Roxy Pro Hawaii wildcards Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and Melanie Bartels (HAW) outsurfed the ASP Women’s World Tour staples at Sunset Beach this weekend in rounds 1 and 2 of the Roxy Pro Hawaii on Sunset Beach, Oahu.
Scoring the event’s seven highest single wave scores and top four heat totals, Gilmore and Bartels placed 1st and 2nd respectively in the Roxy Pro Trials to earn their main event berths. Riding that momentum into Round 1 of the Roxy Pro, the duo posted several 8.0 and 9.0 point rides (out of a possible 10 points) to advance straight to Round 3.
Gilmore’s 18.10 out 20.00, the highest heat total of the day, saw her blast past Sunset specialty-surfers Layne Beachley (AUS) and Rochelle Ballard (HAW), both of whom posted 11.17, with ease.
“It’s my first time here so it was pretty nerve-wracking to draw a heat with the two most dominate girls at Sunset in the history of women’s surfing," Gilmore said. “I went out there trying to have some fun and trying to catch anything that came my way. I was just doing my thing and I guess the judges liked what I was doing."
Gilmore and Bartels surfed the testing break twice in the trials before paddling out a third time for Round 1 of the Roxy Pro Hawaii. Neither showed signs of fatigue. “The paddle out is kind of long and you have a lot of time to think about things on the way out, so it can be physically and mentally draining, but once you get out there and see a few sets coming it gets your heart pumping and you’re not tired anymore," Gilmore said.
Gilmore, who has won two ASP Women’s World Tour events as a wildcard, the most recent of which being the Havaianas Beachley Classic in October, is no stranger to the wildcard routine. Both she and Bartels recently qualified for the 2007 elite tour via the World Qualifying Series (WQS).
“I think the wildcard position is probably the best," Gilmore said. “There’s no weight on your shoulders so you can relax. This event is coming down to the wire for a lot of girls who are trying to qualify to stay on tour and Mel [Bartels] and I have already qualified so we’re safe. I think that’s why we’re performing better."
Bartels surfed on the ASP Women’s World Tour in 2004 and 2005 before narrowly missing requalification last year. Bartels garnered a Roxy Pro trials invitation for her performance last week’s Op Pro Hawaii, the first jewel in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, after Pauline Ado (FRA) failed to show up in Hawaii.
“You know what I’m stoked on?" Bartels said. “I’m stoked I got a place in the trials. I wasn’t originally in the trials but I think it happened for a reason and that I was supposed to be in the main event. I’m on a good roll right now and I just hope I’m still surfing well when we run the contest next."
A local Hawaiian, Bartels credited having her loved ones on the beach for her exceptional surfing today: “I’m really stoked that my family came, all of my family, for the first time," she said. “Today was a day they could all make it down and I’m so stoked just to see them and to show them how I surf in this type of event. Far out, it’s such a good feeling and it’s giving me the momentum to want to do well here in Hawaii."
The Roxy Pro Hawaii is the second of three events that compose the Van’s Triple Crown of Surfing – a Hawaiian big wave surfing series. The first event, the Op Pro Haleiwa, was won by Sofia Mulanovich (PER). Mulanovich’s Round 1 win will see her maintain her current Triple Crown lead – though she maintains that she’s not dwelling on the details: “I’m trying not to think about the Triple Crown too much," Mulanovich said. “It’s better for me that way. If I win it that would be great, if not, it’s still great just to be surfing in Hawaii."
Losing her Round 1 heat but redeeming herself in Round 2 was current world No. 1 Layne Beachley. Beachley could clinch her seventh world title at Sunset Beach should she win the event with world No. 2 Melanie Redman-Carr (AUS) bowing out before the finals.
“In my Round 1 heat I had the opportunity to catch some really good waves and I didn’t go so I was kind of lacking confidence in my positioning and I wasn’t committed enough," Beachley said. “And then in Round 2 I was committed but my timing was out so it’s just been one of those really off days. Luckily I scraped through and an inch is as good as a mile so I’ll take it and I hopefully I can improve on it in the next day or so when we compete again."
Despite the four to five foot (one and a half metre) and clean conditions on offer at Sunset Beach yesterday, the Roxy Pro Hawaii was called off for the day. A forecasted drop in swell has prompted event officials to wait for more consistent conditions before running the remainder of the event.
Only three rounds remain before the 2006 Roxy Pro Hawaii champion is crowned – Round 3, the Semifinals and Final. The Quarterfinal round customary to ASP Women’s World Tour competition is absent in Hawaii because Rounds 3 and above feature four-woman heats instead of the usual two-girl format. Hawaiian law mandates that man-on-man heats with only two surfers in the water does not take full advantage of the abundance of waves on offer here, thus heats in Hawaii always feature three or more surfers.
Round Three Roxy Pro Hawaii Match-ups:
(1st and 2nd advance to Semifinals; 3rd and 4th Eliminated)
Heat 1: Sofia Mulanovich (PER), Jacqueline Silva (BRA), Megan Abubo (HAW), Keala Kennelly (HAW)
Heat 2: Samantha Cornish (AUS), Claire Bevilacqua (AUS), Chelsea Georgeson (AUS), Melanie Bartels (HAW)
Heat 3: Layne Beachley (AUS), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS), Heather Clark (ZAF)
Heat 4: Rebecca Woods (AUS), Rochelle Ballard (HAW), Melanie Redman-Carr (AUS), Serena Brooke (AUS)