"I'm not going to lie, that was a lot of hard work," Tyler Wright said after clinching her third win of the season at the Oi Rio Women's Pro. Directly after the final Wright and her fellow finalist Sally Fitzgibbons were recovering from a brutal beat down at the hands of Postinho's powerful surf. "I got so flogged out there--Sally and I both did. And I'm so tired and hungry...but still very happy."
Staying mentally in the game is the true test for competitors in Rio. Tuesday was a perfect example: Postinho was dead flat at sunrise. Many expected a lay day to be called, but Commissioner Jessi Miley-Dyer was hanging onto hope that a promised swell would arrive. When it did, shortly after lunch, officials pounced on the four-hour window of opportunity.
Sally Fitzgibbons and Malia Manuel took to the lineup first, in what was then playful, waist-high conditions. Both surfers looked sharp in the frothy bowls, but Manuel suffered another razor-thin loss.
Courtney Conlogue was up against crowd-favorite Tatiana Weston-Webb. When Courtney opened up with a solid 9.00, Webb fired back with an 8.00 to stay within striking distance. But she was never able to fully close the gap, and Courtney advanced to her fourth-straight Semifinal.
Johanne Defay put up a respectable challenge during her Quarterfinal match with Tyler Wright, jumping out to an early lead. But the Australian finally found a clean chunk of wave face to work with and unleashed a powerful combo of moves that earned her a trip to the next round.
Stephanie Gilmore and Carissa Moore were matched up again in the Quarterfinals, but this battle was a one-sided affair. Moore was on point, nailing all her targets with power and her usual grace. Steph, meanwhile, looked lost at sea. She never found her rhythm and finished with a tragic 7.50 total for the heat.
Conlogue squared off with Sally Fitzgibbons in the first semi, hoping to extend her string of finals appearances to four-straight. Sally, however, had other plans, and with the 8.43 she bagged toward the end of the heat she made good on them, clinching her second finals appearance of the season.
But Conlogue struggled in the semis, and Wright watched the door to the top of the ratings open. She showed absolutely zero fear heading into her semifinal battle against Carissa Moore, which is notable because while there's a lot of disruption talk taking place on the men's side these days, Wright is running away with the women's story. Moore and Gilmore need to up their games: Neither of the two former Champs have made a final yet in 2016.
Yes the season is young, and yes the punchy bowls of Rio do resemble the South Coast beachbreaks that Tyler and Sally call home. But as the tour heads to Fiji the central character of this season's story is Tyler Wright, and she's ready for the next realm.