The swell that's been developing over the last couple days officially arrived in full force as heavy sets rolled through Cloudbreak for the second day of competition. The towering waves made for both amazing performances and grave wipeouts. An injury suffered by Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) in Round 2 made the task at hand all the more daunting.
Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), who won the GoPro Challenge as an injury replacement for Courtney Conlogue in 2014, immediately took full advantage of the booming conditions in Round 2. The only true rookie on the women's Championship Tour (CT), Weston-Webb dominated her heat, backing up an aggressive rail-to-rail attack in the eight-point range with a 9.73 for threading two consecutive barrel sections on a hollow lefthander.
"I really had to work on being focused and calm because yesterday I was way too excited when I paddled out for my heat," Weston-Webb said. "Today I took as many deep breaths as I could and that's how I calmed down. Once I had that [8.50] I felt a lot more confident."
Weston-Webb continued to dominate in the heavy water swell: Midway through her Round 3 heat she had two-time World Champion and current Jeep rankings leader Carissa Moore (HAW) in a combination situation. After another nine-pointer, Weston-Webb earned the upset and the direct advance into the Quarters.
Fitzgibbons was questionable all the way up to end of Round 2, discovering she had burst an eardrum. Then with true determination, she emerged from the boat with a headband covering the ear and paddled out for the first heat of Round 3. Off the bat, she air-dropped into a tall opening wave, applying her signature vertical attack to win the first exchange. She tallied two rides in the seven-point range to maintain the lead and closed the deal with a final drop for a 9.60.
The pumping swell also offered perennial underdog Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) a breakout opportunity. Van Dijk competed in the first heat of the day and the final heat of the day, taking down Silvana Lima (BRA) in Round 2 and topping her Round 3 heat against Tyler Wright (AUS) and Malia Manuel (HAW). With her Round 3 win, Van Dijk advances into her first Quarterfinal of the season, a welcome change of pace after three consecutive 13th place finishes since Margaret River.