With a win at the Colgate Plax Rio Girls' Pro on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, Tyler Wright flew back up to the top of the ASP Women's World Title rankings. Wright said she hadn't made a quarterfinal in Rio before, so this victory over defending champion Sally Fitzgibbons felt exceptionally rewarding.
"It feels pretty cool. I'd always struggle with the size of the waves, [which are] always so small. But I found this board and it's … going good! I like it!" she said.
Wright didn't appear to struggle at all with Barra da Tijuca's inconsistent 2 to 4-foot waves Saturday. In fact, a passing glance would indicate a very average beach break, but keeping an eye on Wright, you'd quickly pick out the bombs because she was on almost every one.
It wasn't just masterful wave selection that earned Wright her win. She's continually pushing the boundaries of women's surfing, and in Rio, she pushed even harder. Wright paddled for the biggest and best set waves, found secret passages to barrels, and took flight on several occasions.
"You see a section and it's just me to say, 'I'll try an air,'" Wright said. "I've been watching my brothers and they're just 'sick as.' They get so high! You just watch them and you're like, 'How do you do that?' But I mean, Carissa's [Moore] doing them, Lakey's [Peterson] doing them, Courtney [Conlogue] pulled an air reverse yesterday … it's just what we're doing. Keeping up with the times."
Throwing airs is still risky for the women, and even when they land them, the scores don't always follow. But the respect does. Many of the Top 34 showed up Friday and Saturday just to watch the women compete, which is becoming more common than ever before.
During Saturday's final, Wright popped a slob that surely did her brothers, Owen and Mikey, proud: She got the serious height she's been craving, landed it, and rode out clean.
Runner-up Fitzgibbons is also at the front lines when it comes to progression in women's surfing and though she couldn't get past Wright this time, she promised to keep fighting. After the fifth WWCT event, she's moved up to third, Moore is now in second and Conlogue, who finished equal fifth, slipped to fourth.
"It's always nice to keep moving up the ratings, [but] I think that's an afterthought," Fitzgibbons said. "At this stage, I'm actually in a really great position in that I love coming from behind and being the underdog, so hopefully we can come through in the background and cause a few upsets."
So yeah, the waves were on the small side during the finals of the Colgate Rio Pro. The implications of what was done with them, however, are grand. The unmentionable title race is now even closer than it was heading to South America, so look for some intense matchups come July in France.
COLGATE PLAX GIRLS RIO PRO FINAL RESULTS:
1. Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.80
2. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.67
COLGATE PLAX GIRLS RIO PRO SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.90 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 11.97
SF 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.94 def. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 13.64
COLGATE PLAX GIRLS RIO PRO QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.50 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 8.34
QF 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.10 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 10.24
QF 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) 15.83 def. Malia Manuel (HAW) 13.74
QF 4: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 12.20 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 11.33
ASP WOMEN'S WCT TOP 5 (Following Colgate Plax Girls Rio Pro):
1. Tyler Wright (AUS) 40,000 points
2. Carissa Moore (HAW) 38,200
3. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 34,200
4. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 32,100
5. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 26,450