Two years after Courtney Conlogue’s mother carried her off a local beach with a wrecked ankle, the American surfer was chaired up Bells Beach in triumph.
The 23-year-old won her first Rip Curl Pro title on Friday and with it shot to the top of the world championship tour standings.
Conlogue surfed a smart final at the Bells bowl, taking the lead with a 9.03 wave and then holding off Australian two-time winner Sally Fitzgibbons for a riveting 16.53 to 16.43 win.
She was free surfing at nearby 13th Beach in 2014 when she hurt her ankle.
Conlogue needed help from mother Tracey to leave the beach and the injury forced her to miss three rounds of the world tour, shredding her title hopes.
Last year, Conlogue lost her Bells semi-final to Australian Stephanie Gilmore and eventually finished runner-up in the world championship to Hawaiian Carissa Moore.
So when Conlogue finally rang the famed Bells trophy, it looked like she was trying to break it.
“Man, it felt so good to ring that bell,” she said.
“I’ve been wanting to do that for six years – actually, since I was a little girl.
“I am so honoured … now I have my name there.”
Conlogue has never won the world championship, but she is this season’s early frontrunner.
She was runner-up to Australian Tyler Wright at last month’s first round on the Gold Coast and then reversed that result earlier on Friday in the quarter-finals.
That meant Conlogue already had the tour lead for the Bells final.
She also is defending champion at the next two tour events, WA’s Margaret River and then Rio.
“Having a start like this is great, but there are still eight events on the tour and everyone is going to be coming for me,” Conlogue said.
Moore’s run of three-straight Bells titles was ended when Fitzgibbons beat her in the semis.
Conlogue paid tribute to Fitzgibbons, who won Bells in 2011 and `12.
“You want to have it (the final) against someone who’s won it,” she said.
“Every time I come up against Sal … oh, it’s so `on’.
“Sally is always bringing her A-game and she’s such an athlete and so consistent.”
Fitzgibbons returned the compliment, saying Conlogue was a worthy champion.
“Running down those stairs after fourteen years of coming here never gets old,” Fitzgibbons said of the final.
“I just love it when my opponent is at their best.
“Courtney was in really great form this whole event and when my opponents are going out there and trying to better themselves, as a competitor I revel in that challenge.”
Also on Friday, the men completed round four and are halfway through the sudden-death fifth round ahead of the quarter-finals.
Australian legend Mick Fanning, who could be competing at his last Bells, is yet to surf his round-five heat.
The men’s Bells winner should be decided this weekend.