Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)
The women's Final saw World No. 3 Stephanie Gilmore facing off against World No. 4 Tyler Wright, with both looking to get closer to the front of the pack in the World Title race. After winning the season's first Women's World Championship Tour (WCT) event at the Gold Coast, Gilmore had only made one other Final this year, when she was runner-up at the Fiji Women's Pro. This was Wright's third Final of the year, but her victory here was her first event win of 2014.
At the beginning of the Final here in Huntington Beach, a long, waveless lull led the judges to call a restart. Gilmore took the first wave with a smooth cutback into a vertical hack, but her finishing move was incomplete. The mistake kept her opening score to a midrange three-pointer. Wright sat out the back with priority, scouring the horizon for another set for 10 minutes, finding a single-maneuver wave for a 3.27. Gilmore, however, found the better wave of the set, throwing two backhand hacks and a clean forehand finish on the reform for the first significant score of the Final, a 7.33.
Feeling the pressure, Wright moved farther down the line to hunt down bigger opportunities, but the risk wouldn't pay off. The mid-heat exchange saw Gilmore on the better wave again, and tallying fresh scores.
Paddling back to the pier, Wright found a solid break, unleashing her power-surfing on the reform for an excellent 8.67. The score proved to be the confidence-booster she needed. Without priority, she picked off another slow roller, and to the inside for a stylish floater on the finish. The two waves forced the first lead change with 10 minutes remaining.
Gilmore needed a second seven-point ride to replace her bottom score and she would spend the remainder of the clock looking for an opportunity. But a mistake at the two-minute mark and a soft wave with less than a minute left saw Wright land at the top of the podium for the first time of the 2014 season.
Results: Tyler Wright, 14.77 def. Stephanie Gilmore, 13.16
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Australians Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons took to the water with Gilmore commanding the lead early with 5.00 and 6.17, while Fitzgibbons got on the board with a 6.07 of her own.
Gilmore furthered her lead when she paddled into a left, combining a series of powerful backhand snaps for a near-perfect 9.93. The excellent score left Fitzgibbons in need of a combined 16.11 total to advance.
Fitzgibbons found an additional six-pointer, but was unable to break the combination from Gilmore's early-heat dominance.
Results: Stephanie Gilmore, 16.10 def. Sally Fitzgibbons, 14.03
Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)
The women's Semifinals saw a slow start, with Malia Manuel and Tyler Wright waiting more than ten minutes for a set to roll through. Neither surfer had priority, so the pressure was on to drop in first and control the heat.
At the 22-minute mark, Manuel caught the first roller, but it was an incomplete, backside wave that gave Wright priority. She took two quick waves for small scores that would loosen things up and put her in the lead.
The energy in the water kicked up in the final 10 minutes. Manuel found a few corners, but it failed to be the opportunity she needed to move into the lead, and her frustration was visible. The points gap grew larger still after Wright found a solid set wave and scored a heat-high 7.00. Her strong surfing throughout won her the heat, and secured her spot in the Final.
Results: Tyler Wright, 13.17 def. Malia Manuel, 8.70