A year ago nobody in the Top 17 had ever competed at the infamous Cloudbreak but knowing now what the powerful South Pacific reefbreak can dish out, it was no holds barred as the Fiji Women's Pro kicked off in solid conditions and a building swell.
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) and Laura Enever (AUS) charged hard in Heat 2. Enever, currently ranked 16th on the Jeep Leaderboard, pulled off an amazing comeback after digging out of a combination situation to win the heat, upsetting Fitzgibbons, the defending event champion.
"It's a big relief to skip Round 2," Enever said. "I'm so stoked. It really started pulsing for our heat and we were going wave for wave. I feel really comfortable out there."
The other upset saw South Africa's Bianca Buitendag advance ahead of Malia Manuel (HAW) in Heat 6. Buitendag, who is coming off a runner-up finish at the Oi Rio Women's Pro, used her height to overpower the booming walls at Cloudbreak and tie Enever for the highest single-wave score of the day, a 9.43.
The top three surfers on the women's rankings, Carissa Moore (HAW), Courtney Conlogue (USA) and Tyler Wright (AUS), all earned direct advances into Round 3. Conlogue, the only member of last year's Top 17 to miss the women's return to Tavarua, has been in Fiji for a week preparing to compete. That preparation and the momentum of two consecutive CT event wins carried her to the top of Heat 4 and directly into Round 3.
"I had so much anticipation to get out here," said Conlogue. "I've been out here for a week now. Last year I was frothing to come surf Fiji, it was one of my dream spots. To not be able to surf it made it that much sweeter to get the jersey on this year and get out in the lineup. I'm so excited about the prospect of some bigger waves to come."