FITZROY, Taranaki/New Zealand (Thursday, April 15, 2010) – Round 3 of the TSB Bank Women's Surf Festival was completed today in solid three-to-five foot (1 – 1.5 metre) waves at the primary site of Fitzroy Beach.
The third stop on 2010 ASP Women's World Tour, the TSB Bank Women's Surf Festival completed the opening two rounds of competition at a remote location along the Surf Highway 45 on Tuesday, but today's solid conditions at Fitzroy Beach lent themselves to the world's best female surfers showcasing an impressive array power surfing.
Sarah Mason (NZL), 15, wildcard into the TSB Bank Women's Surf Festival, caused the upset of the season today, eliminating reigning three-time ASP Women's World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 22, in Round 3 of competition. While the Australian champ held a solid lead throughout the majority of the bout, it was the young Kiwi who would answer the call with an impressive righthander for a 6.93 as well as a buzzer-beating 7.10 out of a possible 10 to take the win.
"I'm buzzing right now," Mason said. "I'm so excited. This is the biggest win of my career. I was down for most of the heat, then I got a pretty good righthander and that put me back in the hunt. I was just hoping that I could get another opportunity to score. That left came right at the end and when I heard I got the score, I was blown away."
Mason's win was received with raucous jubilation from the hundreds on the beach who came to Fitzroy in droves to support their local superstars.
"It's so cool to have everyone on beach cheering you through," Mason said. "Every time I finished a wave, I could hear everyone clapping and cheering. It gives you a great confidence. It's been a great week for me, winning the New Zealand Open and then the Pro Junior and now this. I'm just focusing on the next heat now and I hope to keep going."
Mason will now face fellow Kiwi surfer Paige Hareb (NZL), 19, the long New Zealand representative on the elite ASP Women's World Tour, in Quarterfinal 2 when competition resumes. The all-New Zealand bout will be a first in ASP history.
Gilmore's loss today marks the first time the iconic natural-footer has failed to make a Final since last October – a staggering six events ago.
"I felt like I was in pretty good form out there but I must have got too comfortable," Gilmore said. "I made a few priority mistakes towards the end and Sarah (Mason) took advantage. She's an excellent surfer and today proved she's a dangerous competitor. No one wants to go down in the third round, but it definitely opens the world title race up. It's a long year ahead and I'll be focusing on Sydney now."
Hareb continued her roll at the TSB Bank Women's Surf Festival today, with an emphatic Round 3 win over teammate Rebecca Woods (AUS), 25. The powerful goofy-footer utilized her extensive local knowledge to capitalize on the trying conditions, picking off the running lefthanders and dissecting them with aplomb.
"It's challenging with the wind and the shifting line-up but definitely experience helped out there," Hareb said. "I'm really stoked to get through that Round 3. It's been a slow start to the year for me so to crack the Quarterfinals at home in front of all my family and friends feels great and I hope I can make a run towards the Final."
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 19, current ASP Women's World No. 5, went on another rampage today in New Zealand, collecting the highest heat total of the event, an 18.07 out of a possible 20. Her amazing score included the highest single-wave score of the day, a 9.40 out of a possible 10 for a series of powerful forehand maneuvers punctuated a progressive grab-rail reverse on the end section.
"It's more of a level playing field today," Fitzgibbons said. "It's shifty, thumpy beachbreaks and I love these as they remind me of home. I started my heat of really well and I knew that if I wanted to get the big scores I would have to really push the progressive side of my surfing and that's what I did."
Fitzgibbons will take on former ASP Women's World Champion Sofia Mulanovich (PER), 26, in Quarterfinal 3 tomorrow.
Carissa Moore (HAW), 17, 2010 ASP Dream Tour Rookie, was another to cause a major upset this morning, defeating current ASP Women's World No. 5 Coco Ho (HAW), 18, in their Round 3 bout. Moore wasted no time, opening up with an impressive 9.17 out of a possible 10 for a series of blistering backhand maneuevers.
"The conditions are very tricky out there and it's difficult to be on the spot when the good ones come through," Moore said. "I was fortunate to be in position for that first one and it allowed me to string together some maneuvers. I went out there with the mindset of just have fun and that's what I did."
The young Hawaiian's result already marks her best of the season, and Moore will look to build the momentum throughout the final day of competition tomorrow.
"I've had two ninths this season and I was starting to get frustrated," Moore said. "It's my rookie season and there's a lot to learn, but every heat is a clean slate and I'm excited to crack into the Quarterfinals. I've been watching Mel (Bartels) the last few comps and she's in really good form so it should be a good match-up."
Moore will face current ASP Women's World No. 2 Melanie Bartels (HAW), 27, in the opening Quarterfinal when competition resumes.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7am to assess conditions for a possible 8am start. A TSB Bank Women's Surf Festival Winner will be crowned tomorrow.
Highlights from the TSB Bank Women's Surf Festival will be available via nzsurffestival.co.nz.
For more information, log onto aspworldtour.com.
TSB BANK WOMEN'S SURF FESTIVAL ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Melanie Bartels (HAW) 13.67 def. Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 9.44
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 17.00 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 9.67
Heat 3: Paige Hareb (NZL) 13.83 def. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 8.07
Heat 4: Sarah Mason (NZL) 14.03 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.66
Heat 5: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 11.67 def. Lee Ann Curren (FRA) 7.83
Heat 6: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 18.07 def. Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 8.24
Heat 7: Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 14.43 def. Jessi Miley Dyer (AUS) 10.40
Heat 8: Silvana Lima (BRA) 11.67 def. Amee Donohoe (AUS) 10.44
TSB BANK WOMEN'S SURF FESTIVAL QUARTERFINAL MATCH-UPS:
QF 1: Melanie Bartels (HAW) vs. Carissa Moore (HAW)
QF 2: Paige Hareb (NZL) vs. Sarah Mason (NZL)
QF 3: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
QF 4: Chelsea Hedges (AUS) vs. Silvana Lima (BRA)