Vans US Open of Surfing

As Title Race Heats Up, Peterson Arrives as Spoiler

Anna Dimond

As the heats marched on at the women's Vans US Open of Surfing the battle lines for this year's title contenders began to harden. Courtney Conlogue and Tyler Wright -- World's No. 1 and 2, respectively -- won their Round Three's, which secures them spots in the Quarterfinals. There was one woman they weren't counting on: Lakey Peterson, your official 2016 world title race spoiler.

Desk debate and analysis of the Round Three standouts at Huntington Beach.

In a recent WSL interview, Lakey said she was fired up to compete after missing half the season with injury, and she wasn't kidding. In the first heat of Round Three, she blazed through the small surf, racking up the highest heat total of the day. Sally Fitzgibbons did her best to keep up, but couldn't match Peterson's power and froth on this day. Tatiana Weston-Webb -- last year's giant-killing new arrival -- trailed behind.

"It is funny because before my injury I would rarely win the first round and then the third round again," said Peterson, "so maybe I have got some good mojo from it all. It is good to pick up where I left off. Into the Quarters is a great result and obviously I am going for the win."

Laura Enever (AUS) Even though she's relegated to the do-or-die Round Four, Laura Enever put on an impressive show Wednesday. - WSL / Sean Rowland

After Lakey's searing performance, it was time for Courtney and then Tyler to keep pace. Conlogue, who bounced back from a Round One loss to trounce her competition Tuesday again led the pack. This time around, though, it wasn't a total rout. In a reversal of roles, Australian Laura Enever led for most of the matchup, giving Conlogue a serious run for her money.

Enever is an interesting one. Despite jaw-dropping performances at heavy spots like P-Pass, once her contest jersey goes on the mojo goes missing. Fortunately, this week has been different. She's surfing purposefully, powerfully, and getting herself into the game. Enever seemed to have Conlogue in a bind -- that is, until the Californian pulled out one of her oh-no-you-don't moves, nabbing a heat-winning wave to close the deal.

Smaller, cleaner peaks were on offer at the Southside Pier Wednesday, giving competitors more opportunity to unleash.

The second half of Round Three saw more success from previous event winners (both Lakey and Courtney have won the Open): Tyler, who won here in 2014, and Stephanie Gilmore, who won here in 2007. Afterward, Wright revealed some of her winning formula.

"I came here about a month ago to train specifically because I am a heavy-footed surfer," she said. (Translation: "I crush it in the big stuff.") "This is such a different type of wave than I am used to. I came over to work hard and train." Clearly, that work is paying off in Huntington Beach -- another stop on her freight train of success this year.

Tyler Wright (AUS) earning a Round 3 win in  great fashion. Tyler Wright, putting her practice to good use. - WSL / Sean Rowland

Next up are more eliminations in Round Four, kicking off at 7:30 a.m. local time Thursday. Watch live on the WSL website and app.