The quarterfinals at the 2013 Drug Aware Margaret River Pro are once again the domain of familiar faces, but the top seeds took the scenic route to get there. It's not often that you see Steph Gilmore, Carissa Moore, and Sally Fitzgibbons facing elimination in the fourth round. Still, you can't exactly call their struggles "upsets," because their round three conquerors are all major players in their own rights.
Bacchus finally lost the shootout to Neptune on Thursday and the swell came up after three unusually flat West Oz lay days. With the waiting period dwindling, contest officials opted for an early start to Thursday's full day of surfing.
Two-time defending champion Courtney Conlogue reveled in the six to eight-foot waves. At 6:20 on Thursday morning, dawn was just beginning to break, but Conlogue was already wide awake. She took the day's first wave right out from under Carissa Moore and wildcard Felicity Palmateer, scored a 6.83, and then quickly backed it up with a massive 9.17.
"The conditions are great," she said. "It's super glassy, and the swell's picked up. The contest director [Mike McAuliffe] made a great call having us come and dawn patrol it this morning. [That 9.17] was an absolutely amazing wave and if we get those non-stop today, it's going to be amazing action. Hopefully, I can get a couple more of those out there!"
The third heat of round three was certainly action-packed. There were two interference calls (on Sally Fitzgibbons and Laura Enever), which is an impressive feat in a round without priority.
"There were interferences flying everywhere in that one," Fitzgibbons said.
Alana Blanchard emerged victorious -- no thanks to her competitors' penalties, but to some stellar surfing and good wave selection. She's trying to better an equal fifth-place finish on the Gold Coast.
"I'm just taking it as it comes and trying to be super relaxed with it. I've been kind of surprising myself, but it's all good," Blanchard laughed in her post-heat interview.
During the following heat, the Indian Ocean defiantly withheld waves for 10 minutes. After a re-start, a flu-free Tyler Wright prevailed over Lakey Peterson and Paige Hareb with committed snaps and beautifully articulated cutbacks. She earned one of the day's higher two-wave totals, a 15.20, and continued unhindered to her second set of quarters this season.
"I'm feeling really good now," said Wright. "It was good that there were a few days to rest. This is my brother's board again. I should really give it back to him."
It was by Coco Ho's hand that Gilmore and Bianca Buitendag wound up in round four, and she banished them with a relatively humble 10.67. Ho said the new swell, with a slightly altered direction, is definitely better and that she's looking forward to matching up against Carissa Moore in the quarters.
"I'm really happy to be in the quarters," she said. "I'm stoked. I just wanted to get out of that round four and get good results because I feel like I could be a contender, but I need to start being more consistent."
DRUG AWARE MARGARET RIVER PRO RESULTS:
WOMEN'S ROUND 3:
HEAT 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 16.00, Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 12.40, Carissa Moore (HAW) 11.60
HEAT 2: Coco Ho (HAW) 10.67, Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 9.53, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 8.60
HEAT 3: Alana Blanchard (HAW) 12.83, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 6.94, Laura Enever (AUS) 1.25
HEAT 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) 15.20, Paige Hareb (NZL) 9.10, Lakey Peterson (AUS) 5.77
WOMEN'S ROUND 4:
HEAT 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 18.00 def. Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 7.70
HEAT 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.63 def. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 12.17
HEAT 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.73 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 12.03
HEAT 4: Paige Hareb (NZL) 8.50 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 6.00
UPCOMING WOMEN'S QUARTERFINAL MATCH-UPS:
QF 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
QF 2: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Carissa Moore (HAW)
QF 3: Alana Blanchard (HAW) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
QF 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)