The penultimate stop on the 2023 World Surf League Championship Tour kicked off in epic fashion at the infamous Teahupo’o in Tahiti. With pumping four-to-five foot waves rolling through despite gusty winds, the women blitzed through Opening and Elimination Rounds while the men charged into their Opening Round.
Aussie surfers Molly Picklum and Tyler Wright secured Quarterfinal berths to cement spots inside the prestigious season-ending WSL Finals. After both suffered tough Opening Round losses, they showed true grit in the barrel to fight back.
“There are so many emotions out here in Tahiti,” Wright said. “I’ve had to accept that I’m scared but can still surf committed. Once I admitted that, I could move forward.” Her Round 2 win provisionally qualified her for the 2024 Paris Olympics – a massive achievement. “Thanks to my wife and team,” she said.
Picklum now meets rookie sensation Caitlin Simmers (USA) while Wright takes on Teahupo’o specialist Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) in the Quarters.
In a vital heat for Final 5 qualification, world #6 Lakey Peterson (USA) took on 7-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS). With both needing to overtake Simmers, Gilmore dug deep to prevail and keep her title hopes alive.
On the men’s side, 3-time world champ Gabriel Medina (BRA) sent a strong message to his rivals with the event’s second-highest total so far – an excellent 16.10. Currently ranked 6th, he requires at least a Quarterfinal result to break into the prestigious Final 5.
“I’m so happy to be back in Tahiti after 4 years away,” Medina said. “Teahupo’o is my favorite stop on Tour. I just want to get barreled and enjoy myself.”
Meanwhile, current world #7 John John Florence (HAW) dominated his Opening Round heat to progress. He too remains in Finals contention with a strong showing in the iconic Tahiti barrels over the coming days.
The scene is set for a massive back half of competition with the world’s best surfers ready to tackle the notorious Teahupo’o barrels in pursuit of Championship Tour glory.