Cut day. The equivalent to what is known as "Moving Day" in the PGA where eliminations begin and a finals day draw is shaped unfolded at the Freshwater Pro presented by Outerknown. From World Title contenders to first-time Surf Ranch Championship Tour (CT) competitors, no one was safe from the pressures of perfection.
Heavy implications awaited on cut day with surfers sitting beyond the Top 24 cutline for the men and Top 12 cutline for women facing elimination from competition. The men's Round of 36 and women's Round 18 were brought to a close where only the Top 24 men and Top 12 women had a chance at redemption toward earning their place into the finals draw.
Who's In, Who's Out
World Title contender Sally Fitzgibbons was the first to face elimination, falling just .07 short of the required score while fellow contender Courtney Conloguecapitalized on her bonus attempt and pushed her way into the Top 4. Conlogue must await the likes of seven-time WSL World Champion Stephanie Gilmore and fellow Californian contender Lakey Peterson to have their bonus waves tomorrow before her position is secure.
"There's a lot of anticipation for these four waves and just composing yourself and realizing your surfing this amazing wave," said Conlogue. "I always just love to improve and draw some different lines after seeing the same ones over and over again - just give it a little twist. Whatever happens, happens. I gave it everything I had and I enjoyed it."
A surfer-by-surfer shuffle followed in the men's contingent but it was Owen Wright who played ultimate spoiler, finishing off the day with a clutch performance moving from No. 20 to No. 3 on the leaderboard heading into finals day and eliminating Kanoa Igarashi.
"I just dug deep and it was that Aussie spirit there and I knew I had to perform," Wright said. "The entire day I just knew that this was it and make the few tweaks I know I needed to make but got it done. I trusted that I'm just a competitor and if I get that opportunity to catch a wave, just let me at it."
World Title Contenders Debut in Defining Fashion
Last year's event runner-up and current Jeep Rankings Leader Filipe Toledo wasn't to be outdone by World No. 2 Jordy Smith, who dropped an excellent 8.57, and posted a near-perfect 9.27 on his first righthander. An early stumble on the left showed an uncharacteristic mistake from the World Title contender but Toledo was able to reset and deliver his signature flair with a critical, inverted finish to recover from a near-detrimental start.
"That was interesting, I was feeling really good on that wave and it's just one little mistake and you're done," Toledo said. "I tried to throw the fins a little bit and got stuck behind but it happens and I was stoked to be able to make it up on the right. The main goal from that second run was to improve on my left and I'm excited I did that."
Fellow World No. 1 Carissa Moore arrived at the Freshwater Pro as defending event winner on the hunt for a fourth WSL Title. The Hawaiian wasn't phased after stumbling on her opening lefthander and recovered incredibly with a near-perfect 9.03. Solid performances from fellow Hawaiian Coco Ho and World Title threat Courtney Conlogue kept Moore out of the Top 10 until she redeemed herself on the left with a 7.20 to move up to No. 2 on the event leaderboard to all-but guarantee a finals day spot.
"I think this event is just mental because we all know how to surf so it's all just not overthinking anything, letting go of the pressure and expectations, and just trusting you know what you're going to do," Moore said. "It's tough when you only have a few opportunities and you fall then you know you have to perform. That second left helped take the pressure off a little bit and it's nice to be sitting where I am heading into tomorrow."
Smith put on a show in his second run after a disappointing first attempt before Toledo took to the water that had him sitting at No. 12 on the event leaderboard. A dominant backhand attack started his second lefthander and garnered a 7.33 to enter the Top 10 before wreaking havoc on his forehand to earn an excellent 8.57 and move him to No. 2 - before Wright's performance - on the leaderboard.
"I just put everything in that last one and just engaged the core (laughs)," Smith said. "My plan is just to stick with what I do best and that's power turns. I'm not competing with what other guys do well and focus on my own surfing which is the big open face turns. That leaderboard is the best thing ever just to see it change like that."
The 17-year-old phenom Caroline Marks made noise at the Surf Ranch last season with an immaculate air-reverse and brought that fire back in her 2019 debut. Currently No. 5, Marks finds herself in striking distance of being a World Title threat and showcased her composure under pressure with a dominant 8.73 backhand attack to start. The San Clemente, California, transplant rocketed to No. 2 - before Moore pushed her to No. 3 - on the event leaderboard and has the opportunity to be in the Top 4.
"Improving on the left was a goal of mine so I'm stoked but it's unique not surfing a wave for two days and hanging around Lemoore," Marks said. "I haven't really been focusing on the results. That's when I'm doing my best because I just love surfing so much and try not to put too much pressure on myself. My goal is to just get better and better every day and just be the best person I can be and I'm having so much fun with it."
Surf Ranch CT First-Timers Falter
An unfortunate day unfolded for rookies and wildcards hoping to give the world's best a run, with none left standing following the first cut day. Jett Schilling let the world know what he's capable of on his first-ever CT wave, garnering a 7.23 to start his Freshwater Pro campaign but couldn't find a righthander to back it up. Fellow San Clemente, California, native and wildcard Kade Matson earned a bonus opportunity to put his name into the finals day draw but also fell victim to the power of perfection.
Rookie sensation Brisa Hennessy came into this event with plenty of momentum currently ranked No. 9 but failed to post a number higher than her 5.83 while fellow rookie Macy Callaghancontinues her search for a big result in 2019.
Men's Freshwater Pro pres. by Outerknown Leaderboard Top 8
- Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.77
- Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.07
- Owen Wright (AUS) 15.97
- Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.90
- Griffin Colapino (USA) 15.50
- Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.97
- Wade Carmichael (AU)S 14.90
- Willian Cardoso (BRA) 14.70
Click here for full leaderboard
Women's Freshwater Pro pres. by Outerknown Leaderboard Top 4
- Johanne Defay (FRA) 17.50
- Carissa Moore (HAW) 16.23
- Caroline Marks (USA) 16.10
- Courtney Conlogue (USA) 15.83
Click here for full leaderboard