The Papara Pro Open Tahiti, a men's and women's QS 1,000, kickstarted into action with women's Round 1 and 2 getting underway in two-foot, occasional three, clean surf at the Tahitian beach break, with a few breakthrough performances illuminating the competition. Hawaii's top up-and-coming competitors continued to shine alongside Tahiti's lone Quarterfinal representative Kohai Fierro, as she looks to bring an event title to Tahitians.
The Papara Pro Junior Tahiti finalists picked up right where they left off as third-place finisher, Luana Silva (HAW) went to work on her forehand attack to accrue the day's second-highest heat total of a 14.73 over Round 1 standouts Haylee Bovermann (HAW) and Mathilde Monbrison (HAW) along with Pro Junior runner-up Nora Liotta (HAW) also advancing with a solid performance. Silva's QS success in 2020 has her sitting at No. 18 on the rankings - already taking a victory in Australia before this event.
"I'm looking at this as a completely different event and just hit the reset button heading into that heat," Silva said. "I was trying to stay as busy as possible since there wasn't much out there and wanted to get the first wave of the heat to start my momentum. It's really exciting to be back into the Quarterfinals of a QS and I'm looking forward to better waves and I think it should be fun."
Fellow Pro Junior finalist and eventual victor Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) dropped the hammer in Round 1 with an excellent 8.00 (out of a possible 10) and 14.00 (out of a possible 20) heat total. Johnson showed her patience after a flurry of throwaway scores, meaning they did not count toward her heat total, and took that strategy into a battle for first place in Round 2 with fellow Oahu, Hawaii, competitor Leila Riccobuano (HAW). One last exchange between the two decided the heat and Johnson with a heat-best 8.33 to shut it down alongside her good friend.
"It was super fun surfing that heat with Leila (Riccobuano) and we just tried to share the lineup and it worked out perfectly," said Johnson. "My plan was to bring that momentum from yesterday into today and it worked. It would be unreal to take out both of these events but I think I'm even more excited to surf a head-to-head heat. It'll be my first time doing that so I'm really looking forward to it."
Fierro came out of the gates with an impressive Round 1 performance before an even better showing in Round 2 to give her Tahitian crowd moments of elation. Younger sister to former WSL Junior Champion Vahine Fierro (PYF), Kohai's backhand strikes were undeniable on the running righthander of Papara's beach break until regional standout Savanna Stone (HAW) smashed her last opportunity on the buzzer for a 7.10 and a big heat win.
Last year's event runner-up, Stone, has a win in her sights after her first-ever victory was on these shores in 2017.
"I'm really happy there are some waves after everybody was talking about it getting smaller but there's a lot of opportunity out there," said Stone. "All you need is two waves. It's really nice when you get an opportunity like that in the end and I wish I could've pushed hard and gone faster but I can just save that for the next heat. I would be so stoked to take back the victory here at Papara because it's such a special place and you just get see all the mountains in the background when you're getting chaired- up, it's so beautiful here."
The youngest competitor in attendance, Erin Brooks (HAW), 12, put on an incredible display of technique and flow on her forehand throughout opening day. The Oahu competitor put on a dominant Round 1 performance and showed her ability to persevere in a showdown in Round 2 with fellow Hawaii competitor Stella Valdez. Brooks looks to one of Tahiti's standout big wave and QS competitors, Tereva David, as her coach and mentor; her approach to attacking waves is one to watch.
"It was actually really fun on the lefts even though it was a little flat on the start it would bowl up at the end and reminded me a little bit of Rockies back home," said Brooks. "It's nice to get started in competitions young but all the girls are ripping so it's pretty hard to keep up (laughs). Stella (Valdez) got that seven and then I was able to get two good ones for the lead but then she got a banger to end on. I'm really looking forward to more fun waves and trying to get a good result."