Sally Fitzgibbons jumped to second on the ASP World Tour ratings and halted Carissa Moore's winning streak today at the Rio Women's Pro after an electrifying final against the reigning world champion. Smooth, stylish, and consistent surfing, along with great wave selection, earned Fitzgibbons her second win (and fourth consecutive appearance in the final) at the Rio Pro.
"That is an incredible feeling," Fitzgibbons said. "That's what I've been chasing all season. It was really tricky conditions and Carissa started with that 8.5, and I just knew that I felt really strong and confident in my surfing. I knew I just had to be patient. So, it was a hard-fought battle and to win here in Rio again is super special."
Fitzgibbons is known for her first-in, last-out dedication and though she has steadily posted strong results, this is her first win of the 2014 season.
"I guess when you're working extremely hard, if you're not getting the result that you want, you just have to keep your head down and keep moving forward," she said. "That's what I did, especially after Bells, and I think that all of that hard work, in the end, it definitely pays off."
Heading into the final, Moore held the event's highest heat total (a 17.97) and she threw down an 8.5 to get things started. Fitzgibbons answered back with a 9.27. Sideshore wind added a little bit of chop to the sectiony three- to five-foot waves during the final, and the strong current kept both competitors paddling for the duration. Moore aimed for a couple of righthand barrels while Fitzgibbons picked off lefts. Both surfers have previously won this event and both posted excellent scores, a testament to their prowess in all kinds of conditions.
Fitzgibbons faced Rio Pro defending champion Tyler Wright in the semifinals and the training-partners-turned-sparring-partners certainly showed up with fully loaded arsenals. A couple of uncharacteristic mistakes on Wright's part let Fitzgibbons pull ahead and into the final. Wright finished equal third and remains third on the ASP's ratings.
"I took off on a lot of waves, but I didn't really do anything in the end, but it's okay," Wright said after the semi. "I knew that Sal was going to take advantage of those lefts and she did a really good job. I was happy to be out there and surfing."
Moore came up against Lakey Peterson in her semifinal and left her in a combination situation by earning a 17.97 heat score from the judges. Peterson actually claimed the event's second-highest heat score (17.13) in the third round and her third-place finish added 6,500 points to her season's total. She is at the forefront of women's aerial surfing, and her progressive technique served her well at Barra da Tijuca.
In fact, despite some hollow, heavy sections, Barra's sandy bottom and favorable winds encouraged more of the Top 17 to dabble in above-the-lip shenanigans (and other enlightened behavior) than ever before. Fitzgibbons, Moore, Wright, Peterson, and Silvana Lima were among the punters. We even saw Steph Gilmore, whose Gold Coast-honed repertoire is most recognized for its elegant carves, take flight. Nikki Van Dijk once again appeared fearless as she pulled enormous floaters and full-on air drops. Pauline Ado put her experience with French beachies to good use by finding gorgeous barrels.
So, maybe it's said after each comp these days, but with each event, the Top 17 really is changing the landscape and, with it, the very perception of female surfing.
With two wins under her belt, Moore is still the front-runner for the ASP Women's World Title as we approach the season's fifth event, the Fiji Women's Pro at the end of this month.