The women's World Tour may not be perfect at the moment, but when the temperature is above 90 degrees fahrenheit and people forsake the hunting of ice-cold refreshment for fear of missing a heat (any heat), it's safe to say that the talent, at least, is in a pretty good place. No, scratch that. The talent is in a phenomenal place.
Tuesday's matchups at the 2012 Roxy Pro Gold Coast promised to entertain -- especially with elimination looming -- and they certainly didn't renege. The day began as a multinational mêlée, but as rookies took on world champs, the competitors' pool was whittled down to four women who all hail from a single, sunburned country. On the precipice of the semifinals, an Aussie sheila is guaranteed to win this year's competition at Snapper Rocks.
Tyler Wright smoked top-ranked Carissa Moore out of the running during their intense quarterfinal heat. Moore's surfing was so explosive earlier in the day that commentator Sean Doherty said, "I just can't believe this is a girl surfing!" She finished the fourth round with a 17.13, but ended up in a combination situation in her next heat against Wright, whose wild surfing netted her a total of 18.03.
"[Carissa] had a fantastic year last year and she took this event out," Wright said, "This was kind of a rematch of the finals, so I kind of wanted to get one back up on her. But in saying that, I just wanted to do my own thing and it's pumping out there! I was just excited to be out there with only one other girl. My focus is to take it heat by heat and try and catch the best waves that come through."
Believe it or not, Wright's 9.60 wasn't the highest-scored wave of the day. That honor went to Sally Fitzgibbons, who knocked out a 9.80 during round four with a re-entry/snap/floater/repeat re-entry combination. This was immediately after a nearly completed no-grab air. Her rookie opponent, Lakey Peterson, actually had one of the day's highest heat totals as well: 16.50. In the quarters, Fitzgibbons comboed another standout rookie, Malia Manuel. Manuel took to the air in retaliation, and though she failed to stick her landing, she moved out of the dreaded "situation" but not out of Fitzgibbons' sights.
"I'm feeling pretty fired up," Fitzgibbons said. "It's always great to start with a good result. I'm still finding my feet and I'm ready to sort of build through these semis. I'm going to need some big scores to get me through to that final."
As Fitzgibbons gave her post-heat interview, Californian Courtney Conlogue attempted to block Steph Gilmore from becoming the last, snug piece in an Aussie semifinal puzzle. Both surfers were ripping and, ultimately, the difference in their scores was a mere 0.47.
Victorious Gilmore said, "It's getting harder and harder. Especially that heat there -- Courtney was just throwing scores straight back at me. That's what keeps you on your toes. It keeps you nervous right through the last few seconds and, yeah, it was pretty nerve-wracking." Gilmore will move on to face Fitzgibbons in the semis.
"The last time I met Sally was in France. I beat her in the semifinal and, funnily enough, I stopped her from winning the world title last year. That was quite an interesting heat," she said, "I wanted to see my fellow countrywoman do well, but at the same time, a heat's a heat and we're all out there to win. So, yeah, this is going to be good!"
Snappah seems squarely in the women's corner and may yet offer up some lingering swell for the final two rounds of competition Tuesday. Whenever the Roxy Pro wraps up, you can be sure it'll happen in high style that you won't want to miss. Even if you're not Australian.
UPCOMING ROXY PRO GOLD COAST SEMIFINALS MATCH-UPS:
SF 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Laura Enever (AUS)
SF 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
UPCOMING ROXY PRO GOLD COAST QUARTERFINALS RESULTS:
QF 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) 18.03 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.47
QF 2: Laura Enever (AUS) 13.57 def. Silvana Lima (BRA) 12.23
QF 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 17.00 def. Malia Manuel (HAW) 12.00
QF 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.77 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 16.30
ROXY PRO GOLD COAST ROUND 4 RESULTS:
HEAT 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 17.13 def. Sarah Mason (NZL) 10.80
HEAT 2: Silvana Lima (BRA) 14.73 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 10.50
HEAT 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 18.13 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 16.50
HEAT 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 15.03 def. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 12.23