After an opening day of the Swatch Pro that had the women's tour leaders on the ropes, day two saw them bounce back with signature power-turns and panache. Plus, in a year that has seen Coco Ho struggle to get our of Round Two, the Hawaiian found some unexpected mojo to eliminate perennial heavyweight Sally Fitzgibbons.
The first tour leader to paddle out today was World No. 1 Tyler Wright, who came up against Hawaiian wildcard Bethany Hamilton. Earlier this year in Fiji, Hamilton took Tyler down in Fiji's Round Two, and went on to earn an incredible Semifinal finish. Their heat today, then, was something of a rematch, but this time around Tyler didn't take any chances.
She was aggressive from the start, scoring an 8.17 on her first wave, and quickly clamped down on her lead with an 8.60. Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack as a teen, earned some mid-range scores but her waves lacked the power that Wright was finding in the lineup. In the final few minutes, still trailing, she took off on a righthander that practically took her to the sand. The crowd went wild, Hamilton was beaming, and she returned to shore triumphant. No, she didn't win, but she reminded everyone -- including Tyler, her former Fiji victim -- what she's capable of with the right wave.
Next up was No. 2 Courtney Conlogue who, just like Wright, has a World Title on the line with every heat. And, also like Wright, she wasn't about to give up on that so easily. Conlogue, who's just 550 points behind Wright on the rankings, could easily move back into the top spot if things go her way here in San Clemente. So with a shiny trophy in her midst, she proceeded to hack up Lowers, earning a 7.33 and a 6.67 for the win. Tuach, meanwhile, was comboed from the start (a situation in which she'd need two new scores to catch up to Conlogue) and quite found her groove.
Thursday's other huge coup came from Coco Ho, whose future on the Championship Tour is fragile at best. The Hawaiian's talent has never been in question -- with rock-solid turns and comfort in heavy surf, she is capable of incredible performances. But Ho's competitive savvy has been in hibernation for much of the season so far, in which she's had a string of 9th and 13th-place finishes in CT events, and mixed results on the Qualifying Series (QS).
So with her job on the line and only a handful of events left, Ho paddled out with what appeared to be new determination to put some points on the board. In her Round Two heat against Sally Fitzgibbons, Ho went on the attack and earned a whopping 9.43. She followed up with a five-pointer, but that was enough. Sally couldn't match Coco's scoreline, and was eliminated from the Swatch Pro.
For Fitzgibbons, the loss was a rare, Round Two exit. For Ho, it was a much-needed triumph.
"We've been on tour for eight years together," Ho said afterward. "[Sally's] always that one who can get the nine in the last few milliseconds so I was dying to get a better backup. But, I know this lineup pretty well and I did not want my run to end this early so I was going do my everything to make it through this round."
Catch Ho, Conlogue, Wright and the rest of the remaining surfers when Round Three kicks off. Tune in at 7:30 a.m. PDT Friday for more action from the Swatch Women's Pro.