Friday's sunrise run through the women's quarterfinals at the Margaret River Pro yielded no interferences and no close calls. Truth be told, there were no doubts whatsoever about which of the eight remaining surfers should have advanced to the semifinals. While the match-ups promised the drama of narrow defeats, each heat had a clear leading lady, and the standouts of the day were Aussie Sally Fitzgibbons and Hawaiian Carissa Moore.
The gap between Fitzgibbons and Kauai's Alana Blanchard was simply too great to bridge with the thorny, four to seven-foot waves on offer during the women's quarters. Fitzgibbons went for the righthanders, surfing them with a lot of zeal, but also with relative caution. She defeated Blanchard 15.40 to 4.77, a margin that seems slightly less harsh when compared with the outcome of the quarterfinal between Coco Ho and Carissa Moore.
Moore paddled out with the intention of taking risks. "I think my strategy was just to keep my head out there, keep a positive attitude, and hopefully, roll the dice a few times," she said. Ho, her friend and fellow Hawaiian, just couldn't find the waves she was looking for. The end result wasn't pretty -- 15.17 to 1.86 -- but Moore freely conceded that conditions were trying.
"There are a lot of walls that are chattering," she said. "I fell flat on my face on like two or three waves, but I'm stoked that a couple of them lined up." A few years' worth of rivalry will be fueled when Moore faces Steph Gilmore in the first semifinal. "To come up against Steph is something to really look forward to," Moore said.
Courtney Conlogue did not want to give up her throne in WA, where she's one of just four people who's won the Drug Aware Pro back-to-back. She also did not want to allow Steph Gilmore easy passage en route to a sixth world title. But Gilmore said, "I'm not really thinking titles right now. A title's just a name, really."
The thing about Gilmore is that she approaches competition differently than almost anyone else. She's collected -- even under pressure, even when she's overslept (which she did on Friday). And she may not have been considering world domination on Friday morning, but she wasn't considering losing, either. So, the first quarter was the tightest heat of the day, but the world champ came out on top.
"I just went out there and surfed," she said, "and I knew that Courtney was going to be the hardest to beat. But I was actually thinking of my result on the Gold Coast, and how, if I got a lesser result here, that would affect [me] going to Bells."
Australian Tyler Wright takes a similar approach to her heats, and it usually returns similar successes. By midmorning, when she and New Zealand's Paige Hareb (a past Margaret River winner) hit the water, there were long lulls between fat waves, but Wright made it all look easy.
"Not as easy as the guys. I just saw Kolohe [Andino] get two turns and an air reverse. It's like, [sighs] 'What-ever,'" she joked. "No, it is tricky, but if you get the right wave, it's not bad." And as for her current place ahead of the pack, she said, "It's the second event out of like eight, so I'd rather just do what I like doing. That's surfing, making heats, and having fun. Otherwise, you just stress yourself out over nothing."
DRUG AWARE MARGARET RIVER PRO RESULTS:
QF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 10.93 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 8.34
QF 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.17 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 1.86
QF 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.40 def. Alana Blanchard (HAW) 4.77
QF 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.17 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 8.74
UPCOMING WOMEN'S SEMIFINAL MATCH-UPS:
SF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Carissa Moore (HAW)
SF 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)