WSL title race wide open after day one upsets at Maui Women’s Pro

THE final event of the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Maui Women's Pro, saw a dramatic day for the world title race with big upsets to start round one.

Honolua Bay delivered clean, four-to-six foot (1.5 - 2 metre) swell for the world’s best surfers to battle for the coveted 2017 World Title.

Gerroa’s Sally Fitzgibbons’ incredible 2017 run and hopes of clinching her first-ever WSL Title were dashed today by wildcard threat Brisa Hennessy (HAW).

The 18-year-old, Oahu-native got off to a slow start as she showed her patience and pounced on the opportunity to lock in a solid score when the sets came through.

Hennessy posted an excellent 8.50 (out of a possible 10) to take the lead from Fitzgibbons in the dying minutes of the heat and deliver a big upset.

Honolua Bay went quiet for the final three minutes and did not give the current Jeep Leaderboard number one a chance to strike back before the final horn sounded.

Fitzgibbons’ early exit sees her out of the title race, which is now in the hands of the four remaining contenders Culburra Beach’s Tyler Wright , Courtney Conlogue (US), Carissa Moore (HAW) and Stephanie Gilmore (AUS).

“It’s such a tough set of circumstances just sitting there at the end and in my head I had that vision you get in the movies where that wave comes,” Fitzgibbons said.

“I really felt it was going to happen, but it didn’t.

“I committed everything. I did my best this year.

“I trained the hardest I could and prepared, and that’s just the situation I was given.

“I feel like I’ve got what it takes now to really just absorb that for what it is.

“I’m proud of myself and my team at the end of the day, and it was up to the ocean at the end, but it wasn’t my day.

“I was just proud to be an Aussie in the mix, and the others are surfing extremely well.

“Whoever takes it out, they truly deserve it.

“Everyone was in the mix coming into this event and I knew it would be close.

“I really wanted to go all the way, but it’ll be on for next year, no doubt.”

Sally Fitzgibbons. Footage: WSL

Competition looks set to continue tomorrow with finals day and the event will decide the 2017 WSL women’s title, which represents the culmination of a year-long battle amongst the world’s best surfers to claim sport’s highest honour and join a list of the most revered individuals in all of surfing.

Four surfers remain in contention to clinch the title: Tyler Wright, Courtney Conlogue, Carissa Moore  and Stephanie Gilmore.

The world title scenarios heading into finals day are as follows:

- Wright and Conlogue can each clinch the title by winning the event;

- With Fitzgibbons out of the race Wright needs at fifth, Conlogue needs a third, and Moore and Gilmore need to win the event to claim title.

Defending WSL champion Tyler Wright kick-started her Maui Women’s Pro campaign with round one and round three victories.

Wright saved her top performance for a big round three match-up against an in-form Silvana Lima (BRA), who earlier sent Fitzgibbons to round two, and Coco Ho (HAW).

The current number two found a dreamy Honolua Bay barrel that allowed her to come out and finish off the wave with her signature power maneuvers and post the day’s highest single-wave score of a near-perfect 9.87.

“That was one of those heats where every girl got barreled and that was really cool,” Wright said.

“We all felt the ocean – I’m really happy with the way I’m surfing, and the heat plans we’ve been coming up with.

“The whole team is working really hard to make sure I’m on the point and on the right spots.”

Tyler Wright. Footage: WSL

Current world number five and six-time WSL champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) showcased her dominance with a near-perfect 9.57 in her round two elimination heat over Laura Enever (AUS).

Gilmore continued her world-class form in round three with another pair of excellent scores, a 9.07 and 8.00, and will continue her hunt for a seventh world title in the quarter-finals when competition resumes.

“I’ll never forget winning my very first world title here and I just could not believe that it finally happened,” Gimore said.

“It was one of the greatest moments in my career so far.

“That was heartbreaking to watch Sally [Fitzgibbons] go down and it was just one those things.

“I’ve been in that position before where I’ve lost chasing that world title, and it still went my way in the end, but it’s like getting stabbed in the neck basically – it was really, really tough.

“With regards to the World Title, the pressure is mounting, but I feel like the pressure is on the other girls and I’m just kind of hanging on the edge at the back.

“If I can sneak up and do my thing, we’ll see what happens.

“I love the stress and seeing people crack, and I love seeing people shy.

“I think that’s what World Title races and the last event are all about -- it’s pretty special to be here.”

Three-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) advanced straight from round one to round three,but was stopped in round three by 2017 CT Rookie Bronte Macaulay (AUS).

Falling just 1.10 points short of an early quarter-final berth, Moore will need to win her elimination round four heat against Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) in order to keep her world title hopes alive this season.

Malia Manuel (HAW) threw a wrench into current world number three and world title contender Courtney Conlogue’s (USA) campaign by sending the Californian to elimination round four.

The beginning of the heat got off to dramatic start with Weston-Webb being issued a paddle interference on fellow Kauai surfer Manuel.

Despite the tangle, Manuel wasn’t phased and struck first with a 7.17 to put early pressure on Conlogue.

Earlier this year, Manuel overcame a devastating knee injury and did not return to competition until the European leg where she caught fire with a semi-final and quarter-final result.

The  24-year-old now find herself in the quarter-finals once more.

For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com

Maui Women’s Pro round one results:

Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) 10.50, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 10.50, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 8.00

Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.93, Johanne Defay (FRA) 9.83, Pauline Ado (FRA) 7.83

Heat 3: Silvana Lima (BRA) 14.03, Brisa Hennessy (HAW) 7.13, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 2.10

Heat 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) 11.57, Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 11.24, Laura Enever (AUS) 5.40

Heat 5: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 12.20, Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 11.00, Keely Andrew (AUS) 4.73

Heat 6: Lakey Peterson (USA) 9.60, Sage Erickson (USA) 9.16, Coco Ho (HAW) 8.86

Maui Women’s Pro round two results:

Heat 1: Coco Ho (HAW) 13.40 def. Johanne Defay (FRA) 8.97

Heat 2: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 13.23 def. Pauline Ado (FRA) 9.07

Heat 3: Brisa Hennessy (HAW) 11.83 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 6.67

Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.74 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 6.87

Heat 5: Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 12.07 def. Sage Erickson (USA) 7.24

Heat 6: Keely Andrew (AUS) 12.16 def. Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 10.00

Maui Women’s Pro round three results:

Heat 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 17.14, Lakey Peterson (USA) 15.76, Brisa Hennessy (HAW) 7.00

Heat 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.14, Coco Ho (HAW) 14.60, Silvana Lima (BRA) 13.20

Heat 3: Malia Manuel (HAW) 14.74, Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.30, Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 11.45

Heat 4: Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 13.27, Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.17, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 10.20

Maui Women’s Pro round four match-ups:

Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Silvana Lima (BRA)

Heat 2: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Brisa Hennessy (HAW)

Heat 3: Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)

Heat 4: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW)