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Worlds' Best Women Surfers Off To Fiji


The upcoming Roxy Pro Fiji, the second of six stops on the 2002 Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) women's World Championship Tour (WCT), will act as the springboard to this year's world title.

The US$60,000 tournament will be held at the world-renowned Fijian surf spot of 'Cloudbreak', off the islands of Tavarua and Namotu, from April 27 to May 4, and will showcase the top-rated female surfers.

The 2002 ASP women's WCT season opened last month on the east coast of Australia, with the Roxy Pro on Queensland's Gold Coast. In all, Roxy Pro events will account for half of the women's WCT tour this year, with a third Roxy Pro in the southwest of France slated for September 26 to October 8. With each surfer's best five results out of the six events to determine their final ranking by year-end, results of the Roxy Pro Fiji will act as a key indicator towards the outcome of this year's world title battle.

On board for the Roxy Pro Fiji will be the world's top 17 ranked professional surfers, including defending champion Megan Abubo (Haw), as well as an elite trials lineup of four international rookies who will compete for a coveted slot in the main event. Peruvian Sofia Mulanovich recently won the Roxy Pro Trials on the Gold Coast and would love a repeat to take on the big names in Fiji. Only one will advance from the trials and Mulanovich will take on Stacey Holt (Aus), Veronica Kay (USA), and Adelina Taylor (Europe), who is known to be a fearless charger. Any one of these four could prove to be a major spoiler for the following favorites:

Current world #1 Lynette MacKenzie (Aus), who sits atop the ratings following her Roxy Pro win in Australia last month, could maintain her position given that she will have the advantage of riding the barreling Cloudbreak left-handers on her forehand. Because of the fast-breaking and difficult nature of Cloudbreak, a surfer who rides facing the wave (as opposed to having their back to the wave) has a distinct advantage.

"I love going left," confirms 27-year-old MacKenzie, a 13-year veteran of the ASP world tour. "And Fiji is such an insane place, it's so beautiful. You don't even feel like you're there for a contest.

"Last year I had a great time free-surfing at Cloudbreak, but in the contest I didn't catch enough waves and didn't do very well - I came 13th.

"Winning the Roxy Pro on the Gold Coast was a good feeling for me because I know that I've got my mind and performance at the level that it should be at - and I haven't been at that level for a long time. The Roxy Pro was my first WCT win since 1997 in South Africa.

"But you can't write anyone off - everyone has a chance, even the person who wins the Roxy Trials for the Roxy Pro Fiji could win the whole thing."

Brazil's Jacqueline Silva finished runner-up to MacKenzie in Australia, and is another with a strong chance of taking out the Roxy Pro Fiji. Making it all the way to the semi-finals there last year, Silva's powerful and stylish surfing could well take her from her current position of second in the world to first in Fiji.

Then there are the world champions. With four world titles apiece, Layne Beachley (Aus) and Lisa Andersen (USA) have the experience and determination to eclipse the field if they can find their top form. After one event, Beachley is currently ranked equal ninth in the world, and Andersen sits at fifth. Beachley has shrugged off poor starts to the season before and will need to do exactly that if she is to gain enough momentum to shoot for a record fifth world title this year. Andersen, who comes out of retirement this year, is warming up for a shot at the title.

"It felt good to have the rush of competing again," Andersen said of her first comeback performance in Australia. "I know that I can perform better and it will come to me.

"Cloudbreak is a perfect wave and I can't wait to be there. I really think it will turn out to be one of my better stops on the tour this year. I'm looking forward to working on my surfing there and just doing again what I love the most - surfing."

Cloudbreak is a world-class wave that barrels off across a shallow coral reef. Competitors ride from a steep takeoff through a tubing section, then some open wave face for maneuvers that lead to a very shallow inside barrel called "Shish kebabs" - a total distance of approximately 60 yards.

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