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Surfing - 22. October 2008.

Watershed year for women's Vans Triple Crown of Surfing

More Money Per Capita Than Men's Series; New Crop Coming Through

North Shore, HAWAII - The 2008 women's Vans Triple Crown of Surfing will celebrate a number of records this winter: a $215,000 prize purse; more prize money per capita than the men's series; the most exciting run-up to the world title in years; an exciting new crop of qualifiers for the 2009 World Championship Tour (WCT); and potentially the first New Zealander - male or female - to ever reach the WCT.

Fifty women will compete in this year's three-event series: the $35,000 Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, the $85,000 Roxy Pro at Sunset Beach, and the $85,000 Billabong Pro on Maui. Including the $10,000 bonus for the top performing individual across the three events, the Vans Triple Crown offers an average of $4,300 per female competitor. The men's series, on the other hand, offers a total of $600,000 across 180 competitors for an average of $3,333 per surfer.

Unlike the men's world title race, the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) women's world title race is far from over. The top five ranked women remain in contention coming into Hawaii. They are, in order of current standings from the top: Sofia Mulanovich (Peru); Stephanie Gilmore (Australia); Layne Beachley (Australia); Amee Donohoe (Australia); and Silvana Lima (Brazil). Mulanovich, Gilmore and Beachley are all former world champions, and all have been victorious in events and world titles at the Vans Triple Crown. Mulanovich and Beachley are also former Triple Crown champions.

For Beachley, 36, the North Shore and the Triple Crown have always played a vital role in her world title campaigns, of which she has won a total of seven. This winter will be extra special as it will be her last; Beachley has announced her retirement at the end of this season.

"Hawaii holds so many special memories for me and it feels like a home away from home," says Beachley.

"Six of my seven world titles have been won in Hawaiian waters and Sunset Beach is my favorite wave. The North Pacific has taught me more about myself and my ability as a surfer than anywhere else in the world!

"My dream for my last year in Hawaii is to surf well and enjoy every minute of the journey. Being in contention for my eighth world title will certainly make it memorable, but more importantly I want to perform well and exit the water proud and happy, regardless of the result."

Looking to the future, the World Qualifying Series (WQS) will feature during the Reef Hawaiian Pro, as the final cut of new talent for the 2009 WCT season becomes known. The top six women from the WQS ratings at the end of the Reef Hawaiian Pro will qualify for the 2009 Championship Tour. With just one WQS event to run between now and the start of the Reef Hawaiian Pro, the current top six WQS-ranked women are: Sally Fitzgibbons (Australia); Rosanne Hodge (South Africa); Paige Hareb (New Zealand); Bruna Schmitz (Brazil); Alana Blanchard (Hawaii); and Laurina McGrath (Australia).

With the exception of Hodge and McGrath, the remaining four would all represent a totally new injection of international talent to the elite women's tour. If Paige Hareb does make the cut, she will also be the first New Zealander - male or female - to ever qualify for the WCT.

The 2008 Vans Triple Crown will also be important for Hawaiian tour veteran Megan Abubo, 30, who is the defending Vans Triple Crown champion. Abubo triumphed last year despite a roller-coaster ride that saw her win the Reef Hawaiian Pro, incur an injury in the Roxy Pro that prevented her from advancing beyond the semi-finals, and then forced her to miss the final leg of the series. This winter, rounding out her 15th year on tour, Abubo is fighting to requalify.

Currently ranked 12th on the WCT, Abubo is two spots shy of the Top 10 re-qualification cut-off. At 17th on the WQS rankings, it is highly unlikely that she will be able to re-enter going that route, so it will come down to a power-house finish in the final two WCT events of the year: the Roxy Pro and Billabong Pro.

The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is the world's premier and longest running pro surfing series. The first event, the Reef Hawaiian Pro, gets underway at Haleiwa Ali'i Beach Park on November 12 through 23. From there it moves to Sunset Beach for the Roxy Pro - Nov. 24-Dec. 6, and then goes outer-island to Maui for the Billabong Pro - Dec. 8-20, the final women's event for 2008.

Events can be followed live on line at:
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