The much-downplayed ASP Womens world title race has opened wide up on the second day of competition at the 2013 Dow AgroSciences Pro in New Zealand. First, Lakey Peterson defeated current world number two Tyler Wright in the fourth round, and then fifth-ranked Courtney Conlogue eliminated title front runner Carissa Moore in the second quarterfinal.
At this point, the Beachley Classic in Dee Why, Sydney has been pulled from the 2013 WCT schedule, and though there are rumors of an added women's event this autumn in Portugal, it has yet to be confirmed. That means that New Zealand marks the fourth of just seven women's events and, more than halfway through the women's season, the race is definitely taking shape.
Moore will still earn 5,200 points for her equal fifth-place result in Taranaki, and Wright will get 4,000 for her ninth. Sally Fitzgibbons has the best shot of catching them, and they're still out of her reach at this event--even if she wins. However, the gap between Fitzgibbons and a number one rank would be significantly narrowed, to just 2,000 points.
Naturally, Fitzgibbons, who defeated Lakey Peterson in the quarters, said it's not on her radar. "There are still so many events," she said, "and I'm just happy to be through to the semis. I feel like I've been putting in some really hard work and feeling the strongest I've felt, so I'm trying to put that into the heats and hopefully, the waves cooperate. I think small thought processes are what goes into it, not so much the big picture."
Friday's quarters were action-packed, but the conditions at the start of the day, during the women's third round, were pretty spectacular. On a mission to complete the contest ahead of a rapidly declining swell, round three began just as the sun cracked the horizon and the Top 17 surfed until it finished its arc across the sky. The only break in four rounds was on account of a pesky low-tide. The only issue was the occasional closeouts, but for the most part, light (but chilling) offshore winds made for bump-free faces and plenty of barrels. "I just wish it would get a little warmer!" Moore said after her round three win. "I think that these conditions are great for the girls. I mean, beautiful beach break and offshores?"
Moore skipped elimination round four, along with Fitzgibbons, Steph Gilmore, and Malia Manuel. Manuel's hand-painted Tiki boards were nearly as striking as her velvety surfing. She said they probably brought her some Hawaiian juju, but don't think her win had anything to do with luck. She lassoed the day's second highest total, a 17.20, in a very active heat against fearsome twosome Coco Ho and Wright. She ultimately met her demise at the hands of Ho in the quarters -- her best result this year.
A nine-point barrel helped Gilmore get through a challenging heat against Conlogue and Bec Woods. She matched up against Woods again in the first quarter, humbly saying that she capitalized on a weird timing error that threw Woods's rhythm.
"Bec's a really experienced surfer and I think her backhand is her strongest point, so I didn't want to let my guard down in that heat," Gilmore said. "They [the semifinals] are all really hard at this point, it just gets harder, so I'm just going to do my best."
After taking down Laura Enever in round four, Conlogue went on to steal the win from Moore in the final minutes of their quarterfinal. She and Gilmore will have a re-match Saturday morning in the semis. "Steph, as her five titles say, is absolutely on point," Conlogue said. "Whenever you come up against someone like that, they're very intelligent about every decision they make and then they have the skill behind it to back it, so you definitely have to be on your game. It's a totally new heat tomorrow. She got me in that last round, so maybe I can get her this time," she laughed.
TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.50, Rebecca Woods (AUS) 11.85, Courtney Conlogue (USA) 11.60
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.75, Laura Enever (AUS) 5.25, Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 3.60
Heat 3: Malia Manuel (HAW) 17.20, Coco Ho (HAW) 12.20, Tyler Wright (AUS) 9.35
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 12.40, Lakey Peterson (USA) 9.50, Sage Erickson (USA) 1.55
TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Rebecca Woods (AUS) 10.00 def. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 9.85
Heat 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 13.00 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 12.20
Heat 3: Coco Ho (HAW) 12.05 def. Sage Erickson (USA) 5.10
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) 15.20 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.20
TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.26 def. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 12.77
QF 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 15.87 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.17
QF 3: Coco Ho (HAW) 14.84 def. Malia Manuel (HAW) 13.77
QF 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 17.27 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 14.43
TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL SEMIFINAL MATCH-UPS:
SF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA)
SF 2: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)