The crowd on the beach erupted into applause, roaring with cheers, fists pumping into the air. Courtney Conlogue had won her first Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach contest. She’d beaten Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons in a heated neck-and-neck battle. She was in the yellow jersey, and she was number one once again.
As Conlogue rang the Bell that signified her win recently, her emotion was palpable -- and so was her determination to defend her number-one spot on what’s been a highly contested title tour.
“Bells has given me many of my lessons,” the 23-year-old tells GrindTV. “Ringing the Bell was a chapter fulfilled for me. I’ve dreamed of that moment, trained for that moment, aspired to reach that goal for so many years and I did it.”
This is year six for the American surfer on the World Championship tour, a journey that’s been marked by injury and gut-wrenching losses. Rewind to the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach contest in 2014, a day of carnage in the water. Conlogue was inside the barrel of a wave when she heard her toe and ankle to crack -- a sound that would hault her World Title dreams that year.
“My mom brought me home in a wheelchair from that event,” she remembers. “I came back from that injury as a different athlete.”
A more determined one, as it turns out. After another close call at Bells the next year (she nearly slammed into a rocky reef), she fought her way back to the top, only to narrowly lose the 2015 World title to Carissa Moore.
When it comes to the World Tour, it seems Conlogue is always a bridesmaid, never a bride. But to watch her surf and listen to her talk, it feels inevitable that this is the year she’ll say “I do.” Her steely determination and focus is almost visceral -- and she doesn’t mince words. And while an injury like Conlogue’s might slow another surfer down, it’s only bolstered her own longstanding dedication to the Tour.
“It introduced many different elements to my physical and mental training,” she explains. “An amazing team of people around me taught me different ways to heal and repair. I read a lot of books on many subjects that were both inspiration, insightful and informative.”
“This journey that I’m on began in 1992,” she continues. “It didn’t just happen this year, last year or the year before. I honestly don’t label my injury as a setback. My perspective on surfing has not been altered since I’ve had my sights set on it.”
Good. Because women’s surfing has never been better, and she’ll need everything she’s got to win her crown.
“The sport of surfing is receiving more exposure as a result of how the WSL has presented it to the world,” Conlogue agrees. “I’m glad women are receiving the accolades that they have deserved for so many years. We, as athletes, will continue to entertain and give progression to the sport. I’m really excited to be a part of this.”
“I will win and I will lose,” she says. “Surfing has a lot of elements that are out of my control.”
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