Carissa Moore joined an illustrious list of winners at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro on Sunday afternoon, but she became the first winner of the new Drug Aware Pro, which is currently the second stop on the ASP Women's World Tour. This year is the first since 1996 in which the Drug Aware Pro has carried an elite or World Tour rating. The 20-year-old Hawaiian's victory in West Oz also marked her first Tour win since the Billabong Rio Pro in 2011, the year she won her world title.
"It's an honor to be the first winner of this new 'CT event," she said. "And to win here at Margaret River -- it's definitely a challenging wave. You have to surf bigger boards and deal with different conditions every day, so it feels really good and I'm stoked."
Surfers Point was absurdly beautiful on the final day of the waiting period: Six to eight-foot sets polished the reef and the wind was virtually non-existent. Spectators gathered on the bluff to watch the world's best grapple with deceptively good-looking waves, and though the swell was alleged to be waning, the occasional colossus changed the entire playing field from Indian Ocean cerulean to unsettling white. The final between Moore and runner-up Tyler Wright was tense, with only six waves caught in 35 minutes. Both were pummeled by an enormous set early on, then endured a painful lull. With 12 minutes remaining, Moore, whose score was just 11.00, had Wright in a combination situation. Near the end of the final, Wright reduced Moore's lead, but there wasn't enough time for either of the surfers to post another significant score as the 35-minute heat dwindled and they found themselves out of position when even bigger sets began thundering in. Moore won the heat 11.00 to 6.94.
"Carissa really adapted to the conditions out there," Wright said cheerfully. "It got really tricky and funky, and I got cleaned up like four times. I think in the end, I needed a four, but I just didn't catch another wave. But that's all right! I feel really happy with a second and Carissa was ripping this whole event–as well as all the other girls."
Of the last six years of world titles, Steph Gilmore has owned five. The one that got away was claimed by Carissa Moore, so there's some history there. Despite a lot of water moving around during their semi, there were few rideable waves. Both surfers took a few spills. Gilmore ultimately couldn't better her 9.56 to get past Moore's 13.27. Afterward, she kept her chin up but admitted that two third-place finishes aren't exactly how she likes to start off the year. "We were just dealing with bumps, I think. Even the guys," she said. "You're either on a role, or you're just not, and it's really hard to switch back on. I'll take this to Bells and ... actually, I won't take this to Bells! I'll try my best to do better [there]."
If the Gilmore/Moore clash seemed somewhat anticlimactic, Wright's defeat of Sally Fitzgibbons in the second semi was a spirited fray. Both posted several waves and excellent scores. Fitzgibbons is versatile and her turns seem to expand as the swell does, so her surfing looks sharp, even in behemoth (often slower) conditions. But Wright commanded Sunday's waves. She easily claimed the heat, even after a nasty bounce off the reef.
Heading to the third Tour stop, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, Wright still leads the title ranking, though she'd rather stay in the moment and enjoy the ride. She says that it's too early in the season to tell what may happen.
"It's only been two events and we have a few more," Moore agreed. "It looks like it'll be pretty tight with the title race, but there are girls who didn't make it to the final day who can cause upsets and win events, so it'll be really interesting to see how everything pans out."
DRUG AWARE MARGARET RIVER PRO RESULTS:
Carissa Moore (HAW) 11.00 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 6.94
WOMEN'S SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.27 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 9.56
SF 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 18.43 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.83