There was no shortage of inspiration on Saturday as the women blasted through 20 heats of the 2013 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. AC/DC's "Hells Bells" played as round two got underway in two to four-foot surf under a brisk, orange sky. Twelve hours later, vitriolic shorebreak and a very high tide had forced spectators and fallen warriors off of the beach. Instead of splitting, they crammed into the grand stands and car parks lining the cliffs. No one wanted to walk away as clean, six to eight-foot sets steadily poured in. Hoots rose into the already hyper-charged atmosphere as Tyler Wright and Carissa Moore fought for their spots in a historic Easter Sunday final.
Contest officials decided early that Saturday would belong to the women. Too many excellent-range scores and suspenseful finishes to tally proved that when you put the current Top 17 into truly world-class waves, they can draw crowds (and lines) like the best of them.
"I think today has proven something for the girls -- not that we have to prove anything to anyone," quarterfinalist Steph Gilmore said. "But when we have good waves, we just perform so well. And not just the two or three girls at the top. every single girl."
"I'm not sure how you can't [surf well today], really. It's so rippable," Wright said after her round three win. "We haven't had waves this good in a long time and I think this really shows that the girls… we are loving it. It's perfect conditions."
Wright started her marathon in round two after an uncharacteristic loss to the talented wildcard, Nikki Van Dijk. She went on to defeat former world champion Sofia Mulanovich, Malia Manuel, Paige Hareb, Steph Gilmore, and Courtney Conlogue. Her surfing was impeccable and, more than that, all-consuming. There was no turning away.
"I haven't done this much surfing in a long time," Wright said, exhausted. "It was a long day, but a great day for women's surfing. You can't walk away from these waves, it's too good. Tonight, I guess I'll go home and just crash. I don't think I'll have any time to think about anything. I hope. I'm guessing they're going to finish the women's tomorrow -- I keep forgetting it's my birthday. It's going to be fantastic!"
Moore started her day in round three after a solid first-round win on Thursday. She took down Alana Blanchard, Pauline Ado, Silvana Lima, and, finally, Lakey Peterson in an insanely compelling semifinal match-up. Moore bested Peterson by just 0.17 points.
"It feels so good to be in the final!" Carissa Moore said, ecstatically. "It couldn't have been better today. It's amazing to be a part of women's surfing right now. It's so exciting to see how the title race is going to happen and Lakey surfed so well today. I'm just stoked that everyone's pushing each other to surf her best."
In addition to her equal third-place result, Peterson won the Momentum Energy "Power Round" bonus. Basically, the surfer with the highest heat total in round three receives a $5,000 reward. It's brilliant incentive for competitors to surf recklessly (read: progressively) in the non-elimination round. It kind of goes without saying that it worked like charm on Saturday. Peterson went berserk in the last heat and snagged the prize with two massive, back-to-back floaters.
"Sally [Fitzgibbons] got a good start, as always," Peterson said of the 9.97 ride. "I just knew there were good ones out there and I was patient. During that wave, I was like, 'Oh my God, this is such a good wave.' I was just excited to ride it and I felt like God just sent it to me, honestly. It's Easter weekend and he was just right there with me."
It was 6:00 pm when Peterson and Moore stood on the beach, waiting to learn their fates. The fact that they were surrounded by camera-wielding fans, fellow surfers, and amped-up reporters just magnified the feeling that women's surfing turned some kind of corner on Saturday, in terms of respect. The women surfed five rounds in challenging conditions--and surfed them well. That counted for something with the rest of the surf world.
The Rip Curl Pro will have a brand new winner after Moore and Wright meet in their second shared final of the season, which will likely be surfed on Easter Sunday. It also happens to be Wright's 19th birthday. The call is at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) 18.20 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 7.50
Heat 2: Pauline Ado (FRA) 15.67 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 6.20
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) 16.33 def. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 12.20
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.80 def. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 10.00
Heat 5: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 16.90 def. Sage Erickson (USA) 15.00
Heat 6: Paige Hareb (NZL) 12.33 def. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 12.17
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 16.54, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 14.97, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.83
Heat 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 16.83, Malia Manuel (HAW) 13.90, Paige Hareb (NZL) 8.18
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.50, Pauline Ado (FRA) 9.10, Alana Blanchard (AUS) 6.76
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) 18.00, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 17.44, Silvana Lima (BRA) 9.84
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Paige Hareb (NZL) 15.03 def. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 13.63
Heat 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 18.80 def. Malia Manuel (HAW) 15.37
Heat 3: Silvana Lima (BRA) 17.32 def. Pauline Ado (FRA) 11.17
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16.74 def. Alana Blanchard (HAW) 9.87
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 18.10 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 16.93
QF 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 16.87 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.83
QF 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 18.37 def. Silvana Lima (BRA) 9.77
QF 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) 16.43 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16.10
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH SEMIFINAL MATCH-UPS:
SF 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.67 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 12.73
SF 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 18.67 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 18.50