Round 1 of the Rip Curl Women’s Search was completed today in clean-yet-shifty three-to-four foot (1 metre) waves at the backup venue of Belgas.
Event No. 4 of 7 on the 2009 ASP Women’s World Tour, the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search commenced immediately following the completion of the Rip Curl Pro Search (won by Mick Fanning (AUS), 28) this morning at Supertubos, but event organizers opted to hunt down the best possible conditions on offer at midday, setting on the offshore, punchy peaks of Belgas.
Melanie Bartels (HAW), 27, current ASP Women’s World No. 4, took to reeling Belgas walls with style, punch and bite, securing the highest-scoring wave of the day, an 8.00 out of a possible 10, for blasting a roping left with some sharp hits on her backhand. Her heat total (also the highest of the day) of a 13.17 out of a possible 20 was enough to edge past opponents Samantha Cornish (AUS), 29, and Alana Blanchard (HAW), 19.
"It’s always good to find some place different to surf and to have the Rip Curl Search Pro and you don’t know where it will be, it is really good," Bartels said. “I’ve been looking forward to this event all year. I am just happy to get a good start on the first day of competition."
Bartels is hoping her past experience in Portugal will serve her well throughout the course of the event, as the progressive Hawaiian eyes another solid result to boost her ASP Women’s World Tour rating.
"I have been here twice before and everywhere I have been it has been so good," Bartels said. “Stoked to be here and experience a different break, I am just stoked to be here and be surfing." Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 21, reigning two-time ASP Women’s World Champion and current ASP Women’s World No. 1, was another standout in the Round 1 action at Belgas, casually dismantling the shifting peaks at Belgas on her backhand to secure a 12.00 out of a possible 20 heat total and advance through to Round 3. Having witnessed the majority of the men’s action from the past week, Gilmore is keen to apply the inspiration to a strong performance of her own in Portugal.
"I was saying to a couple of the girls that I feel like the event is over," Gilmore said. “We have watched the boys and it was awesome to see Mick (Fanning) do well. He has been on fire the whole European leg and it was good to watch and learn from that and use that in my own game out here."
Presently embroiled in a tight race for the 2009 ASP Women’s World Title with current ASP Women’s World No. 2, Silvana Lima (BRA), 24, Gilmore is unfazed when discussing the battle, citing the several events remaining in the season and numerous scenarios that can play out.
"The pressure is on both of us to perform well," Gilmore said. “Silvana (Lima) has probably got the pressure of the whole of Brazil on her shoulders to bring home a world title and same goes for me. I am pretty confident in my abilities. It is just going to be exciting. We still have four events left including this one so it is anyone’s game."
The surprise loss of the day went to former ASP Women’s World Champion (2005) and current ASP Women’s World No. 3, Sofia Mulanovich (PER), 26, went was relegated to the elimination Round 2 by an in-form Chelsea Hedges (AUS), 26, and Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS), 23.
While conditions appeared pristine at the start of Round 1, shifting winds wreaked havoc on the lineup, prompting officials to call competition off before Round 2.
Event organizers will reconvene at 7:30am at the backup site of Belgas to assess conditions for a possible Round 2 start.
When competition resumes, first up will be Sofia Mulanovich (PER), 26, Alana Blanchard (HAW), 19, and Pauline Ado (FRA), 19, in Heat 1 of the elimination Round 2.
Surfline, official foreers for the 2009 Rip Curl Pro Search, are calling for the current surf to slightly over the next 24 hours before another swell is expected to hit the region.
Highlights from the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search are available via live.ripcurl.com