Tahiti's Vahine Fierro defeated Hawaiian Summer Macedo in the Final to win the 2017 Jeep World Junior Championship - Women's, becoming the first Tahitian to win a WSL World Title. The victory was the culmination of a dramatic run for the dark-horse Champ, the relative unknown didn't lose a single heat the entire event.
"This is such an amazing way to end my Junior career and kick off my 2018 season," Fierro said. "This is the first time I have been to the World Junior Championship and to win is so special, especially when I was so close to missing out on the event.
Fierro, who grew up on the island of Huahine (population 6,500) but learned to surf on the main isle of Tahiti, rides waves with the flow and athletic prowess of a Polynesian hula dancer. She's thrived under the tutelage of her coach, Tahitian legend Hira Teriinatoofa, qualified via the European region and was granted a wildcard entry as the No. 5-ranked junior surfer in Europe. She did not let the opportunity slip away.
"Today was crazy with a lot of heats to surf but after a few lay days we were all so excited to surf which made it easier. That was my third Final with Summer which is so cool, as we are great friends. I'm really speechless at the moment, I just can't believe it."
It would be a massive understatement to say it was just a long Finals day in Kiama. But with a declining swell in the immediate forecast and just a couple days left in the event window, WSL Deputy Commissioner Travis Logie was forced to pull the trigger. A total of 28 heats were surfed over the course of 12 hours, with both Finalists having surfed four competitive heats today. Endurance and fatigue were a huge factor.
Unlike her friend Fierro, Macedo's a well-known entity, another link in the chain of exceptional female surfers to emerge from Hawaii's deep talent pool. She methodically moved through the early rounds, consistently outwitting and out-performing her opponents with power and precision. In the Final, she held her ground and stuck to her game plan, but the waves just never materialized for the surfer from Lahaina Town, Maui. She'll get another chance next year.
Earlier, when young Brazilian Taina Hinckel beat Macy Callaghan in Quarterfinals, the scene was set for a coup -- there would not be a repeat women's World Champion this year. The door was blown wide open for an array of surfers outside of surfing's traditional powers, specifically Australia and the US, to step in and take center stage. And if the list of Semifinalists, which also included surfers from Japan and Brazil, is any indication, women's surfing at an international level is in good shape.
Semifinalist Taina Hinckel surfed with a maturity beyond her young age and her win over Callaghan could be a turning point for her country, which has not produced the same number of top-class female surfers as it has men, who've come to dominate the junior and Qualifying Series ranks.
Is Taina Hinckel the first lightning strike of a female Brazilian Storm? Only time will tell, but with four more chances at the brass ring, odds are in her favor.
Vahine Fierro (PYT) 12.83 def. Summer Macedo (HAW) 6.36
Heat 1: Vahine Fierro (PYT) 11.67 def. Taina Hinckel (BRA) 9.00
Heat 2: Summer Macedo (HAW) 9.17 def. Minori Kawai (JPN) 7.53
Heat 1: Vahine Fierro (PYT) 12.00 def. Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 8.10
Heat 2: Taina Hinckel (BRA) 9.93 def. Macy Callaghan (AUS) 9.60
Heat 3: Minori Kawai (JPN) 12.00 def. Zahli Kelly (AUS) 8.83
Heat 4: Summer Macedo (HAW) 13.74 def. Zoe McDougall (HAW) 9.33