Kaua‘i’s Ballard out of competition

COOLANGATTA, Australia — Kaua‘i’s Rochelle Ballard was knocked out of crown contention Monday as she placed third in Round 2, Heat 2 in the Roxy Pro Gold Coast.

Ballard surfed against Australia’s Claire Bevilacqua and Amee Donohoe. Only the first-place finishers of each heat moved on to yesterday’s Round 3.

Instead, it was former World Champion Chelsea Hedges (formerly Georgeson) who ushered in the first day of 2007 ASP Women’s World Tour competition with a stellar performance.

Hedges is one of a handful of local tour surfers who has not yet earned ultimate honors at Snapper Rocks. Her performance today indicates that could change at the Samsung-sponsored event.

“I think that local advantage has proven itself over the last few years,” Hedges said. “Joel (Parkinson), Mick (Fanning) and Dean (Morrison) have all won an event here; Steph (Gilmore) has won here. You can read which wave to take off on and you have extra confidence too. We’ll just see what happens.”

Hedges high-scored in Round 1 of the Roxy Pro, posting the day’s highest heat total, an 18.40 out 20, after earning a near-perfect 9.57 (out of 10) in the dying seconds of her heat.

“It had a nice open face and I did one hit off the top and then it walled up again and again. I got off a little floater on the inside and then it walled up again. I don’t really remember my whole wave, but I remember it was fun.”

Stephanie Gilmore, also a Snapper Rocks local and 2005 Roxy Pro winner, surfed in her first event as an official ASP Women’s World Tour competitor today. Gilmore has surfed numerous elite tour events as a wildcard, winning two.

“I feel a bit experienced,” Gilmore said. “I feel like I have some tour-time up my sleeve, so I guess that’s an important thing if I want to do well in an event. Hopefully, I will end up in the final and it will be a really good start to the year. “

Gilmore’s maiden performance slotted her just behind Hedges with a 17.40 heat total.

“Chelsea’s really hungry. I can see it in her surfing,” Gil-more said. “She’s my favorite female surfer and she’s always improving. Chelsea is my pick for this event, if it’s not Layne (Beachley) or Carissa (Moore).”

Moore, the 14-year-old Hawaiian who won the Roxy Pro Trials to earn the main event wildcard, managed to win her Round 1 heat over reigning ASP Women’s World Champion Beachley, of Australia, who finished second. Brazilian Jacqueline Silva came third and was relegated to Round 2.

“I think Snapper is the perfect wave and it’s my dream come true just to be here,” Moore said. “It’s not that big of a deal that I won, I just had fun surfing against Layne. I was very honored so I’m just stoked.”

Beachley was not as stoked, but did avoid Round 2 and will meet Moore again in Round 3.

“It wasn’t really a great way to start the year,” Beachley said. “I don’t know whether I’m too relaxed or just exhausted, but either way, I’m not putting on a good show and I need to step it up to keep up with these teenagers.”

Beachley has indicated that it is rising talent such as Moore that has kept her on tour again this year while she searches for her record eighth world title.

“I can’t take anything away from Carissa Moore,” Beachley said. “She surfed well, her wave selection was impeccable and her heat strategy for a 14-year-old was just well and truly beyond her years. I’m really proud of her and I’m looking forward to coming up against her again.”

Rookies Roseanne Hodge and Caroline Sarran both survived Round 2 elimination today. Elite-tour veteran Ballard and 2004 World Champion Sofia Mulanovich were not as lucky and are no longer in crown contention.

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