From a competitive surfing standpoint beachbreaks are the great equalizers. Even the world's best beachies are notoriously fickle, opening the door for anything to happen. On paper upsets seem more likely to occur in beachbreaks.
But there's the other side of that argument, which is that the best surfers are those who always seem to be in rhythm, no matter the condition. Their acute ability to adapt on the fly has been honed through countless hours of surfing every possible matrix of tide, wind, current and swell.
On Wednesday the world's best women were waging battle in pedestrian beachbreak conditions that 99% of the surfing world can relate to. While we'd always rather see our favorite surfers in hollow reefs and points, being able to witness their approach to the same blue-collar slop the rest of us live is educational.
By day's end, Sally Fitzgibbons, Courtney Conlogue, Tyler Wright and Stephanie Gilmore had advanced directly to the Quarterfinals with their Round Three victories. For the record, they own four of the top six spots in the current rankings.
And keep in mind the friendly fire up there. In Round Three, the best heat of the round involved a dream match between Carissa Moore, Stephanie Gilmore and Laura Enever.
It was a see-saw battle that went down to the wire, with Steph eventually getting the nod and claiming her first Round Three win of the season. Gilmore also won her Round One heat yesterday for the first time this year, so the 6-time champ seems to be working things out in the sloppy stuff.
Moore, meanwhile, has been squeaking by so far. She was upset in Round One by Sage Erickson in a low-scoring affair. That placed her in a tough Round Two match agains Silvana Lima on Wednesday, which she survived, but barely, and it was even hotly debated among the commentators.
Meanwhile, there's no debating Courtney Conlogue's beachbreak credentials. Having grown up in Huntington Beach slop she knows how to squeeze lemons, and that experience has helped net her back-to-back heat wins in Brazil, including her Round Three victory over Erickson and Malia Manuel.
Both of Sally Fitzgibbons' wins have been consistently close. On Wednesday she got the edge over rookie Keely Andrew and last year's Rookie of the Year, Tatiana Weston-Webb. Sally's speed is the difference maker for her, but as she gets into the later rounds she'll be facing more lethal power.
Power is Tyler Wright's game. Her supply is something that all of her peers are trying desperately to tap into right now. And while Moore and Gilmore have every bit as much, Tyler's delivery comes more unrestrained. Her approach is less scripted and more instinct--exactly the kind of surfing that fits beachbreaks perfectly.