It's crunch time for the women's qualification scenario as their 2018 Qualifying Series season nears its end, beginning with this weekend's White Buffalo Women's Hyuga Pro QS 3,000 October 19 - 21. The likes of current and former Championship Tour (CT) surfers are in attendance including Sage Erickson, Paige Hareb, and Pauline Ado alongside nearly all of the Top 30 QS elite vying for their shot at catapulting up the rankings to set themselves up for a big finish.
These top talents debuted strong and made easy work of the fun conditions on hand at Okuragahama Beach to the dismay of many Japanese competitors looking to make a statement on home soil.
But, within the local contingent eliminated, a few natives from the land of the rising sun earned their place into Round 2 beautifully and it was Amuro Tsuzuki who led the way with a big win over CT Erickson, who also advanced, and Pacha Luque-Light. Tsuzuki's light-footed, quick approach earned her a brilliant 14.66 (out of a possible 20) and started off her campaign in defining fashion.
"I was so stocked to win the first heat against such a good surfer like Sage and happy to earn a high score," Tsuzuki said. "The last two event results were not good enough so I'm happy to do well in that one. It's been hard but this early success helps and now I'll try to make more heats."
Former World Junior Champion Macy Callaghan lit up Okuragahama Beach with one of the day's top performances, earning a near-excellent 7.67 (out of a possible 10) and 7.10, on her signature forehand power surfing. The 18-year-old's searching for a big result to replace her 25th-place finish at Pantin, 700 points, and make a surge toward the Top 6 for the opportunity of CT qualification after getting plenty of experience at the highest level this season -- recently earning a runner-up at the Roxy Pro France.
"I've had a pretty fun year so far with a lot of CT starts and it was great to get my best result in France then straight here," Callaghan said. "This is my third time here and I love it here, the culture is amazing. There's definitely a difference between the conditions in France and here, but I'm sticking with the same boards -- it's a magic quiver at the moment."
New Zealand's CT veteran Hareb is flirting with the re-qualification line after a long-awaited return to the Dream Tour this season and put her ailments aside for a White Buffalo Hyuga Pro debut. The 28-year-old blasted a near-excellent 7.83 en route to her heat win over a Japanese duo including Sara Wakita, also advancing, and Julie Nishimoto. Hareb is no stranger to Japan's shores and took advantage of a new opportunity.
"It's a bit of a struggle dealing with some jet lag and being a bit sick so I don't feel like I have much energy out there," Hareb said. "But, it's fun and I guess you don't really feel sick when you're up and riding. It's a beachbreak so it's always changing, but there's a pretty fun bank out there so hopefully it sticks around for the contest. I think it's my fourth or fifth time to Japan and it's become one of my favorite countries. But, it's my first time here and it's putting on a show for us."
Afternoon conditions still provided some rare gems to capitalize on the back-half of Round 1 powered through and Zoe McDougall was the only top-seeded surfer not to advance into Round 2 as Tia Blanco put on a solid display alongside a surprise performance from Maiko Miyasaka. But, her fellow Hawaii-born, now Costa Rica representative Brisa Hennessy currently sits in a qualification spot and looks to defend it to the end.
Some other notable Round 1 wins included QS No. 16 Teresa Bonvalot, No. 20 Chelsea Tuach, Japanese competitor Minori Kawai, QS warrior Brianna Cope overtaking former event winner and last year's runner-up Dimity Stoyle who also advanced, and Camilla Kemp.
Event organizers will reconvene at 8:00 a.m. JST for a possible start to Round 2 action. Tune in LIVE throughout the event.