s experienced and not afraid of size. Malia finished second to Courtney at Bells. If I’m being honest, this ranking comes as much from my heart as it does from my head. I love his surfing.

Tati West
One of the strongest backside surfers on the Tour, Tati nearly snatched the world title from Carissa last year. Sunset is not a party for goofyfooters, so I’m probably ranking it too high here. And in fact, I’m starting to lose my mind. Listicles, not my thing.

Lakey Peterson
After a year out of CT due to a back injury, Lakey returned to the semifinals at Pipeline. Her half-heat with Carissa was nothing special, but she nailed a few Backdoor waves early on. Lakey has a trick, really. She is fast and dynamic, but sometimes tries too hard. Lakey is perhaps the most scrappy heat surfer on the Tour, always chasing that last score. I appreciate that she never says approach.

Bettylou Sakura Johnson
Hawaiian girl, Bettylou learned to surf in Haleiwa. It has a lot of power and its size is comfortable. Her inexperience with hot surfing showed when Isabella beat her at Pipe, but I don’t think she will make that mistake again. At 16, she’s one of the future stars of the sport, and that future could come sooner than expected. She defeated Carissa in the Challenger Series event in Haleiwa. The conditions were shitty in the final, but Bettylou deserves to celebrate that one. Sunset? Yes why not.

Tyler Wright
The last time women surfed a CT at Sunset Beach was in 2010. I think I’m right. Tyler was a wild card for this event. Besides, she won it. I’ll be honest: I don’t like that slack that Tyler does on almost every wave. But judges do. His Backdoor eight was legit. While Tyler says she’s afraid of big Hawaii, she can surf it. I almost flipped his ranking with Lakey. Life is chaos.

Steph Gilmore
Maybe it’s just force of habit to place Steph so high in the rankings. But she is a seven-time world champion and won Sunset Beach twice early in her career. Going right is all for Steph, and if conditions improve, she’ll bring her beautiful railboard to the party. Few do it better than Steph at his best. Steph’s hot surfing these days is either brilliant or disastrous. On sunny days, there’s no one I’d rather watch. Here’s hoping it’s the good Steph, not his evil twin, paddling into the sunset.

Carissa Moore
In 2009, surfing as a wild card, Carissa won the CT at Sunset Beach. She is also the only woman to compete in the men’s Triple Crown, and Carissa spends her winters surfing the North Shore. The waves suit him perfectly. On a purely technical level, no one matches Carissa – and she just keeps getting better. If Carissa has one weakness, it’s a tendency to overthink things. She defeated herself at Pipe and she almost certainly knows it. No shame there, even the best stumble sometimes, and Carissa will be determined to put it all behind her.


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