The late afternoon sesh on New Zealand's west coast is a beautiful thing. As the women surfed through round two of the Dow AgroSciences Pro on Thursday, the sinking sun backlit the six-foot jade faces -- and their offshore spray. It was a complete 180 from earlier that morning, when the comp's first heats grappled with small and restless conditions in this fourth event of the ASP Womens Tour.
"It's good," Malia Manuel said, matter-of-factly, after her round two heat against Silvana Lima -- who fully earned her "pocket rocket" reputation on Thursday. The Brazilian made numerous attempts at progressive airs. For instance, the no-grab reverse that she securely landed -- just on the wrong side of the wave.
Coco Ho won a tight round one battle against Steph Gilmore and Sage Erickson--both of whom went on to win their second round heats. Gilmore earned the highest two-wave total of the event so far, an 18.40. Her trademark fluidity was kind of mesmerizing and the "non-displaced fracture" in her foot was definitely undetectable as she carved up Taranaki's exquisite walls.
"I almost wasn't going to come because of my foot," Gilmore said, "but it felt pretty good and I saw the forecast and thought I may as well come over and try to get some good waves. The surf's really fun [today], and I think all of the girls appreciate when we have good waves and we put on a good show, no matter how big the contest is or what's on the line. Surfing good waves: I think that's all that matters."
Lakey Peterson's mindset changed at Bells. She doesn't know exactly why -- maybe because her whole team was present, but she was able to flip her approach to heats and relax. The result at Bells was a scintillating round three. And, of course, that semi match-up with Carissa Moore. In Taranaki, the new, cruisy Peterson blew her round one opponents out of the water with a 17.60 that included a perfect 10.
"I was watching Kelly [Slater] and he's so relaxed, he just sits in the spot and the wave comes to him every time," Peterson said. "Granted, he's like a freak, but … it seems to work. I've found a good balance of competitive and smart, but also just surfing my heat and not worrying about who's in it. I was kind of hesitant, but when I finally let go and saw that it worked, it was really great for my confidence."
Sage Erickson eliminated local heroine Paige Hareb (and about half of the people on the beach left) in a close round two heat.
"Round two is the one that counts if you don't win round one, so I'm glad I made that count," Erickson said. "It's always tough coming up against your friends. Our whole Tour is really close, so I think we kind of leave the battle for out there in the water and we're friends on the beach. I respect Paige. No hard feelings." The Dow AgroSciences Pro will most likely resume on Friday with round three, another non-elimination round. Rumor has it that Sally Fitzgibbons has been nailing airs in her free surfs, so perhaps we'll see another "power round" in the morning.
TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 11.75, Paige Hareb (NZL) 10.35, Malia Manuel (HAW) 7.15
Heat 2: Coco Ho (HAW) 12.75, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.45, Sage Erickson (USA) 9.95
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.50, Pauline Ado (FRA) 9.25, Ella Williams (NZL) 6.35
Heat 4: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 13.15, Tyler Wright (AUS) 12.35, Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 8.05
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16.50, Rebecca Woods (AUS) 13.10, Silvana Lima (BRA) 10.10
Heat 6: Lakey Peterson (USA) 17.60, Laura Enever (AUS) 13.50, Alana Blanchard (HAW) 4.35
TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) 15.60 def. Silvana Lima (BRA) 11.10
Heat 2: Sage Erickson (USA) 14.00 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 13.60
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.90 def. Ella Williams (NZL) 12.70
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 18.40 def. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 16.50
Heat 5: Rebecca Woods (AUS) 13.35 def. Alana Blanchard (HAW) 9.00
Heat 6: Laura Enever (AUS) 15.95 def. Pauline Ado (FRA) 15.90
UPCOMING TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL ROUND 3 MATCH UPS:
Heat 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Courtney Conlogue (USA), Rebecca Woods (AUS)
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF), Laura Enever (AUS)
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS), Coco Ho (HAW), Malia Manuel (HAW)
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Lakey Peterson (USA), Sage Erickson (USA)