Date: Thursday, September 25, 2014
Schedule: Rounds 1, 2 and 3
Conditions: Waist-high surf with head-plus sets as the swell fills in
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) vs. Carissa Moore (HAW)
Carissa Moore got to the front of the pack early, working through ever-softer waves in the rising tide. She earned the highest score of the heat, a 7.00, but with just moments left hadn't bettered her second score, a two-pointer. Nikki Van Dijk found a few respectable rides, but never broke out of the No. 3 spot.
The final five minutes saw a tense battle between Moore and Peterson as they fought for the top spot. Moore lost her position when Peterson slashed up a few lefts to impress the judges and improve her scoreline. True to form though, Moore answered back, taking the lead again and ultimately the heat win.
Results: Carissa Moore, 12.07 vs. Lakey Peterson, 11.60 vs. Nikki Van Dijk, 8.36
Heat 3: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Bianca Buitendag took an early lead with a strong seven-pointer. Courtney Conlogue, hungry as ever, was close behind and trailing by less than a point at the halfway mark. Stephanie Gilmore was mostly quiet while the other two unleashed all the power they could muster in softer waves.
In the second half, Conlogue took off on her backhand, showing off her new-school skills. It was Buitendag though, who held the lead thanks to solid wave selection and strong, connected rides that showcased her consistency and precision. In the final moments, Gilmore made a play for points, but the sets didn't come her way, relegating her to a few smaller waves. Conlogue continued her push, too -- but hers paid off and edged out Buitendag.
"When you need [a score in] the eight-range," Conlogue said afterward, "you need to drive off the bottom and get critical, and I think I did that."
Results: Courtney Conlogue, 16.00 vs. Bianca Buitendag, 15.84 vs. Stephanie Gilmore, 11.40
Heat 2: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Dimity Stoyle (AUS)
Sally Fitzgibbons was still on fire in her third heat of the day, dominating early with a pair of sevens for a solid lead. Fellow Aussie Dimity Stoyle was scratching to catch up, securing two midrange scores but needing a big one to overtake Fitzgibbons. Despite some solid surfing from Johanne Defay, her waves were weaker and didn't provide much opportunity for bigger scores.
And while Defay's efforts did help her climb out of a combo situation, the bar was still high for her and Stoyle. With fewer than five minutes left, both women needed near-perfect scores to top Fitzgibbons. The newly minted World No. 1 never loosened her grip though and scored a direct advance to the Quarterfinals, while Stoyle and Defay headed to Round 4.
"It's a fantastic feeling to be in this [Number 1] spot at this stage of the season," said Fitzgibbons. "I've worked extremely hard to be here, and I'm going to work hard to stay here."
Results: Sally Fitzgibbons, 16.56 vs. Dimity Stoyle, 10.14 vs. Johanne Defay, 10.00
Heat 1: Pauline Ado (FRA) vs. Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Tyler Wright (HAW)
Carrying the momentum she had in Round 2, Malia Manuel quickly moved into the lead, taking advantage of the incoming swell and cleaner faces. Pauline Ado was close behind, with Tyler Wright slower to find some rhythm.
Manuel continued to keep her opponents on defense with her relentless pursuit of scores, showing off speed and precise snaps. Ado climbed her way closer to the top spot, working turns to the inside and squeezing the life out of every ride. Meanwhile, Wright trailed throughout, not quite finding the right waves to make a dent. Manuel rode her lead to the win and a trip straight into the Quarters, while her opponents were sent to Round 4.
"This year has been a huge learning curve," said Manuel. "It's been nice to work on equipment and enjoy surfing, we've had such great waves at Fiji, and Honolua [in November], it's been fun."
Results: Malia Manuel vs. 14.93 Pauline Ado 12.43 vs. Tyler Wright 7.83
Heat 6: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
Ho nearly matched her with a 7.03, but couldn't catch up. In the final minute, she left the water ostensibly for an update but it also marked the end of her heat. Defay was left alone in the lineup, taking the win in what some might call an upset.
"I feel more comfortable with the Tour, and all those people around," Defay said afterward. "I've been spending the last six summers here. Having some French people on the beach is cool, too."
Results: Johanne Defay, 13.17 def. Coco Ho, 11.53
Heat 5: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)
Paige Hareb took a modest early lead, putting Lakey Peterson on the defense. Peterson got fired up quickly though, going for an air reverse to wow the crowd. While she didn't quite complete the maneuver, but it was still a sign of things to come.
Peterson's next wave saw her on the attack with powerful bottom turns and spray at the top. The wave's size and Her classic approach earned her a 9.33, overtaking Hareb. With just a minute left on the clock, Hareb was in a deep hole, needing a combined 15.01. Ultimately, it was too tall an order, and Peterson took the win.
"It's something I've worked on for a while is having the confidence to try to pull airs or something more progressive," said Peterson. "I was trying to free surf a bit more, and I guess that came out."
Results: Lakey Peterson, 15.00 def. Paige Hareb, 8.60
Heat 4: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Alana Blanchard (HAW)
It was a Hawaiian battle to stay in the competition when Malia Manuel and Alana Blanchard hit the water in a dropping tide. Manuel opened with a solid midrange score, while Blanchard followed with a steep takeoff that looked promising but ended in a closeout. Manuel, meanwhile, found a rhythm from the start and didn't falter.
She practically did laps, showing off style and power in a series of righthanders for midrange scores that kept her in the lead. Blanchard took off on her own handful of waves, but fell on several more and tallied smaller numbers. Manuel led through to the end, ousting her fellow Hawaiian from the Roxy Pro, and securing a spot in Round 3.
"I'm a little frustrated leaving the door open a little bit, there's definitely room for improvement," Manuel said. "Round 2 is just, let that one go and move on. I'm not mad, I'm just always learning, always evolving."
Results: Malia Manuel, 12.50 def. Alana Blanchard, 7.16
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Lee-Ann Curren (FRA)
In typical fighting form, Sally Fitzgibbons made an aggressive start, earning two midrange scores for an early lead. Lee-Ann Curren had a slower start, but soon found her feet to catch up and get in the game.
Curren followed up with another midrange score and edged Fitzgibbons out of the lead by a fraction of a point. Each found another wave for a quick exchange, with Fitzgibbons getting the better of the two. Needing a 5.58, the pressure was on. Her snaps and solid finish earned her a 5.83, putting her in the lead with less than a minute left.
"It was the battle of the fives," said Fitzgibbons "It's tough when you're paddling and you see your opponent on a couple of good ones."
Results: Sally Fitzgibbons, 11.53 vs. Lee-Ann Curren, 10.97
Heat 2: Dimity Stoyle (AUS) vs. Alessa Quizon (HAW)
Dimity Stoyle and Alessa Quizon faced off next, for a chance to stay in the game. Stoyle opened on her frontside, connecting strong, back-to-back turns down the line. Quizon answered with a powerful first turn, but didn't complete it and went back out for more.
Stoyle kept her rhythm, powering through another right that solidified her lead. Quizon dropped into a handful of waves, but none were substantial. Stoyle continued to attack, driving through rides on her frontside and ultimately took the victory. Quizon, who had been battling an ankle injury, was attended to by medical staff following the heat.
"I"m good today, I feel refreshed," Stoyle said of her jet lag and readiness for Hossegor. "But it's hard. [The travel] a new experience for me. It gets a bit hectic, but I love it."
Results: Dimity Stoyle, 13.33 vs. Alessa Quizon, 5.44
Heat 1: Laura Enever (AUS) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)
In the second half, Van Dijk picked up steam, overtaking her opponent with a pair of midrange scores. Evener battled back, but made a handful of mistakes that sabotaged her scoring potential. She earned a string of smaller scores that didn't amount to a stronger two-wave total. In the end, the rookie took the win and Enever was eliminated.
"It feels like a year ago now [that I've been on the road]," Van Dijk said. "But you have to embrace it. ... I'm learning a lot. It's a lot more than what I ever thought. I'm just taking all the craziness in."
Results: Nikki Van Dijk, 10.44 def. Laura Enever, 9.07
Heat 6: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)
Buitendag, who was 2013 WCT Rookie of the Year, continued her attack, pulling off strong turns for a seven-pointer that solidified her lead. Peterson trailed, needing two new scores with fewer than ten minutes left. Her power was apparent but her wave selection found her on smaller waves.
Similarly, Van Dijk picked a handful of softer waves that kept her from earning bigger scores. Neither was able to catch up and Buitendag took the win. In her post-heat interview, she told Pete Mel the win gave her "so much confidence. When you go straight from Round 1 to Round 3, you feel very comfortable."
Results: Bianca Buitendag 15.77 vs. Nikki Van Dijk 10.10 vs. Lakey Peterson 9.74
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)
Carissa Moore, who last week lost her spot as World No. 1, made it clear from the first few minutes that she was determined to get it back. Throwing her signature layback and smooth turns, she earned a 9.43 to set a high bar and take the lead. Kiwi Paige Hareb was in second, starting out with a midrange score, while Coco Ho trailed at the outset, with a throwaway score.
Moore retained her lead through the heat, dominating despite both Hareb and Ho's efforts. But with just five minutes left, Hareb needed an eight-pointer to move into the lead. She took off on a righthander, connecting turn after turn on her backhand, but it still wasn't enough. In a combo situation, Ho also couldn't oust Moore.
"Of course I was frustrated after Lowers," Moore said after the heat victory, recalling her early exist from the Swatch Pro. "But I feel I have to go out there and keep smiling. I'm going to try to do more of that and focus on positivity."
Results: Carissa Moore 14.76 vs. Paige Hareb 10.16 vs. Coco Ho 3.43
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Alana Blanchard (HAW)
Stephanie Gilmore, who just a week ago won the first-ever Swatch Women's Pro Trestles, kicked things off with a strong seven-pointer. French surfer Johanne Defay, who had a solid, Semifinal finish at Trestles, sat in second place for the first half. The third competitor, Alana Blanchard, arrived in France needing a good event finish to help her stay on Tour in 2015. Still, her scores trailed the other women, leaving her in a combo situation.
Gilmore kept the pressure on her opponents, pulling off two huge hacks and drops into the wash to earn a 9.00. Defay closed the gap with an eight-pointer but couldn't edge out the Aussie, while Blanchard never found the waves she needed. Gilmore won and left the other two to battle again in Round 2.
"There's not much time to enjoy the last victory, that's for sure," said Gilmore. In terms of game plan in France, she said, "We're far from the judges, so you want to be flaring and catching eyes from a distance. It's about wave selection as well."
Results: Stephanie Gilmore 16.17 vs. Johanne Defay 14.17 vs. Alana Blanchard 5.54
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Lee-Ann Curren (FRA)
The third heat of the morning featured the tightest scores of the contest so far, as Sally Fitzgibbons, fresh off a runner-up finish at Trestles, fought to both defend her 2013 Roxy Pro title and retain her newfound spot at the top of the rankings. Wildcard Lee-Ann Curren brought out her local knowledge with big, comfortable turns while Courtney Conlogue, in her second contest since injury, was hungry to regain momentum.
That hunger was apparent when Conlogue went big, earning the first 9.00 of the event. Fitzgibbons continued to forge ahead, pulling out her power-turns in an effort to close the points gap. Curren continued her seemingly casual session, tallying respectable scores but without the pressure to earn points. Conlogue ultimately took the win, showing that she is officially back in action.
"It feels really good to be back in a jersey. I'm just so stoked to be competing again. Right now I'm trying to build my little brick house, one brick at a time. I'm just really happy to be here."
Results: Courtney Conlogue 13.13 vs. Sally Fitzgibbons 12.40 vs. Lee-Ann Curren 9.80
Heat 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Laura Enever (AUS) vs. Alessa Quizon (HAW)
Tyler Wright, known for her power-surfing and tube skills, took an early lead. Currently ranked No. 4 with one event win under her belt, was coming in with the most pressure to do well and get closer to a World Title. WCT rookie Alessa Quizon, meanwhile, took advantage of her goofyfoot stance on a handful of lefts, but managed just one maneuver on each before the lip closed in.
With fewer than ten minutes left, Laura Enever found her feet with her best wave so far, a strong backhand ride that put her in second place. Throughout the final minutes, Wright maintained her lead, while Enever and Quizon tried to stay in position for potential, final waves. The strategy worked for the Aussie, but the wave faded on the inside. She and the rookie were sent to the sudden-death second round, while Wright scored a spot in Round 3.
"It's tricky out there," she said. "The rights are way better than what I was surfing. It's just hard to get there, stay there, catch a wave, and do a run-around."
Results: Tyler Wright 10.50 vs. Laura Enever 9.40 vs. Alessa Quizon 6.17
Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Dimity Stoyle (AUS) vs. Pauline Ado (FRA)
With a strong current and crossed-up wave directions, paddle stamina and knowing how to handle inconsistent conditions were essential. Malia Manuel opened the competition with the first wave of the heat, snapping backhand turns in a tricky high tide. Local surfer Pauline Ado followed suit, powering down the line for a few solid backhand turns. Dimity Stoyle was next, but made just one turn before kicking out.
Manuel, World No. 5, built on her early lead, staying active and racking up a big wave count. Ado, World No. 15, found her rhythm in the final ten minutes, working her way down a chest-high lefthander that earned her a strong midrange score and put her in the lead. As Ado made the most of the inside waves Stoyle, World No. 9, took the first righthander of the heat but fell on a snap and couldn't catch up. Ado won, sending the other women to Round 2.
"I'm always happy to compete in France," Ado said after her win. "I have a little bit of extra pressure, but I also have a lot of people here for me. ... I know the waves, so it helps."
Results: Pauline Ado 10.76 vs. Malia Manuel 7.34 vs. Dimity Stoyle 3.54