Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014
Schedule: Finals Day
Conditions: 3-to-5-foot faces with occ. overhead sets
Sally Fitzgibbons vs. Stephanie Gilmore
It was an all-Aussie Final for the women's first-ever event at Lower Trestles. Five-time World Champ Stephanie Gilmore took the lead first, with a 9.50. Sally Fitzgibbons started strongly as well, with a seven-pointer to start.
After a couple of lead changes, Gilmore got back out front, determined. She ripped up a righthander, carving smoothly for an 8.33, setting Fitzgibbons back into a combo situation. Her attack continued with her next wave: She put together a series of seamless turns, elegant layback, quick floater and elegant exit, earning the first Perfect 10 of the event.
"I wanted to get Sally back from Fiji because I had a tough performance there," said Gilmore. "Whoever won that heat there, I thought was a definitive moment for the year."
Winner: Stephanie Gilmore, 19.50
**Runner-up: Sally Fitzgibbons, 14.03
SF 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
Undaunted by the high seeds she faced on Finals day, Johanne Defay scored the first significant wave of Semifinal 2. Defay attacked the lip with vertical snaps and short float sections while Sally Fitzgibbons went for a variety of cutbacks and tail-slides. By mid-heat, the Australian had overtaken the lead with a 7.33.
When the bottom lines were raised, it was Fitzgibbons again who won out, this time belting a 9.17 when she was able to match her power with precision, banging conquering the bumpy surface with ease. Defay would respond with her own excellent score -- an 8.33 -- but, in the end, it was the Aussie's power over the rookie's grace.
"I put in a lot of hours before the event started and that gives you a lot of comfort when you're paddling out," Fitzgibbons said.
Result: Sally Fitzgibbons, 17.04, def. Johanne Defay, 14.66
SF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Coco Ho (HAW)
Looking to move up in the Title race, Stephanie Gilmore was making the most of it, getting control of the lead early on. Despite a slow start, she snagged two significant scores to take a solid lead over Coco Ho.
Ho was surfing well, showing off smooth turns and precise manuevers. But her waves were on the smaller side and she needed a more aggressive ride to wow the judges. With fewer than five minutes left, she found a mid-sized right and connected big turns with tail drifts and a quick final float. The performance earned her a 7.00 to narrow the points gap, but it fell short of putting her in the lead.
"I've probably been playing it safe these last two heats," Gilmore said. "But I'm doing what I need to do. I've a couple of seconds this year and really need to get a win."
Result: Stephanie Gilmore, 13.84, def. Coco Ho, 13.03
QF 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
Rookie Johanne Defay set the bar for Quarterfinal 4 when she lit up the scoreboard in the opening minutes. Connecting flawless turns, the rookie belted an excellent 8.17 on her first takeoff, putting World Title contender Tyler Wright on high alert. The Australian notched a nine-pointer by way of a huge closing stomp off the lip but, lacking a significant backup, she remained in second going into the latter half of the heat.
The final 10 minutes saw two lead changes. Ultimately, Defay would pull off a huge upset, ending the heat with two excellent scores in her total.
"I'm just going to think about the Semis," Defay said. "This is a big step for me. I'll do my best to make it to the Final."
Result: Johanne Defay, 16.20, def. Tyler Wright, 15.13
QF 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)
Two powerhouse surfers, Sally Fitzgibbons and Bianca Buitendag, faced off next. After a slow first half that offered only a handful of scoring opportunities, Fitzgibbons moved into the lead with a solid wave, timing her turns perfectly and throwing spray. She earned an 8.17 and quickly backed it up with a 6.50, putting Buitendag in a combo situation.
The South African fought back, taking off on a series of righthanders but wobbling with every wave. As she struggled to find her rhythm, Fitzgibbons continued her rampage with another eight-pointer. The Aussie's relentless attack paid off with a win, while Buitendag's run came to an end.
"We've had a lot of lay days but it's time well spent," Fitzgibbons said. Now leading the rankings she added, "It's going to take a lot of small moments [to win the Title] and there's still a lot of surfing to be done. I'm really reveling in the challenge. At this stage, I feel strong and ready to go, and I feel like this is my time."
Result: Sally Fitzgibbons, 16.44, def. Bianca Buitendag, 10.33
QF 2: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Lakey Peterson (USA)
Hot off a her victory over now-former No. 1 Carissa Moore, Lakey Peterson drew first blood. Working on her forehand, Peterson established an early advantage over Coco Ho. She backed up her opener with backhand drive down a foamy left and held a comfortable lead going into the second half of the heat.
The Hawaiian's started her comeback campaign with just over 10 minutes remaining. She worked her backhand to climb out of the combo situation and took the lead with precise forehand maneuvers for a 7.77. In the final exchanges, Ho earned a heat-high 7.90 on a last minute closeout stomp and advances to the Semis for the first time this season.
"I basically grew up here," said Peterson. "It's like a second home to me. I'm pretty much at home here. I'm just going to take this heat ... and just step it up a bit."
Result: Coco Ho, 15.67, def. Lakey Peterson, 15.00
QF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Laura Enever (AUS)
The first face-off of Finals day at Lower Trestles saw World No. 4 Stephanie Gilmore face off against fellow Aussie Laura Enever in crossed-up morning waves. Gilmore took an early lead with a midrange score. After 10 minutes, Enever took off on a righthander with a solid opening turn but fell on a layback. At the halfway mark, Gilmore held the lead with a total 8.50 to Enever's 4.40.
The five-time World Champ continued to dominate through the second half, displaying competitive know-how with smooth surfing for an 8.17 on her fourth takeoff. After a slow start, Enever earned the high-scoring wave of the matchup, connecting long, wrapping turns with patience and power for an 8.40. It wasn't enough, though, and Enever will leave Trestles with an equal fifth finish.
"This is a massive op for all of us girls, sitting just behind [Carissa Moore], to catch up and grab that lead," Gilmore said. "That was a big surprise since she grew up here, but that's what surfings all about. It's about keeping it exciting."
Result: Stephanie Gilmore, 15.17, def. Laura Enever, 12.23