The first eliminations of the 2015 season occurred during Tuesday’s action at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, but a couple of upsets have moved four of Hawaii’s five wahine surfers into round three at Snapper Rocks in Queensland, Australia. Tatiana Weston-Webb and Coco Ho each thrived in their second-round elimination heats, knocking off a pair of higher seeded locals. They will now join Malia Manuel and Carissa Moore in the third round when action resumes.
Some of the sport’s biggest names were relegated to the second round, including six-time world champ Stephanie Gilmore and two-time Championship Tour runner-up Tyler Wright, each hoping for a strong start to their season in their home country. Both survived, Gilmore topping wild card Bronte Macaulay and Wright knocking out Oahu’s Alessa Quizon. But in the day’s final two heats, the Hawaii pair was able to overcome their opponents in the red jerseys.
Weston-Webb went up against South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag. Despite Tati’s rookie status, the pair does have a history. In the three CT events Tati competed in last year as an injury replacement, she and Buitendag faced each other twice in elimination heats. Weston-Webb came out ahead on the scorecards both times. So while Buitendag is the veteran who finished second at this very event last season, the matchup was more even than their rankings would indicate.
Tati struck first, snapping the lip on a couple big turns before a nice carve and some finishing moves garnered a 7.83 score. She stayed very busy and maintained a lead for the entire heat, continuing to improve her backup number before finally drifting the tail after some big turns for an 8.10 with only two minutes remaining. That gave her a decisive 15.93 to 11.07 victory and a spot in the next round.
She’ll be alongside another Kauai wahine as Manuel, Weston-Webb and Sally Fitzgibbons face off in the non-elimination third round. The winner moves into round five while the other two go into head-to-head fourth round heats.
The final heat of round two featured Ho taking on Laura Enever. The two had very similar results last season but Enever finished the year ranked 10th on the CT, while Ho had slid down to 12th. Enever is coming off a huge win at the Hurley Australian Open of Surfing last month, but she was not able to carry that momentum over to Snapper.
It was more what Ho was able to do than what Enever wasn’t able to do. The Oahu native started with a solid ride but kicked things way up on her second wave. Her patient wait paid off with a seven-maneuver tagging for a 9.23 score. She went on to earn the 16.16 to 13.27 win and will now take on Wright and Courtney Conlogue in round three.
The Buitendag and Enever losses were technically upsets, as was Nikki Van Dijk’s win over Johanne Defay. Tati is the lowest seed remaining in the draw, but the way she surfed Tuesday will certainly scare any of the top seeds – though the prospect of taking on Brazil’s Silvana Lima may be an even more frightening proposition. Lima leapt back into the CT foray with a huge first-round performance, topping Gilmore and winning with an 18.16 two-wave total, the event’s highest so far. She gets another crack at Gilmore in round three as Dimity Stoyle joins them for an intriguing trio.
Moore, who won her opening heat, heads into round three to take on Van Dijk and Lakey Peterson. She and the rest of the top four may all end up reaching the semifinals, like was so often the case last year, but Manuel knocking on the door, along with Weston-Webb and Lima giving them early-round issues is going to make their paths far more difficult this season.
Queensland is 20 hours ahead of Hawaiian Standard Time, so tune into Oceanic Surf Channels 250 and 1250 at 11:30 a.m. for the official call.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.