The Oceano Santa Catarina Pro, a 5-Star women’s World Qualification Series contest in Florianopolis, Brazil, narrowed its field down to just four semifinalists on Tuesday. While some of the biggest names in Hawaii women’s surfing entered the event and made decent runs through the draw, just Oahu’s Coco Ho remained as the other three semifinal spots were taken by talented Aussies.
Ho was one of four World Championship Tour women to enter the event. She currently sits in 12th place for the season on the WCT. That ranking would not re-qualify her. She entered Santa Catarina in fifth place in the WQS rankings, so another solid result keeps her in that necessary top six and would help get her into another season on the dream tour.
Oahu’s Alessa Quizon, Australia’s Nikki Van Dijk and France’s Pauline Ado also entered the QS contest. They all sit outside the requisite WCT top 10 and are hoping to boost their QS point totals.
Ho, Quizon, Van Dijk and potentially Laura Enever finishing the season outside the world tour’s top 10 could be very bad news for Princeville’s Tatiana Weston-Webb. The 18-year-old phenom came into this event in sixth place on the WQS ladder. Ho, Van Dijk and Enever are all currently ahead of her and Quizon will be just a couple hundred points behind after this week’s results are tabulated. If any of them were to be in the world tour’s top 10, that’s one spot up in the qualification rankings for Tati. All of them needing their QS results to re-qualify would put her right on the bubble.
Weston-Webb, who was born in Brazil but moved to Kauai as a baby, started very strongly in Florianopolis. Her opening heat was dominant. With just over 10 minutes left on the clock and already in first place, Tati picked up an 8.93 wave score from the judges and quickly backed it up with a 7.93 just a few minutes later. The 16.86 heat total was not only the highest of the first round, it was enough to combo her opponents.
She had to contest with Quizon in their second-round four-woman heat. The world tour rookie leapt ahead of Tati at the 15-minute mark and never trailed the rest of the way, but they both advanced in the top two positions, Quizon’s 14.34 just besting Tati’s 13.93.
The quarterfinals pitted Tati and Ho in an important head-to-head heat for each. While they can both make next year’s world tour, they are still jockeying for those final few bids and a loss for one is similar to a win for the other. This time it was Ho getting that important result. She somewhat dominated the action for the first 20 minutes and held an 11.27 to 6.90 lead. But Tati kept chipping away and needed just a 6.07 at the five-minute mark, finally finding a substantial wave and ripping it for a 6.50 and the heat lead.
With just over two minutes remaining, Ho answered back in kind with a 6.73 for the heat’s top single wave and recaptured the lead. She held on for the win and was set to take on Philippa Anderson in the semifinals.
Quizon was also knocked out in the quarters, but she will gain some ground on Tati since her fifth WQS result had not yet been factored into her season total.
The additional bad news for Weston-Webb’s chances is the other semifinal matchup that pits Van Dijk and Keely Andrew. Van Dijk will remain ahead of her, win or lose. Andrew – currently in ninth – will gain some ground no matter what and would be within 1,000 points or so with a first-place finish.
While I wrote earlier this year about five Kauai wahine maybe surfing their way onto next year’s world tour, that number is down to just one definite (Malia Manuel) and probably just one maybe (Tati). Malia Manuel has been terrific on the CT all season and has fifth place all but wrapped up.
Alana Blanchard has had a tough season on the dream tour and won’t have the point total to return. Brianna Cope made a late run up the QS rankings and approached the top 10, but she’ll now gear up for the 2015 qualifying season. Leila Hurst was a world tour wild card at the US Open of Surfing and will likely finish in the world’s top 20. Nage Melamed put herself in the top five early on but an ACL injury ended her season prematurely.
As 2014 winds down, we’re not only still waiting to identify our world champions, but also to find out if Manuel will be Kauai’s sole surfer in 2015, or if the dream will be realized for another.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.