World Title contenders Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) and Tyler Wright (AUS) kicked off their campaigns today with Round 1 wins at the Target Maui Pro, earning direct advancements to Round 3.
The final stop on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP Women’s World Championship Tour (WCT) got underway after three consecutive lay days in four-to-five foot (1 metre) surf at Honolua Bay and delivered an exciting day of competitive heats.
Wright gave the day’s top performance, posting two nine-point rides and an 18.90 two-wave heat total to take the win. Her Round 1 heat saw a battle unfold at Honolua Bay between the ASP World No. 3 and compatriot Laura Enever (AUS), but Wright used her power surfing to secure the win over her opponents sending Enever and Paige Hareb (NZL) to elimination Round 2.
“I try not to worry about the competition in my heats,” said Tyler Wright. “I love it when the girls are surfing really well and, if anything, it inspires me to go harder. When I get a wave I just want to do my best on it and that’s all I’m really thinking about when I’m out there. My brain is very clear when I’m surfing and I just think about creating lines. I’m not very artistic on land but when it comes to being in the water I love being creative with it. That’s what I really enjoy and that’s when I do my best surfing.”
Five-time ASP Women’s World Champion Gilmore had a slow start to her Round 1 heat, but her patience and experience paid off. Gilmore, who has never lost a heat in Maui, continued her winning streak today, getting the better of her opponents from Hawaii, Coco Ho and wildcard Paige Alms, with a 5.67 and an 8.67.
“To finally get those nerves out of the way and get into the surfing today is great,” said Stephanie Gilmore. “The swell turned up this morning and it was really fun. I had a bit of a slow heat, so I was nervous, and we only got four waves between the three of us. I was lucky that I was the only one that got a second wave.
“This place is so special and I really feel at home here. I have so many good memories of winning a world title here and surfing incredible waves. It really is one of the most magical destinations in the world, so I can’t help but smile. I think when you’re in that kind of a headspace you win. I really enjoy myself here. The board I’m riding is the one I used in Trestles and Portugal, so I guess you could say it’s a lucky board.”
ASP World No. 2 Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) used wave selection to defeat opponents Alana Blanchard (HAW) and Dimity Stoyle (AUS) in Heat 4 of Round 1 and get her title campaign off to a solid start.
“I think coming here to surf Honolua Bay early was a good move, because the more time you have the better,” said Sally Fitzgibbons. “It’s a wave we hadn’t had on tour for a number of years now. I think that reading it, getting a little more power in the waves and getting used to your boards are all key to doing well out here.
“It’s great to get the competition underway, there’s been an exciting build up because it’s the last event the Title race is still going. With all that circulating it’s been great to put the rashie on and paddle out. I’m really looking forward to the next round and I’m looking to put a few more things into play and step up my performance.”
Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) was in incredible form today, posting two excellent scores, including a near-perfect 9.80 for the highest single-wave score of the day. Buitendag defeated Lakey Peterson (USA) and Nikki Van Dijk for a place in Round 3.
“I’ve been here for the last 10 days and every time the swell gets bigger than three feet there’s so many people out here,” said Bianca Buitendag. “To share that with just two other girls is very enjoyable. This is just the start of a long race, we have two more rounds before the Quarterfinals so it’s important to get a good start but this isn’t the most important part of the contest.”
Courtney Conlogue (USA) and Malia Manuel (HAW) also won through their Round 1 heats. Conlogue posted the first nine-point ride of the event in her bout against reigning two-time ASP Women’s World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) and Alessa Quizon (HAW), while Manuel defeated opponents Johanne Defay (FRA) and Pauline Ado (FRA). Both advance directly to Round 3.
“I made it through my first round so I’m thrilled about that,” said Courtney Conlogue. “Any time I come up against Carissa (Moore) it’s always game on. It’s tough to matchup with her early on but it’s a good wake-up call. I’m so happy to have Honolua Bay back on the tour, it’s so wonderful to be here. Patience here is very important and selecting the right wave is key, you have to really push your turns.”
“This is my first year surfing Honolua Bay and it’s such a blessing,” said Malia Manuel. “It’s wonderful to be so close to home, it’s just an island-hop away, which is really comforting. It was stunning out there and I was so anxious to catch every wave, but I had to reign myself in, get the good ones and play the competitive game. Finishing in the top five is definitely a lifelong goal so I’m really pleased.”
Event organizers will reconvene at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow to assess conditions and make the next call.
The Target Maui Pro is webcast LIVE via aspworldtour.com.
Target Maui Pro Round 1 Results (1st Advances to Round 3, 2nd and 3rd to Round 2):
Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) 15.67, Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.43, Pauline Ado (FRA) 7.26
Heat 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 17.17, Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.84, Alessa Quizon (HAW) 10.57
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.34, Coco Ho (HAW) 5.67, Paige Alms (HAW) 4.17
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.50, Alana Blanchard (HAW) 12.10, Dimity Stoyle (AUS) 10.44
Heat 5: Tyler Wright (AUS) 18.90, Laura Enever (AUS) 15.33, Paige Hareb (NZL) 11.96
Heat 6: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 18.47, Lakey Peterson (USA) 15.03, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 11.36
Target Maui Pro Round 2 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Dimity Stoyle (AUS) vs. Pauline Ado (FRA)
Heat 2: Laura Enever (AUS) vs. Alessa Quizon (HAW)
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Paige Alms (HAW)
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Alana Blanchard (HAW)
Heat 5: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 6: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)