How Did A Biomedical x Marketing Grad Snag Carissa Moore's Spot On The 2024 CT? - Stab Mag

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"It's kind of just footage I've been hanging onto for a while. It's not like crazy surfing. It's just really nice vision that I was able to get from Dan Scott and Nick Woodley and most of it's post-injury surfing. A dream of my would be to just go and get some sick waves and really show how you can surf because the competition doesn't always allow you to do that," says Sophie about this clip. Frame by Dan Scott

How Did A Biomedical x Marketing Grad Snag Carissa Moore’s Spot On The 2024 CT?

Sophie McCulloch swoops.

Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 4 minutes

“It was just legendary the way she qualified. Everyone was talking about the other two girls at that last event in Haleiwa and no one even mentioned Sophie’s name. There was so much hype on that event and she was the biggest underdog and yet she qualified in a must-win situation. That’s the sickest thing ever. That’s why she’s my fourth pick. Plus she rips and has a cool style.”

Caity Simmers on Sophie Mcculloch – Stab Surfer of the Year 2022.

Sophie Mcculloch’s fairy-tale finish to 2022 was swiftly followed by disappointment. The villain was the Snapper Rocks backwash which destroyed the Sunshine Coast surfer’s hoof and saw her withdraw from the opening two events of the 2023 CT, at Pipeline and Sunset.

“Liam [O’Brien] and Ramzi [Boukhaim] had similar syndesmosis injuries, Oscar Berry and Marley Harrison on the QS, maybe even Miggy Pupo too. They are super common in surfing,” Sophie told Stab. “Essentially it’s a high ankle sprain and a complete tear of a major ligament in your ankle. The difference between LOB’s and mine was that he also broke his leg, whereas I just did the ligament damage.”

A schematic all too familiar to Sophie.

Sophie’s clear and comprehensive breakdown of exactly what a syndesmosis injury is made me believe it wasn’t her first time applying medical lexicon. It wasn’t. Sophie holds a double-degree in biomedical science and marketing, which she completed whilst competing full-time on the QS and CS. 

LOB, who happens to be her partner, is a physics and engineering student who scored a near-perfect result in his high school exams. They are far and away the CT’s most deadly trivia team.

“I was always going to finish grade 12 for starters,” starts Sophie. “I didn’t do any pro juniors. I finished school and then just jumped straight into the QS after that. I didn’t want to just not be learning anymore. So I enrolled at Sunshine Coast uni and did a double degree in science and business. I’ve always been really interested in the human body and how diseases and drugs affect it. I was fortunate enough that the uni put me in a high performance athlete program which allowed me to defer exams and assignments if they clashed with competitions.”

All up uni took Sophie five and a half years, something she attributes to hyper-organization and a lot of self-discipline on her behalf. It’s safe to say no other rookies were swinging around that kind of academic horsepower.

“Post athletic career, I’m sure I’ll be pretty happy to have that qualification next to my name.” Sophie McCulloch hasn’t been home-fooled.

Missing the opening two events meant Sophie was essentially doomed from the get-go. Since the WSL implemented the mid-year cut in 2022, only 2 out of 7 female rookies have survived past Margarets: a miserly 28% make rate.

Despite getting off to a rough trot, Sophie actually managed some decent results – her best being a QF finish in Portugal where she would’ve gone further were it not for Caity Simmers’ last ditch inverted snap she caught right under the Australian’s nose (and priority). “Not going to lie. That one still haunts me,” she chuckles. 

Sophie fell off tour, after amassing 11,010 points between the three events she surfed in. She didn’t have much luck requalifying on the 2023 Challenger either, finishing the year ranked #12 — seven spots shy of the cutline. 

2023’s CS leaderboard

It was a delightful surprise then, when on the 24th January 2024, the WSL announced they would be awarding the replacement slot for Carissa Moore after Pipeline to the biomedical x marketing graduate. Luana Silva, who finished the year ranked 6th on the Challenger would clinch Steph Gilmore’s spot after announcing she wanted to go on a one-year smoko. 

Per the WSL rulebook, Rule 1.08(c)

 If a Surfer who has qualified for the CT decides to relinquish their seeded position in a CT Event as a result of retirement or injury, the Office of Tours and Competition will select a replacement and the Replacement can be used to fill a maximum of one (1) seed spot. The Office of Tours and Competition will select the WSL Replacement in its sole discretion who will be eligible for a replacement spot for CT Events prior to the Mid-Season Cut. 

In other words, they can give it to whoever they want. The only other condition is that a surfer must accept their spot within 48 hours of receiving the offer.

Y for ‘Yes please’

In any event, Sophie has the 2024 Tour spot shored up, and if all goes to plan, the biomed x marketing grad will have four events, all of which will count, to survive the mid-year cut. 

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