South Africans Jordy Smith and Bianca Buitendag have joined the world’s best surfers who are converging on Australia’s Gold Coast for the opening events of the elite 2015 World Surf League (WSL) Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour (CT) season.
The US $525 000 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast for men and the $262 500 Roxy Pro Gold Coast for women will be held from 28 February to 11 March in Coolangatta, Queensland, with the renowned hollow tubes of Snapper Rocks the headquarters for the events which run concurrently.
The WSL (formerly the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)) Samsung Galaxy CT features the Top 34 male and Top 17 female surfers on the planet as they compete on an international, 20-event tour in the hunt for the undisputed world surfing crown.
Smith ended the 2014 season in 7th place on the rankings after a stellar last third of the year that saw the Durban raised 27 year-old claim his fourth career CT event title at Trestles near his new home in San Clemente, California in September. He went on to finish 3rd in France and runner-up in Portugal, both in October, climbing seven places in six weeks.
Touted as a potential WSL World Champion ever since finishing runner-up to Kelly Slater (USA) in the 2010 season, just his second on the elite tour, Smith will be going all out to kickstart his 2015 campaign with a great result at the opening event where 50% of the winners over the past decade have gone on to clinch that year’s world title.
Buitendag, who finished her second season amongst the world’s top 17 ranked women also ranked No7, will be hoping to go one better than her sensational runner-up finish to eventual 2014 Women’s World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) at Snapper Rocks last year.
The 21-year-old from Victoria Bay in the Southern Cape, like Smith the tallest competitor on tour, will be determined to win her first CT event and break into the top five in the world this year.
Gabriel Medina (BRA), reigning WSL Champion and defending Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast winner, posted an historic victory last season by edging out an international field of extraordinary talent to claim the world surfing crown – the first Brazilian ever to do so and also the first goofy-foot surfer (rides with right foot in front) since Marc Occhilupo (AUS) in 1999.
Mick Fanning (AUS) and Kelly Slater (USA), three-time and 11-time world champions respectively, put on a spirited battle for the crown in 2014, sending the title race to the final event of the season at Pipeline in Hawaii. Although Fanning, 33, narrowly missed out on a fourth title, the lightning-fast Australian will enjoy the benefit of commencing the 2015 season at home on the Gold Coast. Slater, who recently turned 43, continues to redefine high performance with every heat as well as further cement his legacy as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
Picture of Smith in action last year courtesy of WSL/Kirstin Scholtz