The Fiji Women’s Pro, Stop No. 5 of 10 on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, commenced today with Round 1 in pristine three-to-five foot (1- 1.5 metre) waves at Cloudbreak. With a building swell, the day saw big scores and upsets, including current Jeep Rankings’ Leader Tyler Wright (AUS) being sent to elimination Round 2 at the hands of compatriot Nikki Van Dijk (AUS).
Courtney Conlogue (USA), current World No. 2 on the Jeep Ratings, dominated her Round 1 heat against Coco Ho (HAW) and injury replacement Bronte Macaulay (AUS). Conlogue unleashed her aggressive rail maneuvers and power surfing to garner an excellent 16.27 heat score. Ho and Macaulay were not able to challenge the Californian and will be sent to elimination Round 2.
“Surfing out here this past week has given me the comfort and the confidence in the lineup,” said Conlogue. “I’ve seen a range of waves, from the really big swell that came through to the wave size now. Now that I’ve seen the whole range, I am taking it day by day and seeing what each heat brings.”
The competition saw a huge upset in Heat 3 as Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) captured the lead against current Jeep Ratings’ Leader Tyler Wright (AUS) and event Wildcard Bethany Hamilton (HAW). Van Dijk sat in the third position for a majority of the heat, but a wave out the back provided a clean wall to secure a 6.50 on top of her 4.33. Wright and Hamilton fought back in the dying minutes of the heat, but could not find a second score to overthrow Van Dijk.
“I do think about my injury in Fiji from a few years back because I know what can happen,” Van Dijk said. “I’ve always had that in the back of my mind, but I am happy to be competing here. I am excited to win that heat and move straight to Round 3.”
Carissa Moore (HAW), reigning WSL Champion, blazed through Round 1 Heat 5 to advance straight to Round 3. Moore got to work early with a 15.90 heat score, forcing Sage Erickson (USA) and 2016 WSL Rookie Chelsea Tuach (BRB) to chase excellent-range scores in the first ten minutes of the heat. Erickson could not find the 9.23 needed to close the gap on the three-time World Champion.
“There were beautiful conditions today and it was really fun,” Moore said. “It was nice to get in the water and have a lot of opportunities. I want to learn as much as I can and push myself outside of my comfort zone. A wave like Fiji is a little intimidating for me, so I definitely feel like I have a lot of room to improve and I am looking forward to it.”
An exciting exchange played out in the final heat of the day between six-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Laura Enever (AUS) and Johanne Defay (FRA), leaving Gilmore in first place. Gilmore secured an early lead with a 6.87, but moved to the third position as Enever and Defay locked in competitive scores. In the last five minutes of the heat, Gilmore delivered a critical 7.00 to earn a 13.87 two-wave score and regain the lead. Enever and Defay will battle in elimination Round 2, while Gilmore advances to Round 3.
Heat 2 witnessed an intense battle unfold between Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), defending event Champion, Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) and 2016 WSL Rookie Keely Andrew (AUS). Buitendag came out strong with a big fin-release to capture an early lead, but Andrew fought back with a solid ride. The heat saw multiple lead changes between the three surfers, but Fitzgibbons dropped a 7.27 and a 6.93 late in the heat to regain control. Fitzgibbons will continue to Round 3, while Buitendag and Andrew fight through Round 2.
“It is nice being back in the lineup at Cloudbreak,” Fitzgibbons said. “This event is definitely a moving point in the season, but that aside, I am trying to step it up. There were some challenging conditions this morning on multiple spots of the reef. I did not quite have my rhythm, but I tried to manufacture that win so I was happy.”
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow at 6:30am local time for a possible 7am start.
Highlights from the Fiji Women’s Pro will be webcast LIVE at WorldSurfLeague.com
Fiji Women’s Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) 15.67, Alessa Quizon (HAW) 14.53, Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 6.47
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.20, Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 10.57, Keely Andrew (AUS) 10.37
Heat 3: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 10.83, Tyler Wright (AUS) 9.60, Bethany Hamilton (HAW) 8.40
Heat 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 16.27, Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 11.94, Coco Ho (HAW) 11.67
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.90, Sage Erickson (USA) 12.44, Chelsea Tuach (BRB) 5.33
Heat 6: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.87, Laura Enever (AUS) 11.03, Johanne Defay (FRA) 10.77
Fiji Women’s Pro Round 2 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Sage Erickson (USA) vs. Alessa Quizon (HAW)
Heat 2: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) vs. Keely Andrew (AUS)
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Bethany Hamilton (HAW)
Heat 4: Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) vs. Coco Ho (HAW)
Heat 5: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Chelsea Tuach (BRB)
Heat 6: Bronte Macaulay (AUS) vs. Laura Enever (AUS)