Tyler Wright launched her annual campaign for global domination with a win at the 2013 Roxy Pro Gold Coast on Saturday. The 18-year-old Australian previously won the O'Neill Women's World Cup in Hawaii and Sydney's Beachley Classic with wildcard entries, but Saturday's Roxy Pro victory marked her first elite win since qualifying for the World Championship Tour in 2011.
"Last year, I had an up-and-down season, I wasn't happy with it," Wright admitted. "I went through some tough times and I wasn't really into surfing that much. I did really different stuff for the first time in my life. I had a good break and I got back to training. To come back and win the first event -- it's 'Wow.' for me. And to have my whole family here. I'm speechless right now, really."
The eighth day of the waiting period was a short burst of competition for the women, including just three final heats. Working from the top down, Wright dethroned defending champion Stephanie Gilmore in the first semifinal and moved on to take out world-ranked number two (and close friend) Sally Fitzgibbons in the final.
After a brief stint at Kirra and a lay day on Friday, the Roxy Pro resumed on Saturday at its rightful spot: Snapper Rocks. But Snapper felt jilted. She didn't want to give up the goods that easily.
Watching the best surfers in the world surf imperfect waves is kind of like watching a Formula 1 driver slog through mud. Mercurial winds and shifting tides made for somewhat inconsistent conditions as the women completed the semis and worked hard for their mid-range scores.
Gilmore and Wright made like Parko and put on a spectacular show of power surfing in the first semi's clean two to three-foot waves. Wright took the lead with five minutes remaining and then Gilmore threw out one of those physics-defying laybacks just before the buzzer. But it wasn't enough to overthrow the phenom. Unfortunately for Fitzgibbons and Carissa Moore, the second semifinal offered mainly small, sectiony, and difficult to manage waves (reverses not withsantadning.) Fitzgibbons found sufficient power to accumulate nearly 15 points and advance to the final.
"It was really challenging conditions out there," Fitzgibbons said, "and with an amazing opponent like Carissa, you know you have to be right on your game, so I think that couple of free surfs I had yesterday and this morning really helped me out."
Third-place finisher Carissa Moore agreed that the conditions weren't superb, but added, "You just have to roll with the punches and be able to adapt. That's surfing and that's what makes our sport super unique."
Luckily, when the tide improved, the waves picked up, as did the scores. Fitzgibbons opened a gripping final with an 8.33 and, after some early volleying, she maintained a delicate lead as she and Wright exchanged blows for the next 20 minutes. In the last seconds, Wright and Fitzgibbons both caught waves and waited on the beach for the judges to post their scores. Both surfers' teams prepared their sponsors' appropritate headware in anticipation of the presentation. Wright's earned her a 9.20; Fitzgibbons's was a 6.40.
"Coming up against Tyler," Fitzgibbons said, "I've grown up with her and I know that she's a hardworking, dedicated surfer just like me, and so she is a very deserving winner and it was a great battle."
ROXY PRO GOLD COAST FINAL RESULTS:
1. Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.97
2. Sally Fitzgibbons 16.66
ROXY PRO GOLD COAST SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.50 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.50
SF 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.97 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 10.93