The ASP 6-Star Qualifying Series Port Taranaki Pro, part of the New Zealand Home Loans Surf Festival, saw the top seeds tackle 3-foot (1 metre) surf, as 48 of the world's best surfers battled for points to help them qualify for the Samsung Galaxy ASP Women's World Championship Tour (WCT).
Reigning ASP Women's World Junior Champion, Ella Williams (Whangamata, NZL) advanced through her opening Taranaki heat in second position behind Isabella Nichols (AUS). Williams felt the pressure competing in front of the hometown crowd but battled through the nerves to post some decent scores. She will now take on Sarah Mason (NZL), Nage Melamed (HAW) and Dimity Stoyle (AUS), currently ranked No. 9 in the Women's WCT standings, in Round 5 when competition resumes.
"I probably didn't surf the best I've ever surfed but I'm happy to move forward," Williams said. "It's really good to have a QS at home. NZ is so far from everywhere so to have an event at home saves a lot of money and offers us a big opportunity."
Sage Erickson (CA, USA), former Top 17 WCT surfer is seeking to rejoin the elite Tour next year and after a solid first heat where she clocked an 8.75 she's on the right track. Erickson used rail carves and power snaps to impress the judges and easily advanced into the next round.
"I haven't competed in a month and a half so to put the jersey back on and get a big score on my first wave felt great," Erickson said. "I think a lot of the QS girls are here for the first time so I'm glad that I feel comfortable here. It's such a beautiful place with the sun, waves and snow on the mountain. It's great to be back."
Ellie-Jean Coffey (Gold Coast, QLD/AUS) used precision backhand surfing to post an exciting heat win at Fitzroy Beach, Taranaki today. Fellow goofy-footer and Taranaki local Paige Hareb (NZL), currently 12th in the WCT rankings, also advanced in second position, while Minami Takechi (JPN) and Laura Macaulay (AUS) were eliminated after placing third and fourth, respectively.
"The girls in the heat before me were surfing the lefts, but I went and sat on the rights so I could get some waves to myself," Coffey said. "I've known Paige (Hareb) for a long time and she's such a great surfer so I was feeling the pressure. It's nice we both got through the heat."
Maud Le Car (FRA) is the highest ranked surfer on the ASP QS who's not currently on the WCT and after progressing through her Round 4 heat at the Port Taranaki Pro she's further improving her position. Le Car read the tricky low tide conditions better than her in-heat opponents and amassed a big enough total to easily win the bout.
"The weather here is similar to home in France so I feel right at home in New Zealand," Le Car said. "It was hard to find a good wave in between the closeouts in that heat, so I was really happy to score a 7-point-ride and take the win."
The ASP Australasia Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) event, the Chain Resources Pro Junior also ran through the start of Round 2 of the women's, while the men's competition was off for the day.
For more information log on to Surffest.co.nz
New Zealand Home Loans Surf Festival is presented by TSB Community Trust, Venture Taranaki, ZM, Marbles Buffet, Devon Hotel