In a major upset the 18-year-old wildcard Vahine Fierro defeated 16-year-old Caroline Marks today in Round 2 of the Roxy Pro France. While a rising tide and decreasing swell meant only two heats could be surfed, the clash could have some huge long range implications.
For Fierro, the 2017 World Junior Champion from Tahiti, this was her first CT heat win. That it came over Marks, the current World No.5, made it even more special.
"Caroline is my second favorite surfer on the CT after Stephanie Gilmore," Fierro said after the win. "Even though she is younger than me she is such an incredible surfer and has already achieved so much. She's explosive, but also great competitively so it's an honor just to surf against her. To beat her is incredible."
Crucially though Fierro didn't let her obvious respect for Marks get in the way of winning. In the last six minutes of the heat, having established a lead with scoring waves of 5.83 and 5.17, the goofyfooter from the remote Huahine Islands didn't allow Marks any breathing space. With Marks desperately trying to score the 6.67 she needed, Fierro stuck to her competitor in a gnarly display of desire.
"At the end I had priority and there wasn't many waves, so I had to sit on her," explained Fierro. "She's capable of creating a six or seven out of nothing, doing a big air for example, so I couldn't give her any opportunities." Marks did indeed launch one big forehand air, but couldn't complete the maneuver and failed to get the score.
Fierro might be known for her sunny disposition and natural Tahitian grace, but she showed in closing out the heat that she possesses an inner competitive steel. That, and her obvious natural talent, could see her and Marks battling it out for the sport's top spoils over the next decade.
Yet Fierro isn't getting ahead of herself just yet. A first CT win may be a milestone in any surfer's career, but she recognizes all the challenges that lay ahead.
"I'm still just going heat-by-heat," she explained. "I've got nothing to lose and I'm determined to have fun and enjoy the experience here in my first CT. Oh, and hopefully win a few more heats."
In the only other heat surfed in the Roxy Pro France today the veteran Coco Ho overcame Paige Hareb. The veteran has already secured her 11th successive year on the CT through her QS form and posted a commanding win after a strong start.
"I have some freedom now as there's little pressure, but I still want to prove myself and push my surfing," Ho said after advancing to Round 3. "I need to keep reminding myself that's there a big result to be had at this stage of the year if I stay focused and motivated."
Watch the Quik/Roxy Pro live on the Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook October 03-14. Next call is Oct. 9 at 7:45 am. CEST.