The Hurley Pro and Swatch Women’s Pro at Trestles, Stops No. 8 and 7 respectively on the World Surf League (WSL) Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour (CT), continued today with the men’s and women’s Semifinalists decided in three-to-five foot (1 – 1.5 metre) waves at Lower Trestles. The stage is set for an exciting final day of competition with the field narrowed to just four men and four women.
Filipe Toledo (BRA) and 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA) put on a show for the crowd at Lowers with an exciting head-to-head battle. Slater gained control of the heat with a strong 7.33, but Toledo took to the air to earn a near-perfect 9.17. Slater fought back with an excellent 8.27 to maintain his lead, but the Brazilian exhibited his strong rail-game and signature air reverse to earn another excellent 9.20 to not only take the lead, but also put Slater in a combination situation. Toledo will advance to the Semifinals, while Slater leaves his 16th CT Trestles event in 5th place.
“Since I was born, since I’ve known surfing, there’s been Kelly [Slater] and he’s the most incredible surfer in this world, so it’s always good to beat him and surf against him,” said Toledo. “I had to go big because he’s in a good rhythm right now. He won Tahiti and he’s been surfing amazing here. It’s such a blessing to surf against Kelly and beat him. The waves are fun, my boards are looking good so let’s hope I can get a bigger wave in the Semifinals and Finals — definitely go for the 10 or high 9, we will see.”
“I blew it with wave choice and Filipe [Toledo] capitalized and made the right choice,” Slater said. “You really can’t give an inch out here, especially when it’s small like this. When it’s small, he’s way faster than everybody, and he’s the most dangerous guy. I had the chance, I had him on the ropes with the advantage halfway through and then I took the first wave of the set and he ended up getting that 9.20. I heard the crowd and was thinking I didn’t really do anything and realized he was on the wave behind me, but that’s just the way it goes.”
Before his Quarterfinal loss, Slater took down hometown hero Kolohe Andino (USA) in a nail-biting Round 5 Heat 2 match-up. Andino opened up with a an excellent 8.00, using his backhand attack that had Slater needing a high score right out of the gates. Slater fired right back with an incredible 8.60 on his forehand and went right back to work, earning a 4.17, though needing a 4.57. Andino then found another Lowers lefthand gem, where he got hung up by a big reverse, but still managed to finish the wave for a 5.33. The local favorite was not able to close the 0.36-point gap and was ultimately eliminated from the event.
Jordy Smith (ZAF) ended event wildcard Brett Simpson’s (USA) incredible run at the Hurley Pro with a 14.87 combined heat score by unleashing a series of progressive maneuvers in the first Quarterfinal heat. The local favorite fought back with two mid-range scores, but needed a near-perfect 9.37 for a comeback. Simpson struggled to find the required score and halted his wildcard run with a 5th place finish.
“Brett [Simpson] is an incredible surfer and he’s got nothing to lose,” Smith said. “I think he’s got a lot of confidence. He’s taken out some big dogs along the way and he’s just been in rhythm. I was feeling pretty nervous throughout the whole day, but I just kept focusing on what I had going. Each heat I make obviously narrows that gap, but the Top 3 guys have a huge lead and I just want to get as many good results as I can. Both Filipe [Toledo] and Kelly [Slater] are leaders in our sport in their own way so I think it’ll be a great match-up for me and an opportunity to give my best surfing.”
En route to Simpson’s Quarterfinal berth, the opening heat of Round 5 witnessed a close exchange between Simpson and Michel Bourez (PYF). Simpson captured an early lead with a 7.00, but was followed by Bourez’s 7.83. Simpson fired back with a massive blow-tail layback to earn an excellent 8.00 and leave Bourez needing a big backup score that he was not able to secure.
Event wildcard Tanner Gudauskas (USA) charged through the third Quarterfinal match-up to take the win against Stuart Kennedy (AUS). Gudauskas wreaked havoc once more on the Lowers’ righthanders with his incredible backhand flair. The hometown hero will face 2012 WSL Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) in the Semifinals.
“This moment feels amazing and I’m just trying to absorb everything from it,” Gudauskas said. “For this week though I just feel like every heat I surf is my only opportunity that I’ll get. I’ll be back to the QS after this and will really earn it to get back on Tour. Falling off Tour when I did, and the way I did, sent me on a journey and I feel like it’s taken me awhile to get my steam back. It feels so good to feel vindicated and just get it off my shoulders and feel like I deserve to be here.”
Parkinson advanced to the Semifinals today after taking out 2016 WSL Rookie Alex Ribeiro (BRA), the last rookie left in the draw. Ribeiro got an early lead with a 7.50, but Parkinson found his rhythm with an excellent 8.27 and a 6.50. Ribeiro attempted to land a handful of highly-technical moves, but fell 2.37 points short of the win.
Current Jeep Rankings Leader Tyler Wright (AUS) will continue her hunt to keep the yellow Jeep Leader Jersey after eliminating compatriot Laura Enever (AUS) and advancing to the Semifinals. Wright unleashed big power carves to earn a 13.50 combined heat score and put Enever in a devastating situation, needing a 9.00 in the final minutes with limited opportunities on offer.
“I’ve been in a few title races before, and looking back I’ve never felt this comfortable or this confident,” Wright said. “It’s definitely different for me this year and I’m just going with it. I’m not setting out a certain way that I should feel about things, this is just the way I’m feeling and I’m going out to do my job — and that’s to win every heat and every final. It’s been that from the start of the year and it’ll be that to the end.”
Six-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) battled Carissa Moore (HAW), reigning three-time WSL Champion and defending event winner, in the second Women’s Quarterfinal match-up of the day. The heat witnessed Gilmore fire with two back-to-back 8-point rides, putting Moore in a combination situation. With time running out, Moore was unable to break Gilmore’s massive 16.10 total. This heat marked the twenty-seventh match-up between the two World Champions, with Gilmore taking her thirteenth win over Moore.
“I was actually really nervous going into that because I haven’t gotten past the Quarterfinals in a while and I haven’t won an event in a while,” said Gilmore. “I just tried to go out there and do what I know how to do. I think Carissa [Moore] and I have had the strongest rivalry between us more than any other girls on Tour and it always feels really good to beat her. I’m just excited to get past that Quarterfinal monkey on my back. Obviously to see Courtney [Conlogue] go out was good for Tyler [Wright], but we’re all here for one thing, and I want to win.”[caption id="attachment_20447" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Six-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) blazed through Round 4 and the Quarterfinals to defeat current World No. 2 Courtney Conlogue (USA) and three-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore (HAW), respectively. Gilmore will advance to the Semifinals where she will face Nikki Van Dijk (AUS).
Image: © WSL / Rowland[/caption] Moore will leave this event with an Equal 5th place finish and 5,200 points.
“I know any time you come up against Stephanie [Gilmore] you have to bring something special,” said Moore. “I was really excited to get going and I think I just made some bad wave choices, and got in a bad rhythm. There just wasn’t much so I just wish I had more opportunity to really open up but I’m okay, Steph’s surfing really great and I hope she wins this event. I’m looking forward to Portugal and France. Who knows what’s going to happen. I think it’ll be pretty tough to come back from this loss, but I’m just stoked to try and finish off the year strong.”
Gilmore previously dispatched current World No. 2 Courtney Conlogue (USA) in an all-star Round 4 match-up. Conlogue opened her account with a strong 6.67 and a 6.23, putting Gilmore in an early combination. But, Gilmore fought back with a solid 7.43. Halfway through the heat, Conlogue used her priority on a set out the back to earn a 5.73, but it was not enough to improve her situation. Just needing a 5.47, the Australian took advantage of a clean wave to lock in a critical 7.23 and gain control of the heat. With four minutes left on the clock, Conlogue attempted to battle back to obtain the required 7.99, but was not able to find the score. Conlogue will walk away from the Swatch Women’s Pro with a 9th place finish, her worst result this season.
“Coming up against Stephanie [Gilmore], she’s won this event a few times and is the six-time World Champ, there’s definitely a lot of expectation to surf on point,” said Conlogue. “But, it felt like I gave it my all out there and felt like that left was really good, and my right as well. Things didn’t go my way that time and some things are out of your control.This definitely wasn’t my event and it’s frustrating, but I just have to get ready for Portugal now and the rest of the year.”
California-native Sage Erickson (USA) was the first surfer to earn her place in the Semifinals after defeating Johanne Defay (FRA) in the opening Quarterfinal heat of the day. Defay will walk away with an Equal 5th place, her fifth Top 5 result this season. Erickson will advance to the next round, where she will surf against Wright.
“It was a tit-for-tat heat with Johanne [Defay] and I’m so excited to be out of the Quarters and into the Semis,” Erickson said. “I think winning definitely feels good. You can lose a lot in this sport. Winning over in Spain, where it was a highly rated contest and there were a lot of tour girls over there, gives me a little bit of confidence, but this tour is a whole other ballpark. You really have to surf well to get scores and I think that’s why the women nowadays are surfing so well and pushing together because you kind of have to. I’m just trying to find my feet and it feels great to make it into another Semifinal.”
Earlier this morning, Erickson dispatched current World No. 4 Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) in Round 4 Heat 1. The Californian played the patient game to wait for the sets and earned two 6-point rides to defeat the Hawaiian.
Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) will also join the top women’s field in her first CT Semifinal appearance after her dominating performance over Malia Manuel (HAW) with an impressive 16.16. Van Dijk will battle compatriot Gilmore in the second Semifinal match-up.
“It’s taken me about three years and I’m stoked,” Van Dijk said. “I can’t believe I made the Semis and I’m happy to just be surfing more fun waves out there. It got kind of slow at the end and I knew Malia [Manuel] could get any type of score on any kind of wave so I was really nervous. I’ve really only gotten one Quarter and the rest of my results are throwaways so I’m really needing this and really want to make my first FInal. I’m not looking to stop here and just want to surf better and better each heat.”
Round 4 Heat 3 saw 2016 WSL Rookie Keely Andrew (AUS) unable to hold on against Manuel. Andrew will be eliminated from the event in Equal 9th place.
Highlights from the Swatch Women’s Pro and Hurley Pro available at WorldSurfLeague.com]]>