Swell arrived in a big way at Maui's Honolua Bay for the opening rounds of the 2015 Target Maui Pro, with intense matchups that sent the World Title race between Courtney Conlogue (USA) and Carissa Moore (HAW) to Round 4, the next round to run.
In Round 3 -- a non-elimination round -- Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) defeated Courtney Conlogue (USA), relegating her to surf in the do-or-die fourth round. If Conlogue falls in Round 4, Moore will clinch her third World Title.
The Top 17 took advantage of the consistent surf throughout Round 1 with the backup score proving to be crucial to winning each heat. Kauaians Tatiana Weston-Webb and Malia Manuel drew upon the experience from their home turf on the neighboring island to win their Round 1 heats. But by Heat 3, all attention was on the World Title race as Moore paddled out. Despite the immense pressure, she dominated her opening heat with an impressive 16.73 two-wave total, the highest of Round 1.
"[Courtney and I] can't really affect each other in the World Title race," said Moore. "There's other factors and we won't be each others' factors, so we just have to go out there and do our thing and surf our best."
When Conlogue paddled out for her first heat she looked anything but rattled, dropping directly into a barrel for an 8.93 on her opening wave. She went on to become the first non-Hawaiian to win her Round 1 heat, which sent her directly to Round 3.
"It was so great having the bay to myself with just two other women," Conlogue said. "It was a really fun heat, a bit slow at the end but the conditions are definitely promising today and with the tide dropping it'll only get better."
Upsets by Hawaiians and Reunion Island's Johanne Defay (FRA) relegated a few of the top seeds to battle in Round 2. The lower-ranked surfers (who wore red jerseys) returned to form in that round, but not without a fair amount of drama.
"Super impressed with Dax, I've always kinda had my eye on her," said Peterson. "She had me for like 28 minutes of the heat and I was definitely starting to trip a little bit. She did fantastic and should hold her head high."
Just when it looked like the higher seeds would win every heat of Round 2, Hawaiian Alessa Quizon, World No. 13 (out of 17) put on one of the best performances of her season, earning a 17.73 two-wave total. Quizon's Round 2 victory included her first nine-point ride in a 2015 Championship Tour (CT) event, a moment made sweeter with her family watching from the cliff. After winning her heat, Quizon won again in Round 3, which earned her the direct advance to the Quarterfinals, eliminating Peterson and Tyler Wright (AUS) along the way in Round 3.
Round 2 also saw a tough loss for Silvana Lima (BRA), int he wake of Quizon's fire. In their Round 2 heat, despite earning the first nine-point ride of the event, Lime could not overcome Quizon's high scores. Along with Dimity Stoyle (AUS), Lima's Round 2 loss marks the end of her run on the Championship Tour for now, as neither surfer will requalify for 2016.
In Round 3, the all-Hawaiian bout among Moore, Manuel and Weston-Webb had the entire crowd on their feet. Although Manuel opened strong, Moore's calm and collected approach proved to be the deciding factor. She earned a pair of sevens and with her win, scored the direct advance to the Quarterfinals, skipping Round 4.
Conlogue, who needed to win her Round 3 heat to push the Title Race to the next round, hit the lineup. Though she led the majority of the heat, Australian Nikki Van Dijk threw a wrench in the Title race, earning an 8.67 and winning the heat. The scenarios are now as follows:
If Moore finishes in 5th then Conlogue must win the event. If Conlogue finishes runner-up instead, it would be a tie and a surf-off.
If Moore finishes third (Semifinals), then Conlogue needs to win the event.
If Moore finishes runner-up she will win the World Title.