SUNSET BEACH, O‘ahu — Hawai‘i’s Melanie Bartels put in a huge performance at Sunset Beach to open up the Roxy Pro yesterday. Currently ranked No. 10 on the ASP Women’s World Tour, 26-year-old Bartels returned to the form that saw her post a career-best win in this event back in 2006, posting the highest score of the day to defeat reigning world champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia, and keep her 2009 requalification hopes alive.
Bartels looked at ease in the challenging 8-foot conditions that set many of her peers on edge. With top scores of 9.57 and 8.83, for a total of 18.4 points out of 20, she left challengers Coco Ho, Gilmore and Rosanne Hodge all in need of two-wave combinations to catch her.
The Round 1 win catapulted her directly to the quarterfinals.
Gilmore later redeemed herself in sudden-death Round 2 to keep her world title campaign alive, while Hodge was later eliminated.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time out here at Sunset with Rochelle (Ballard) and she’s been giving me lots of little secrets so I feel really confident out here,” Bartels said. “I’m just stoked to be back in Hawai‘i and finally get to surf some real waves.
“My competitive focus has definitely changed lately,” Bartels said. “I’m much more motivated than I’ve ever been and I’m really looking forward to finishing the season strong here in Hawai‘i.”
Stop No. 7 of 8 on the 2008 ASP Women’s World Tour, the Roxy Pro at Sunset Beach also marks the second event of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and yesterday’s solid surf at the infamous breaksaw Hawaiians and big-wave specialists dominate.
Sofia Mulanovich, defending Roxy Pro Champion and current No. 2 on the ASP Women’s World Tour, put in a solid round one effort yesterday to also make the short cut to the quarters.
“I watched the heat before me and saw Steph (Gilmore) get beaten, but I didn’t think too much about that in my heat,” Mulanovich said. “I’m confident that Steph will get through her next heat and we’ll be back to square one come the quarterfinals.
“I was really frustrated with my performance in round one so I went straight out there and tried to pick off a couple of scores as soon as I could in Round 2,” Gilmore said. “The waves are epic. We surf fairly small stuff most of the season so it’s awesome to come here to Hawai‘i and get to compete in solid waves.”
With the advancement of Gilmore, Mulanovich and Sunset queen Layne Beachley into the quarterfinals, the race for the 2008 ASP Women’s World Title moves to the next day of competition.
“I’m not really thinking about the title right now,” Gilmore said. “Sofia (Mulanovich) and I are both through to the next round so I’m sure we’ll just keep battling it out until one of us prevails. Should make for an entertaining end of the year.”
Organizers halted Roxy Pro competition for the day following the completion of Round 2, allowing for the ASP World Qualifying Series 6-Star Prime O’Neill World Cup of Surfing to get underway.
Event organizers will reconvene today at 7 a.m. for a possible 8 a.m. start.