History was made in the surfing world today with the first-ever WSL event held on Papua New Guinea's soil -- and it was pumping. Three-to-six foot, Tupira perfection reeled through Uligan Bay from start to finish as a groundbreaking day of competition was completed. After men's Round One of competition was completed, the women got their Round One underway and great performances followed.
In her PNG debut, 2015 World Champion Rachael Tilly showed why she holds that Title. The San Clemente, California, competitor led the charge with a beautiful curtain of Tupira water pouring over her that she was able to come out of after already getting her feet to the nose. Her efforts were recognized with the day's highest single-wave score of 8.50, and heat total of 16.23.
"I felt really excited to get there after we had the option to either go off for the day or go out and my hand went straight up with the majority of the other girls," Tilly said.
"That barrel was one of the best of my life. I got to the nose straight away, hang 10, and then saw it bowl up and just went for it, then got to finish off with a little cutback and I was so stoked. I've been feeling really strong and working hard on surfing, as well as fitness, since China. You don't really know how that can translate to heats so it felt great to see it work well."
History was made once more in Heat 3 as local Tupira wildcard selection Rothy Kurumuk became the first PNG women to compete in a WSL event. But it was 2016 World Champion Tory Gilkerson who started her campaign brilliantly with win a over Brazilian Atalanta Batista and Kurumuk. Despite the bombardment of set waves, Gilkerson was able to find her form and preference of noseriding when given the opportunity.
"I'm stoked to get that first heat out of the way and already looking forward to the next one," Gilkerson said. "This wave is challenging and will definitely see where we all fall in line here with a new spot to dial in. It was still so fun out there with just wave after wave and felt good to wear that gold jersey, but at the same time it felt like all eyes were on me and I had to do well."
Natsumi Taoka earned the upset of the day by winning her Heat 4 matchup with last year's WLC runner-up Chloe Calmon and PNG's National Champion Marianne Longa. Calmon is in search of her first-ever WLC win, but will have to do battle in Round Two if those dreams are to be realized.
Kaitlyn Maguire found an upset of her own with a massive win of her own over the powerhouses of Justine Mauvin and Chelsea Williams. Maguire has her eyes set on a Quarterfinal appearance to ensure her place in Taiwan later this year after missing the 2016 season due to earning her Physical Therapy doctorate. But she's now back with a mission.
"It feels so amazing to come back on tour and compete against such amazing surfers," Maguire said. "Chelsea Williams is someone I've always looked up to and to beat her is such an honor and Justine [Mauvin] was killing it in China last year so I knew the pressure was on. The conditions are just amazing, being out there with such good waves and having all the spectators from the local towns cheering at the end of your wave gets you so excited."
Honolua Blomfield smashed the final heat of the day with a rousing performance, earning a 7.83 and 5.67 to claim an impressive. She looked composed and kept her style intact despite a knee injury she suffered back in Noosa, Australia.
"I had an absolute blast out there with the waves being as good as they were," Blomfield said. "My knee isn't bothering that much since I got in, but it's been a tricky thing to deal with since I love to cross step and find the nose as much as I can. It was fun being able to find a few turns in some steeper sections and know that I'm capable to perform -- can't wait to get back in the water for more."