Moore, Wright vie for U.S. Open title

ASP/Rowland

Pauline Ado eliminated Sally Fitzgibbons in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, which gives felllow world title contenders Carissa Moore and Tyler Wright a chance to break away.

Friday and Saturday at the Vans US Open saw defending champion Lakey Peterson, five-time world champ Steph Gilmore, and world No. 3 Sally Fitzgibbons eliminated from the event -- the last, notably, by up-and-comer Pauline Ado in the quarterfinals. There were more glassy, two to three-foot waves up for grabs on Saturday, and though the final eight grappled with some lulls at high tide, they managed to earn several of their highest scores thus far.

After defeating Gilmore on Friday, Laura Enever said that she wants to stay in the top 10 this year, and that she was "happy to get a little roll going," but she knew that this heat against Courtney Conlogue would be a tough one. She opened with a spicy 6.83, but wasn't able to back it up, and Conlogue sailed through to the semis with the same stylish vigor that she's been showing us all week.

Top seed Tyler Wright took down Bianca Buitendag in the second quarterfinal. Unfortunately for these two shredders, the waves heading into high tide were few and far between -- and definitely on the fat side. The crowd erupted as Buitendag executed a massive layback fin bust in an attempt to catch Wright, but it proved just a little bit short.

Coco Ho locked in an 8.00 at the start of the third quarter, putting immediate pressure on her opponent, Carissa Moore. Moore wasn't bothered by it, though. She responded with a 9.50, the highest single wave score of the event. With 20 minutes left, she'd already posted the day's highest heat total, and she just kept it rolling, eventually scoring the event's highest, a 16.83.

"To be honest, when I saw that left, I was like, 'Hey, I'm going to give it the best shot that I have.' It had a long wall on it. It was funny because before I paddled out, my coach Shane [Beschen] and I were like, 'Let's just look for the rights.' I don't know how I always end up on those lefts, but I'm stoked it worked out," Moore laughed.

Ado and Fitzgibbons had to contend the worst of the tide, but both surfers were selective and their patience paid off. Ado looked completely in-control as she took the lead with an 8.50 and a 6.67. Fitzgibbons needed a 7.50 to retake the top spot and she managed a 7.10, turning priority over to Ado with very little time remaining. This will be a big frustration for Fitzgibbons, who is a T-word frontrunner, and a boost for 13th-ranked Ado.

"I'm just here to have fun and that's what I focus on. It seems to work, so I'm just going to keep on like that," Ado said after her upset.

What does all of this mean? Sally Fitz's fifth-place equals her worst result of the year, and it will put some more space between her, Moore, and Wright (who will earn minimum equal third results). Depending on how the rest of the comp plays out, Fitzgibbons and Conlogue may just switch places in the title ranking. The top four contenders will remain very close in points. Catch the semifinals on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. local time and the finals at noon. It's all happening!

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