Date: Tuesday, May 26, 2014
Schedule: Women's Round 1 (Heats 1-6) and Round 2 (Heats 1-6)
Conditions: Four foot (1.5 metre) building swell at Cloudbreak.
Heat 1: Paige Hareb (NZL) 10.50, Coco Ho (HAW) 7.77, Lakey Peterson (USA) 7.20
The 2014 Fiji Women's Pro kicked off with regular footers Lakey Peterson (USA) and Coco Ho (HAW) up against goofy-footer Paige Hareb (NZL). Ho struck first, setting the pace with a couple midrange scores while the American and the Kiwi answered back with small scores of their own.
With 15 minutes remaining, Hareb snagged the lead, combining two forehand gouges for a 5.50 to surpass the Hawaiian. The Kiwi continued to attack Cloudbreak on her forehand, extending her lead for an eventual Round 1 win.
Heat 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.33, Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.33, Laura Enever (AUS) 3.67 INT
As predicted, the swell began filling in as each hour passed. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), looking to erase a disappointing Round 2 finish in the Rio Women's Pro, took to Cloudbreak with Laura Enever (AUS) and Johanne Defay (FRA).
The rookie put Enever and Gilmore in a combination situation with half of the heat gone, using the majority of the ride to build up momentum to throw up big carves once the wave hit the reef. Gilmore worked a large open face with eight minutes left for a heat-high 7.33, putting her within a midrange score to overtake the lead. She found it with seconds to go and replaced her bottom score with a 6.00. Gilmore earns the direct advance to Round 3.
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.76, Alessa Quizon (HAW) 12.10, Ella Williams (NZL) 7.00
The highly anticipated matchup between reigning two-time ASP Women's World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW), 2014 rookie Alessa Quizon (HAW), and event wildcard and reigning ASP World Junior Champion Ella Williams (NZL) suffered a slow start. With no waves ridden for the first 10 minutes the Head Judge called for a restart.
Moore struck in the first 10 seconds after the clock had reset to 35 minutes, followed closely by Williams with the wildcard getting the best of the exchange to gain an early lead.
All three surfers struggled to better their low range scores. It wasn't until the halfway point that they fell into a groove and posted some solid scores. True to form, Moore was able to use her powerful backhand attack to post the bigger scores and notch a win over the two goofy-footers.
"It was nerve racking out there in that heat, there's so much to absorb, there's a lot of waves and it's hard to know which one to go for," said Moore. "It's good to get the first heat out of the way and get the event started."
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 12.27, Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 11.33, Pauline Ado (FRA) 7.60
Heat 4 got off to a slow start, but replacement surfer Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) established an early lead with committed forehand surfing. Current ASP World No. 2 Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) and Pauline Ado (FRA) scoured the open-ocean lineup, notching small scores of their own.
Weston-Webb built momentum, adding an additional 7.00, but Fitzgibbons fought back, notching a pair of sixes on her backhand and procuring a come-from-behind win.
Heat 5: Dimity Stoyle (AUS) 10.50, Tyler Wright (AUS) 6.93, Alana Blanchard (HAW) 4.00
Cloudbreak continued to challenge the Top 17, with workable sets coming in sprees and then dying out. Tyler Wright (AUS) was patient on her rides looking for the wave to produce a decent barrel but a strong side wind forced Wright and her Heat 5 opponents, Dimity Stoyle (AUS) and Alana Blanchard (HAW), to switch their strategies back to maneuvers.
The rookie Stoyle was the first to transition, affording her a 6.83 for two powerful throws, using a rail grab to dive down to the bottom of the wave before throwing up a vertical turn. The current world No. 3 needed a 7.50, a tall order in the current conditions. Her final ride softened up below her board and the rookie comes out of the heat with the first Round 1 victory of her career.
"I'm going to have to go out there and charge," Stoyle said. "I have to take avery heat as a fresh slate because I've never surfed waves like these. It's going to be exciting."
Heat 6: Malia Manuel (HAW) 17.53, Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 13.47, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 6.76
The final heat of the opening round of the Fiji Women's Pro was one of the most exciting heats of the morning. All of the surfers opened their accounts early, but it was Malia Manuel (HAW) who reigned supreme. Manuel was the first surfer of the event to register a score in the excellent range when a series of fast and tight, technical turns earned her an 8.17.
Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) and Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) battled valiantly but were ultimately left in the wake of the powerful Hawaiian as Manuel posted three more excellent scores, including a nine-point-ride, to secure the highest heat total of the event thus far.
As the clock wound down, Van Dijk was forced to leave the lineup after a vicious wipeout that left her bruised and bleeding. Details are still forthcoming.
Heat 1: Laura Enever (AUS) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)
Once Van Dijk was aboard the boat it was decided that she needed further medical attention back on Tavarua. The heat was postponed to give Van Dijk an opportunity to avoid withdrawal.
Heat 2: Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.16 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 9.24
With shifting conditions at Cloudbreak, Ho and Defay showed a lot more selectivity than they had in Round 1 and the scoreboard remained empty for the first six minutes. Perhaps a little more tentative after seeing the perils of Shish Kabobs after Van Dijk's injury, both surfers opted for single-carves before kicking out the back, keeping the combined scores below 5.20 with the advantage going to the rookie.
Just before the five minute warning, Ho utilized priority that forced Defay to bail out. The Hawaiian continued onwards to complete a series of backside turns for a 5.67 and a lead change. With one minute left, Defay opened up on two smooth vertical turns for an 8.83 and the Round 3 advance.
"I got the score this time against Coco," said Defay. "Last time in Rio I was close and I didn't get it, but I'm from Reunion Island and I feel at home here in these lefts."
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.67 def. Ella Williams (NZL) 6.10
Wright started strong against the wildcard, belting a two-turn combination on her backhand for a 7.67 despite challenging wind conditions. The Australian quickly backed up the ride with a 4.00.
While the wildcard fought hard to establish herself in the heat, Wright found another set, snagging an additional 7.00 to place Williams in a combination situation. Wright held on to the controlling lead for a spot in Round 3.
Heat 4: Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 12.83 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 0.00
Weston-Webb, replacement surfer for injured Courtney Conlogue (USA) came flying out of the gates in her Round 2 bout against Peterson, locking in a solid 8.83 on her opening ride for a series of committed turns.
Peterson played the patience game, waiting the entire heat for a wave, finishing the heat without putting foot to wax. Peterson's patience left the door open for the young Hawaiian to cause an upset for the second event in a row.
"I'm just taking this opportunity to surf epic Fiji with one other girl in the water," said Weston-Webb. "I've been here for a week and we had swell just like this and I surfed it all day long. I've never surfed a contest that's anything like this."
Heat 5: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 7.77 def. Alana Blanchard (HAW) 3.43
Both Buitendag and Blanchard got off to a slow start in Round 2, with the South African establishing an early lead on her forehand for a 3.27 and 4.50.
While Blanchard was only in need of modest 5.77, she was unable to find the wave needed. Buitendag survived the low-scoring affair, advancing to Round 3.
Heat 6: Alessa Quizon (HAW) 14.50 def. Pauline Ado (FRA) 10.94
Cloudbreak took an uncharacteristic turn, flattening out and offering few opportunities for significant scores. Quizon and Ado kept busy even on small, frothy waves until some open faces widened around the 20-minute mark and both surfers exchanged midrange scores. Quizon was awarded the better of the two scores with a 6.17 but Ado was able to replace her early throwaway to gain a slight edge over the Hawaiian.
With 10 minutes remaining, Quizon found a big scoring opportunity, throwing up a big carve and pulling into the first clean barrel of the day for an excellent 8.33. Ado hunted the unruly open water for the needed 8.73 but was left wanting as Quizon moves into Round 3.
During Heat 6 an official decision was made in regards to Nikki Van Dijk. The Aussie's Round 1 injury has forced a withdrawal and Laura Enever automatically advances to Round 3.
*Official statement from Deputy Commissioner Jessi Miley-Dyer: "Nikki Van Dijk has withdrawn from the Fiji Women's Pro after sustaining injuries to her face, chest and arms during her Round 1 heat. She has received medical treatment on Tavarua island and is in good spirits, even wanting to surf her Round 2 heat, but ultimately decided that she is unable to return to competition in Fiji. We wish her a speedy recovery."