Date: Thursday, May 28
Schedule: Women's Round 4 (Heats 3-4) and onwards
Conditions: Six- to Eight-Foot (1.8- to 2.4-metre) waves at Cloudbreak
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.57 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.93
Wright took the first plunge with five minutes, getting a feel for the throaty lefthander and honed her technique from there, posting two midrange scores in the first half of the heat. Fitzgibbons struggled to find a clean face to post scores and keep pace with her opponent.
Wright unleashed her barrel game with a quick tube ride in the seven-point range. But Fitzgibbons perfected her cutbacks and posted an excellent 8.40 to overtake the lead with five minutes left. Both surfers got swallowed up in the massive Cloudbreak barrels before the horn blew and Fitzgibbons prevailed.
Heat 4: Malia Manuel (HAW) 8.50 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 7.00
The final heat of Round 4 got off to a slow start, with no ridable waves in the opening 10 minutes forcing a restart to the heat.
Both Malia Manuel (HAW) and the Paige Hareb (NZL) eventually got on the board with a series of small scores while testing the Cloudbreak lineup. Hareb established a slender lead, while Manuel took off on a big roll-in, but suffered a heavy wipeout, going over the falls.
Manuel rebounded, collecting a few midrange scores on the smaller, cleaner waves on offer that proved enough for a spot in the Quarterfinals.
Quarterfinal 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.50 def. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 13.50
Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) took an early advantage, opening up her Quarterfinal account with a solid 8.17 to put Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) in catch-up mode from the get go. Gilmore responded with a deep, dredging tube ride, but was unable to exit and was left with a small score and a huge task ahead.
Gilmore waited patiently out the back and pounced on a beauty of a wave, unloading a series of power carves and wraps and was rewarded with an 8.00 of her own. As the clock wound down, both surfers held one excellent score and one average in their scoreline.
It was a battle of the backup rides and in the last two minutes both surfers caught waves. Buitendag registered a 5.33 but Gilmore got the better of the exchange, scoring a 7.50 and and earning a ticket into the Semifinals.
Quarterfinal 2: Dimity Stoyle (AUS) 6.83 Carissa Moore (HAW) 5.34
The current top-seeded rookie Dimity Stoyle (AUS) faced World No. 1 Carissa Moore (HAW) in the second Quarterfinal. With the tide draining slightly, neither surfer posted significant scores in the first 15 minutes of competition.
Entering the second half of the heat, both surfers jumped on soft set waves, each accomplishing clean two-turn rides for three-point range scores with the reigning World Champion getting the better of the exchange. The rookie hunted the lineup for a third wave to improve her early throwaway.
Stoyle found a shoulder to work with five minutes left and forced a late lead change. The Hawaiian took off on a last-ditch effort at 25 seconds but in comparing the two final rides judges gave the nod to Stoyle. In a huge upset, the rookie advances into the Semifinals for the first time in her career.
Quarterfinal 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.27 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 1.90
An all-Australian affair saw Fitzgibbons match-up against Laura Enever with both surfers desperate for a Semifinal berth. Fitzgibbons, current World No. 2, has a chance to make up ground in the standings with Moore eliminated in the previous heat, while Enever is hungry to climb the rankings and post her best result of the 2014 season.
Fitzgibbons started the heat with style, netting a pair of seven-point rides on her first two waves. Conversely, Enever broke her board as she free fell from the lip searching for a tube. Enever was unlucky for the remainder of the heat and was unable to find any waves of consequence, allowing Fitzgibbons to advance into the Semifinals.
Quarterfinal 4: Malia Manuel (HAW) 9.50 def. Johanne Defay (FRA) 8.93
Despite suffering a serious injury to her wrist in Round 4, the wounded Hawaiian entered the Cloudbreak lineup once again, establishing an early lead against rookie Johanne Defay (FRA) to begin her bid for the Semifinals.
Both regular-footers logged a series of midrange scores throughout the first half of the heat, with Manuel holding the lead compliments of a 5.33. The Hawaiian continued to appear unfazed by her injury, charging into a deep backhand tube, but narrowly missed the exit. Despite the incomplete ride, Manuel slightly increased her lead over Defay.
Defay nearly overtook the lead with just seconds remaining. The rookie delivered a strong first turn, but the wave died quickly, offering little scoring potential. Manuel advanced to the Semifinals.
Semifinal 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.50 def. Dimity Stoyle (AUS) 5.33
The opening half of the first Semifinals heat featured few workable sets for the combatants to take advantage of. Gilmore gained an edge combining two inside rides while Stoyle sat on a single low-scoring wave score.
Stoyle wouldn't catch her second wave until the eight-minute mark when she jumped on a softening face and carved out another low score. Her situation worsened when Gilmore drove down a tall wave to throw up a powerful vertical snap to improve her situation and putting the rookie in need of a 9.00 with just a few minutes remaining.
The Sunshine Coast native hit her third and final wave as the horn blew but an excellent 8.17 awarded to Gilmore on the ride before was the nail in the coffin. Gilmore heads into her second Final this season.
Semifinal 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.24 def. Malia Manuel (HAW) 8.86
With a spot in the Final up for grabs, both surfers showed their nerves taking a couple of daunting waves and falling off in critical sections. Manual established an early lead, but it was stolen by Fitzgibbons when the Aussie locked into one of the best barrels of the event and was rewarded with a 9.07. Manuel took off on the wave behind, and was extremely close to scoring a similar tube ride, but was clipped on the exit.
The heat had numerous broken boards and heavy wipeouts with both athletes putting it all on the line, but it was Fitzgibbons' heaving tube ride that helped her secure a Finals berth. Manuel goes home as one of the Fiji Women's Pro top performers and an equal third place finish.
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 9.00 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 8.73
Both finalists wasted little time in getting to their feet in the Final, catching small scores to kick off the heat. Following the first 10 minutes, neither Gilmore nor Fitzgibbons had logged any notable rides, with the five-time ASP Women's World Champ holding a slight lead.
The Australians continued to hunt the Cloudbreak lineup, with the low-scoring trend remaining with 20 minutes on the clock.
With less than 15 minutes on the ticker, Gilmore found a crucial wave, connecting a series of polished backhand carves on a slopey Cloudbreak face for a 3.50 and a narrow lead over Fitzgibbons.
A crucial exchange unfolded on the next set, with Fitzgibbons delivering a flurry of maneuvers to Gilmore's two select carves. Fitzgibbons got the nod with a 6.00 to Gilmore's 5.23, but Gilmore held the lead.
In need of only a 2.73, Fitzgibbons quickly found an additional wave, overtaking the lead with a 3.00. Fitzgibbons' modest scores proved enough for the victory, marking back-to-back wins on the 2014 ASP Women's WCT.