The Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic, the fourth of seven events on the 2011 ASP Women's World Tour, was underway Monday in heavy four-to-six-foot surf at Dee Why Point, north of Sydney, Australia.
Coming into this contest, the richest on the women's schedule, with 140,000 in prize money, Sally Fitzgibbons was the name on everyone's lips as she arrived perched atop the ASP women's world rankings and riding two consecutive event wins.
Fitzgibbons faced 16-year-old Nikki Van Dijk and 19-year-old Laura Enever in round one and unexpectedly stumbled. Forced to surf round two instead of advancing straight to round three, Fitzgibbons quickly regained form by dispatching Claire Bevilacqua, Courtney Conlogue, and Sofia Mulanovich to advance to the quarterfinal.
"I've had a few surfs now to get into the swing of things," Fitzgibbons told the ASP yesterday afternoon. "This morning I didn't get the best of the exchanges but by the third round I felt like I'd found my spot in the line-up and I was just having fun out there."
Current ASP Women's world number two Carissa Moore surfed like someone eager to avenge her recent string of runners-up finishes. She posted a close-to-perfect performance in the third round, unleashing a powerful series of on-the-rail carves to score a two-wave heat total of 19.25 (out of 20.00).
"It's really important to have a good result here but I'm trying not to think about the points or the prize money, I think that adds more pressure," Moore told the ASP. "This year has definitely been a challenge, there is a lot of talent and all the girls are really excited and fired up, they want it and I think that makes for great competition."
Stephanie Gilmore, the 23-year-old reigning four-time ASP Women's World Champion and three-time winner at Dee Why, has had a slowstart to the 2011 seaso. She's posted a fifth, a third and a ninth in the first three events.
The Australian icon is currently sitting at number five and had to earn her ticket to the quarterfinals yesterday with a hard-fought win over rookie, Tyler Wright.
"Not to take anything away from the past few years, but this year is definitely the first year that it's been a challenge for me," Gilmore told the ASP. "Every heat is tough. Everyone is so good and they all want to win."
Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 12.25, Coco Ho (HAW) 8.40, Rebecca Woods (AUS) 3.65
Heat 2:Silvana Lima (BRA) 14.50, Courtney Conlogue (USA) 13.75, Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 10.25
Heat 3: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 14.50, Laura Enever (AUS), 12.75, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.20
Heat 4:Carissa Moore (HAW) 10.85, Claire Bevilacqua (AUS) 6.90, Paige Hareb (NZL) 6.60
Heat 5:Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.75, Pauline Ado (FRA) 7.75, Alana Blanchard (HAW) 7.00
Heat 6:Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.90, Melanie Bartels (HAW) 15.25, Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 14.25
Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Melanie Bartel (Haw) 13.65 Paulne Ado (FRA) 12.75
Heat 2: Coutney Conlogue (USA) 15.10 Rebecca Woods (Aus) 8.25
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (Aus) 18.25 Claire Bevilacqua (Aus) 13:00
Heat 4: Coco Ho (Haw) 14:00 Alana Blanchard (Haw) 9.60
Heat 5: Chelsea Hedges (Aus) 12.65 Jessi Miley-Dyer (Aus) 11.95
Heat 6: Paige Hareb (Aus) 15:00 Laura Enever (Aus) 13.75
Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Silvana Lima (BRZ) 16:25, Coco Ho (Haw) 13.50, Nikki Van Dijik (Aus) 5.30
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (Aus) 16:15, Coutney Conlogue (USA) 8.55, Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 6.40
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 19.25, Paige Hareb (NZL) 12.55, Chelsea Hedges (Aus) 9.00
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 17.85, Tyler Wright (AUS) 16.00, Melanie Bartels (HAW) 14.50
Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic Round 4 Pairings:
Heat 1: Coco Ho (HAW) VS. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) - to face Silvana Lima (BRA)
Heat 2: Coutney Conlogue (USA) VS. Nikki Van Dijik (AUS) - to face Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
Heat 3: Paige Hareb (AUS) VS. Melanie Bartels (HAW) - to face Carissa Moore (HAW)
Heat 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) VS. Chelsea Hedges (AUS) - to face Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)