When was the last time you saw a photo of a girl butt-stalling on the foam ball? That is a rhetorical question and this is Stephanie Gilmore.
It ain’t all about about the barrel. Bianca Buitendag rail-rallied her way to the Quarterfinals, where she put together the day’s highest losing heat score with 13.50 points.
All Photos: ASP/Robertson
Kava (piper methysticum) is quite the popular plant in Fiji. Kava roots are mashed up to create a drink known for its cool, sedative properties and Fijians drink it so endearingly. Each year at the Fiji Pro, the locals bestow the visitors with nature’s most relaxing gift at the opening ceremony. Everybody chills, like, hard — some even retire back to their rooms and listen to Bob Marley and his Wailers. But after the pleasantries were exchanged this year and Buffalo Soldier ended, the ladies were anything but relaxed. They had proper Cloudbreak to deal with, testy Restaurants too. It was a handful — and they handled it all so beautifully. Especially one Sally Fitzgibbons.
But I thought Carissa Moore was supposed to win?
We did too, but Dimity Stoyle wasn’t having any of that. The young Australian stuffed Carissa in a low-scoring Quarterfinal heat, handing Miss Riss her worst result of the year. And that wasn’t the day’s only surprise. Tyler Wright (the other world title contender) also earned her worst result of 2014 by falling to Sally Fitz in Round 4. On the other side of fortune, Malia Manuel earned the best result of her career with a Semifinal finish — all that while surfing through a broken wrist, thank you very much. Although that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Malia is, after all, from Kauai.
So…were they getting barreled?
Yes. And no. But definitely yes! Sally’s 9.07 in the Semis was far and away the best tunnel of the event, which is not to say everyone else wasn’t packing ‘em. Event runner-up Stephanie Gilmore flaunted her pig-dog to and fro. Malia, Dimity, Carissa and Bianca all checked in as well. Nikki Van Dijk even packed a hefty closeout and wound up head-butting the reef. That girl is a legitimate trooper — but with luck like hers, she’s only about one Grade 3 concussion shy of inking the inevitable deal with Gath helmet.
And they’re off!
The 2014 Women’s Fiji Pro was the fifth of ten stops on this year’s tour. And halfway through the season, we can see that a deep-rooted world title race has sprouted. Unlike the sporadic mess that has been the men’s 2014, the women have been consistent. Right now, the race is the tightest between defending champ Carissa Moore and first-time-hopeful Sally Fitzgibbons. Stephanie Gilmore, Tyler Wright and Malia Manuel are also poised to make a move for the queen’s throne. But the biggest takeaway from Tavarua is that Sally is no pushover. It was her second straight win of the season. An impressive stat, sure, but what’s even more impressive is the locales in which she found consecutive victories. Brazilian beachbreak then proper Cloudbreak? Uhh, Sally’s onto something here, folks.
—Women’s Surf Correspondent Brendan Buckley
Fiji Women’s Pro Final Result:
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 9.00 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 8.73
Fiji Women’s Pro Semifinal Results:
Semifinal 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.50 def. Dimity Stoyle (AUS) 5.33
Semifinal 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.24 def. Malia Manuel (HAW) 8.86
Fiji Women’s Pro Quarterfinal Results:
Quarterfinal 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.50 def. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 13.50
Quarterfinal 2: Dimity Stoyle (AUS) 6.83 Carissa Moore (HAW) 5.34
Quarterfinal 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.27 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 1.90
Quarterfinal 4: Malia Manuel (HAW) 9.50 def. Johanne Defay (FRA) 8.93
Fiji Women’s Pro Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 16.90 def. Alessa Quizon (HAW) 14.84
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 17.07 def. Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 15.13
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.57 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.93
Heat 4: Malia Manuel (HAW) 8.50 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 7.00