Aussies hunt down world surf title

Steph Gilmore is in the hunt for an eighth world surf league title as the 2021 season gets underway.
Steph Gilmore is in the hunt for an eighth world surf league title as the 2021 season gets underway.

Australia's top female surfers had a one-year respite from defending world champion Carissa Moore - but not in the way they would have expected.

Shortly after winning the 2019 World Surf League title, Moore shocked the surfing world when she announced that she would be having a gap year in 2020.

As it turned out, everyone ended up in the same boat after the 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 campaign will commence this weekend when the Maui Pro in Hawaii gets underway.

USA surfer Moore is among the favourites to snare a fifth world title, but Australians Stephanie Gilmore, Tyler Wright, and Sally Fitzgibbons are expected to be in the thick of the battle.

Gilmore is hunting an eighth world title, while Wright shapes as one of the feel-good stories of the season.

The two-time world champion missed almost the entire 2019 campaign due to illness.

But when the 26-year-old Australian returned for the final event of the year, she finished runner-up to Gilmore at the Maui Pro in a stunning comeback.

Fitzgibbons, a three-time runner-up in the title race, is also expected to be a strong challenger for the crown in 2021.

She will take on Johanne Defay and Brisa Hennessy in a first-round heat at the Maui Pro.

Gilmore is up against fellow Australian Macy Callaghan and Hawaii's Malia Manuel, while Wright will take on American Caroline Marks and fellow Aussie Isabella Nichols.

Moore kicks off her world-title defence against West Australian Bronte Macaulay and home favourite Bettylou Sakura Johnson.

The Maui Pro will be a spectator-free event due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Australian Associated Press