The Corona Bali Protected presented by Hurley, Stop No. 5 on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), saw the Top 17 women hit the water in Bali for the first time in WSL history. The world's best were treated to picture-perfect three-to-five foot (1.3 - 1.8 metre) Keramas barrels and open-faced walls for the opening two rounds of the women's draw.
Silvana Lima (BRA) and Keramas were a perfect match today as the Brasilian went out in her first ever heat at the high-performance right hander and put on an absolute clinic. Lima threaded intense tubes and laid down silky smooth carves to post the highest single wave score,, a near-perfect 9.13, and the highest two-wave heat total of the Corona Bali Protected thus far, a 17.73.
"I was just relaxing when I heard that there was three minutes to go in Heat 4 and that I was up next!" Lima said. "I thought I was in Heat 6, but luckily I was able to get out there quickly and get some good waves and won the heat. I love Bali! I'm so happy to be here and I hope I get to surf more perfect waves in my next heat."
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), six-time WSL Champion and current Jeep Leader, looked right at home in her first heat at the Corona Bali Protected today. Gilmore waited almost 12 minutes for her first wave but made the most of it as she slotted into a long, draining tube ride, followed by a powerful carve to net a 9.00. Gilmore only caught four waves in her opening heat, but she amassed enough points to claim an impressive heat win and advance directly into Round 3 where she will take on Silvana Lima (BRA) and Keely Andrew (AUS).
"I've been dreaming of getting barrelled here in a contest for a long time, it was a really nice way to start the event," Gilmore said. "I was sitting out there and a plastic straw floated past, so I grabbed it and put it in my pocket. I've been talking a lot with friends about how useless straws are, then I picked one up in the middle of my heat. If you see any plastic in the ocean or on the beach it's important to pick it up. It's obviously a much bigger issue, but we can all do our part to help protect the ocean."
After a couple of injury-hampered years, Lakey Peterson (USA) has found her groove on the elite CT and is currently sitting at World No. 2 on the Jeep Leaderboard. Before continuing her solid run of results here at the Corona Bali Protected, she would have to get past Hurley Wildcard Carol Henrique (PRT). Peterson never looked in doubt with her surgical forehand approach leaving Henrique to chase a combination score to win (needing two new scores). Peterson will now face Caroline Marks (USA) and Sage Erickson (USA) in the all-American Round 3 matchup.
"I've never surfed against Carol (Henrique) before so didn't know what to expect -- that's the challenge with wildcards is not knowing what they will bring," Peterson said. "We ended up having a really fun heat together and it was really cool to surf against her. She's been surfing really well. Surfing in Round 2 was kind of like a blessing as it helped me get into a rhythm and familiarize myself with the lineup even further, plus try some different equipment. The way the waves are today really suit me. I was having so much fun out there."
Reigning, two-time WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) found herself in unfamiliar territory once again in 2018, facing off with Bronte Macaulay (AUS) in elimination Round 2. Macaulay's backhand attack looked on-point, but Wright's unforgiving power-packed rail-game was too much for the young West Australian to overcome, leaving her eliminated in equal 13th. Wright will now progress into Round 3 where she will match up against Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) and Coco Ho (HAW).
"When the waves are this perfect and mechanical you really need a good heat strategy to focus on," Wright said. "Bronte has such a sharp backhand that I knew if she had a wave that would offer up a couple of sections she'd be go really steep, so I had to be smart with priority. Round 3 heats are always tricky with three of us in the water because the strategy changes a lot, so I'll go away now and think about how best to tackle this next heat."
Heat 2 of Round 1 was a battle of the goofy-foots with Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) taking on 2017 CT Rookie of the Year Macaulay and 2018 CT Rookie Caroline Marks (USA). Macaulay got an early start and looked super solid, going vertical in the critical section of the wave but struggled to find a long wall to back it up, similarly to Weston-Webb. The strong wave selection went to Marks, who has only surfed Keramas for the first time this week. The 16-year-old, who is quickly making a name for herself among the top competitors in the sport, won the heat with a 16.00-point heat total.
"The waves are so good right now and it's so much fun," Marks said. "I love surfing my backhand so getting good right-handers is perfect more me. I'm stoked. I feel more confident when I catch lots of waves and build on each score, so I just went out and kept busy. Tatiana and Bronte are so good. I knew I had to get the best waves so getting that first wave put me in a good rhythm. It was one of those heats where everything just worked out for me. My coach is really knowledgeable about this wave so has a lot of good tips for me on what waves to go for, which really helps, I really trust his judgement here and am happy to have him in my corner."
In the last heat of the opening Round of the women's draw Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Malia Manuel (HAW) faced off in one of the most exciting heats of the year so far. All three surfers posted excellent scores with deep and technical tube rides, but in the end the Hawaiian edged out the two Australians to advance directly into Round 3.
"I'm loving my time in Bali so far!," Manuel said. "This is the first event in Bali for the women's tour and I think today shows why we all have wanted to come here for so long. The waves have been perfect and the level of surfing from everyone has been super high."
Check back tomorrow for the call at 6:30am WITA and watch live daily on WSL.com and Facebook.