On a day when the highest seeds of the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro took full control, Carissa Moore again stamped her authority on a lineup she practically owns. The three-time winner has an eye-popping 85 percent heat win ratio at Main Break and in the last heat of the day she showed why she is so difficult to beat.
Surfing against long time rival Sally Fitzgibbons and Keely Andrew, Moore kept posting stronger scores on the punchy Main Break rights, then sealed a Quarterfinal berth with an emphatic 9.57.
"Anytime I surf a heat with Sally you have to get off to a quick start," Moore said after her win. "If she starts strong, she can run away with it. It's always at the front of mind when I surf against her, so I'm so happy to get the win and skip a round."
Moore will be joined by Stephanie Gilmore, Tyler Wright and Courtney Conlogue in the Quarters. Each of those surfers logged scores in the excellent range and their wins mean they will stay out of each other's way until the Semifinals.
Of the four it was current Jeep Yellow Jersey holder and 6x World Champ Steph Gilmore that had to work hardest for her win. With a minute to go she was in last place, needing an 8.00, when she scrambled into a wide set. After three silky wraps and a closeout onto the dry rock known as the Surgeon's Table, she had a 9.0 and a place in the final eight.
Courtney Conlogue, a two-time winner, and vying to make the Final for a fourth successive year, had a straightforward win, even as she took a more unorthodox approach. The Californian was the first surfer in either the men's or women's event to take to the lefts and the decision paid off.
"With three surfers in the heat, I wanted to maximize the break and I love surfing on my backhand," she said afterwards. "And after Snapper Rocks I needed to unwind after all those rights!"
The defending champion Tyler Wright, on the other hand, stuck to her strengths, waiting for the biggest sets and then using her forehand power to connect with the thick Main Break lips. She was rewarded with a 9.57, which tied for the day's highest single-wave score. She needed it too, as on the very next wave her opponent Malia Manuel immediately provided a contrast to Wright's power, her smooth rail work and natural flow netting a 9.00. With that performance, and a heat total of 17.00, Manuel put herself forward as a real contender in the event.
The only real surprise of the day was the defeat of Lakey Peterson by Coco Ho in Round Two. Peterson had been the in-form surfer and a finalist on the Gold Coast and after year off with injury had injected real progression back into the Tour. However, she never really found her groove at Main Break and Ho capitalized. "With the swell dying a little, we hopped on some smaller boards and had the chance to loosen up a little so it was fun," Ho said afterwards.
Ho now faces good friend Sage Erickson in a fight for a matchup with Conlogue in the Quarterfinals.