TAVARUA, Fiji: The Fiji Women’s Pro, Stop No. 5 on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP Women’s World Championship Tour (WCT), ran through Round 3 and two heats of Round 4 in pumping 4 – 6 foot (1.5 – 2 metre) surf. Today saw the first time in ASP history that the women’s competition has run heats at the world-class wave of Restaurants and it was Australian Laura Enever who shone as the day’s highest scorer.
Five-time ASP Women’s World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 2013 Rookie of the Year Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) and replacement surfer Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) took to the water for the historic first heat at Restaurants. The trio wasted little time establishing themselves over the shallow lefthander, but it was Gilmore who asserted her dominance, posting an excellent 8.00 and following it up with an additional 8.33. The natural-footer advanced directly to the Quarterfinals.
“When you’re here on the island and you see these perfect lefthanders out front at Restaurants it’s hard not to have the competition here,” said Stephanie Gilmore. “All girls are stoked on the decision. I love Restaurants, it’s a challenging wave but it’s also so mechanical so you can get into a rhythm and really do your thing. It went really well out there so I’m pleased”.
After a hold for the right tide, competition resumed with the high-scoring Round 3 Heat 3. Current ASP World No. 2 Sally Fitzgibbons faced fellow Australian Laura Enever and New Zealand’s Paige Hareb. Enever was the most successful at combining tubes and turns and was rewarded with a 9.27. All three surfers had excellent scores in their accounts and the heat was wide open until Enever caught a set wave and attacked the lip with reckless abandon. She was rewarded accordingly with a 9.57 to secure the highest two-wave total of the competition so far and a spot in the Quarterfinals. Fitzgibbons and Hareb advance to Round 4 for a second chance to make the Quarterfinals.
“I think it’s so new for us to be surfing here in Fiji. That was my first surf at Restaurants and I thought, I just need to catch a wave and see what happens on it,” said Laura Enever. “I can’t believe that just happened but I’m so stoked. I think everyone is having the best time here. It’s windy out there but it’s fine and I’m so stoked that I got two fun ones.”
A battle of the backhanders unfolded in Round 3 Heat 4 with Tyler Wright (AUS), Malia Manuel (HAW) and Johanne Defay (FRA) hunting a spot directly into the Quarterfinals. Each competitor notched a series of mid-range scores to start, with Manuel getting the best of the opening exchanges. While the French rookie remained relatively quiet, she posted the highest score of the heat of 7.27, continuing her late-heat charge with an additional 6.03 to secure the win and her best ever WCT result.
“It’s pretty quiet on this island so I just tried to relaxed before my heat,” said Johanne Defay. “It’s really similar to my home break. The wave is a little longer here but I really feel at home and that gives me some confidence going into the Quarterfinals.”
The two goofy-footers, Alessa Quizon (HAW) and Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) took two different forehand approaches in the first Heat of Round 4. Quizon favored a more aggressive attack in the lip while Buitendag hunted open-faced carves. Scoring favored the controlled surfing of the South African with an excellent 8.50 and 8.40 to place the rookie in a combination situation. The Hawaiian found her rhythm with roughly eight minutes to go scoring a 7.77 and a 7.07, but fell short of the excellent-range ride needed to take the lead. Buitendag moves to the Quarterfinals while Quizon settles for equal 9th place.
“I definitely think my height gives me an advantage here when the wind is strong,” said Bianca Buitendag. “I’m taking every opportunity as it comes. I get incredibly excited when I see a left so you can images how stoked I am to be here and I can’t wait for the next heat. It’s great to have some bigger sized waves, it makes the competition more fair and there’s some really good swell predicted for tomorrow.”
Carissa Moore took on fellow Hawaiian Tatiana Weston-Webb in the final heat of the day and the pair wasted little time in posting solid scores. Weston-Webb seemed unfazed by her competition, tackling the steep lefts of Restaurants with complete commitment, taking an early lead over the reigning Champion. The World No. 1 gave a polished display of backhand surfing and the lead went back and forth between the pair until Moore delivered five seamless turns for a near-perfect 9.40 to take the win. She advances to the Quarterfinals after an earlier defeat in Round 3 at the hands of Dimity Stoyle (AUS), the highest-ranked rookie on Tour. Weston-Webb leaves her second WCT event in equal 9th place.
“I’m super relieved to get through that heat this afternoon as Tatiana (Weston-Webb) was on fire,” said Carissa Moore. “She has shown how strong she is in various conditions between Rio and now here in Fiji. We had great waves for our heat, a little windy, but plenty of sets. It’s a challenging wave and I was doing my best to stick and move on my maneuvers. I’m really pleased to be into the Quarterfinals and I hope we continue to get great surf for the remainder of the event.”
Upcoming Fiji Women’s Pro Round 4 Match-ups:
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)
Heat 4: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)
Fiji Women’s Pro Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 16.90 def. Alessa Quizon (HAW) 14.84
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 17.07 def. Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 15.13
Fiji Women’s Pro Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.33, Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 16.30, Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 8.60
Heat 2: Dimity Stoyle (AUS) 14.17, Carissa Moore (HAW) 10.87, Alessa Quizon 10.50
Heat 3: Laura Enever (AUS) 18.84, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.07, Paige Hareb (NZL) 14.93
Heat 4: Johanne Defay (FRA) 13.30, Malia Manuel (HAW) 12.73, Tyler Wright (AUS) 10.33
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