Tati adds to season lead with another keeper in New Zealand

Saturday marked the end of the year’s third QS6000 event and it’s another keeper result for Princeville’s Tatiana Weston-Webb as she continues to stake her claim to the top of the Women’s Qualifying Series rankings. The Port Taranaki Pro Surf Festival at New Zealand’s Fitzroy Beach finished with an unlikely winner, but a quarterfinal appearance and an Equal Fifth place finish for Weston-Webb gives her three top-five results in three QS6000 contests so far this year.

Australia’s Keely Andrew had never reached a final at any of the top-level QS contests before, but she changed all that and then some Saturday. She’ll leave New Zealand with the title after besting World Championship Tour veterans Dimity Stoyle, Paige Hareb and finally Oahu’s Coco Ho in the final. The 6,000 ranking points jump Andrew 19 spots up the QS standings into a tie for fourth place.

But it’s Weston-Webb who maintains the top spot in the rankings, collecting 2,650 points to add to her previous two Equal Third results. Staying in the top six is every hopeful’s goal and it’s how Tati made her way on to this season’s WCT. She removes a lot of potential re-qualification pressure with every high QS result, but she’s already off to a great start with a semifinal appearance in the year’s only CT event to this point.

While Ho is still looking to make a move towards the top of the world tour competitors, she’s become a dominant QS performer. She ended last season ranked second and jumped back into this season’s top 10 with only two contests surfed so far. The depth on the CT will make her continued success at these top value QS events very important to keeping herself in that top 17.

Weston-Webb was not the only Kauai surfer in Port Taranaki. Hanalei’s Nage Melamed made the trip, hoping to get back into the qualification mix after a knee injury derailed her 2014 campaign. Melamed came through her Round of 48 heat, advancing with Australia’s Nikki Van Dijk in the top two. But she took third in the Round of 24, getting knocked out by Andrew and Isabella Nichols in second. The Equal 17th finish adds 1,050 ranking points to her season and moves her up to 45th place with plenty of opportunities to improve.

Brianna Cope is also hoping to return to the upper echelon of the QS rankings in 2015, but she didn’t get a keeper result in New Zealand. Entering the contest ranked 18th, she took fourth in her opening heat, unable to get out of the Round of 48.

Anahola’s Mainei Kinimaka made the trip, but her low ranking put her into the opening Round of 84. She wasn’t able to advance any further, but her 17th place finish at the Hainan Pro in China had given her a nice start to the season and she still sits just outside the top 50.

Weston-Webb had to knock off some of the more familiar QS names on her road to the quarterfinals. She eliminated the likes of Laura Macaulay, fellow Team Hawaii member Bailey Nagy, Barbados’ Chelsea Tuach and ISA gold medalist Mahina Maeda before being barely edged by Erickson, 11.23 to 10.50.

The CT will get back in action this week for both the men’s and women’s second contests, Tuesday at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Weston-Webb starts out against defending world champ Stephanie Gilmore and Oahu’s Alessa Quizon in the first round. Kauai’s Malia Manuel is in the very first heat against Bianca Buitendag and Laura Enever.

Kilauea’s Sebastian Zietz opens his men’s event against Kelly Slater and New Zealand’s Ricardo Christie in the opening round.

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