Sunday 20 August 2017 / 04:40 AM

WORLD’S BEST WELCOMED FOR FIJI WOMEN’S PRO

The Outerknown Fiji Women’s Pro is one of the highlights of the season and the world’s best surfers have arrived at the idyllic setting of Tavarua and Namotu in the remote South Pacific. The world-class reef passes of Cloudbreak and Restaurants will play host to Stop No. 5 on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) from May 28 – June 2 and will run on the best days of surf during that window.

Competition has been called off for the day with only small surf on offer and event organizers will reconvene at 7 a.m. local time tomorrow to assess conditions and make the next call.

“Small surf as forecast today so no competition,” said WSL Deputy Commissioner, Jessi Miley-Dyer. “We’re tracking a system that should provide us with a little bump over the next few days so we’ll be back tomorrow to make another assessment”.

Reigning WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) and 6X WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) are tied at the top of the Jeep Leaderboard with 29,700 points each and will share the Jeep Leader Jersey at the Outerknown Fiji Women’s Pro. Each have a CT win under their belt this year but neither have claimed victory in Fiji. Of the pair Gilmore has come the closest with a runner-up finish in 2014 while Wright is yet to make it past Round 4.

Wright is set to match-up with Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) and wildcard Bethany Hamilton (HAW) in Round 1 while Gilmore will face Coco Ho (HAW) and Bianca Buitendag (ZAF).

“It’s great to be back in Fiji,” Wright said. “It’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet and we’re very fortunate to be welcomed here to compete. Steph (Gilmore) and I are tied up the front of the rankings at the moment, but it’s a long season and anything can happen.”

“We’ve been in Fiji for about a week warming up and we’ve had really fun surf,” Gilmore said. “Looks like the opening days of the window are small, but hopefully we get a jump in swell after that. It’s a blessing to be back in Fiji and I’m looking forward to a great event.”

Defending event winner Johanne Defay (FRA), who finished fifth in the world in 2016, currently sits in fourth place on the Jeep Rankings after a runner-up finish in Rio. Defay claimed her second career CT victory in Fiji last season when she upset three-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) in the Final and the Reunion Island surfer will be one to watch this year. A strong result for the Frenchwomen could see her close the gap on the leading pack of Wright, Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS). Defay opens her campaign in Round 1 where she’ll face Sage Erickson (USA) and Bronte Macaulay (AUS).

“Winning here last year was one of the highlights of my career and I’m so excited to be back,” Defay said. “I love surfing reef passes and Fiji is home to some of the best waves on the planet. We’ll see what Mother Nature delivers.”

After an incredible performance at the event last year Hamilton make it all the way to the Semifinals by blazing through the draw and causing a string of upsets along the way, including taking down both Wright and Gilmore. Hamilton poses a considerable threat to the top seeds this year as a wildcard and will face the reigning WSL Champion and Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) in Heat 3 of Round 1 when competition gets underway.

“Fiji is one of my favorite places on the planet so to be able to receive a wildcard to return and compete here is really a dream,” Hamilton said. “I’d like to thank the WSL for the opportunity to surf amongst the world’s best surfers this week.”

Surfline, official forecaster for the Outerknown Women’s Fiji Pro, are calling for:

Tiny/flat surf Sunday into Monday. A small SW swell is on track for Tue-Wed that appears to be the best swell in the waiting period. Fading and smaller surf looks likely for Thur-Fri. 

The event will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page. Also check the local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal and as part of the EDGEsport Network.

Outerknown Fiji Women’s Pro Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Lakey Peterson (USA), Silvana Lima (BRA)
Heat 2: Johanne Defay (FRA), Sage Erickson (USA), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS), Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), Bethany Hamilton (HAW)
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Coco Ho (HAW), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Keely Andrew (AUS), Pauline Ado (FRA)
Heat 6: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Carissa Moore (HAW), Laura Enever (AUS)

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