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Women Step Up in Tough Conditions at White Buffalo Hyuga Pro

Some days on the Qualifying Series (QS) show the full meaning of "grinding" and Okuragahama Beach didn't make it easy for competitors at the White Buffalo Women's Hyuga Pro QS 3,000. A short day of competition unfolded to more two-to-three foot surf that was heavily affected by onshore winds and forced an early ending as Round 2 wrapped, but not before a handful of surfers rose to the occasion and delivered impressive performances.

Now, a big finals day is locked in and 3,000 points are on the line with a lot of surfing to conclude proceedings.

Japanese Contingent Dominate on Home Soil

Minori Kawai (JPN) winning her Round 2 heat at the White Buffalo Women's Hyuga Pro QS 3,000. Minori Kawai WSL / Kawana

The onshore winds didn't seem to impose on Japanese competitors such as Shino Matsuda, Ren Hashimoto and Minori Kawai with each of them displaying technical surfing to earn big Round 2 heat wins.

Matsuda started a catalyst of upsets after overcoming former World Junior Champion Macy Callaghan, also advancing, and former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Pauline Ado. The Pro Junior competitor stepped up in the choppy conditions before Hashimoto matched one of the day's top single-wave scores of a 7.17 (out of a possible 10). The QS veteran's forehand laid waste to a running righthander that provided multiple, critical sections to capitalize on.

The win topped current CT competitor Paige Hareb and eliminated CT qualification threat, No. 18 Leilani McGonagle and Californian Tia Blanco.

"There was a few good waves coming through and I was just stoked to be on them," Hashimoto said. "I actually didn't know I got a 7-poin ride since I couldn't hear anything with the onshore wind, but I'm happy to make my heat."

"I'm so happy and stoked to take over the heat with some of high-ranking QS surfers in my heat," Matsuda said. "I will need more points from this event and to make a big 2018 season finish. I'll do my best to win this event."   Mahina Maeda added another win for her fellow countrymen, but it was Kawai who delivered the day's top performance with a 7.67 and 14.10 (out of a possible 20) heat total. Kawai is looking for a big result on home soil after earning two equal 9th-place finishes at the QS 6,000 level in 2018 and a win over CT hopefuls Holly Wawn, also advancing, and Brisa Hennessy.

"I'm so happy and stoked to take over the heat with some of high-ranking QS surfers in my heat," Kawai said. "I will need more points from this event and to make a big 2018 season finish. I'll do my best to win this event."  

Aussie Groms and Veterans Excel

Sophie McCulloch (AUS) winning her Round 2 heat at the White Buffalo Women's Hyuga Pro QS 3,000. Sophie McCulloch WSL / Kawana

Prior to the Japanese uprising, upcoming Australian talent Sophie McCulloch earned a big heat win over last year's runner-up Dimity Stoyle and eliminating yesterday's standout performer Amuro Tsuzuki. McCulloch found a few gems to unload her quick, power hacks upon and earned one of the day's top heat scores of a 13.27. Currently at No. 34, the QS newcomer is showing her ability to grind out heats when needed and finds herself into a hefty finals day.

"I couldn't hear anything with the wind, but I manage to get a couple of waves," McCulloch said. "It was fun at the start and then the wind just came up strong. I have to get better at judging myself on waves to be honest and had no idea what the situation was. I just tried to stay busy and get better waves than what I felt like I already had, luckily it paid off."

Fellow Australians India Robinson, who's balanced the QS and Pro Juniors with big performances on both fronts, and QS veteran Philippa Anderson followed with decisive wins of their own. Robinson overtook a momentum gaining CT veteran Sage Erickson, helping eliminate qualification threats Teresa Bonvalot and Brianna Cope.

"The trick was to stay busy and catch a lot of waves because you can't really tell which are the good ones out there. I moved away from a few of the other girls so I knew I had a few opportunities and didn't know I was winning but had a good feeling. From behind the waves tend to look better so you overscore yourself or the other girls and you have to keep an eye on them."

Philippa Anderson (AUS) winning her Round 2 heat at the White Buffalo Women's Hyuga Pro QS 3,000. Philippa Anderson WSL / Kawana

Philippa Anderson put on a dominant performance of her own alongside Aussie competitor Isabella Nichols while eliminating experienced opponents Meah Collins and Nao Omura. Anderson has nearly tasted CT qualification a few times and is knocking on the door once again with a result here being a key factor toward that goal for an end of year surge.

"It's alright, a lot of times it's like this at home being windy and choppy so I didn't find it too bad," Anderson said. "All throughout the midday girls have been getting some reasonable scores so you can definitely get a couple out there. You're just not too sure what's happening not hearing the scores so you try to judge yourself, but you're normally wrong (laughs).

Chelsea Tuach sealed up Round 2 action with an important win in hopes of accruing a second QS 3,000 victory of 2018 and moves into Round 3 with plenty of momentum alongside Emily Nishimoto -- eliminating Maui, Hawaii, threat Summer Macedo and Australian QS veteran Freya Prumm

A 6:30 a.m. JST call will determine a 7:00 a.m. JST finals day start on the shores of Okuragamaha Beach.

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