Tuesday, November 25, 2003 – (Sunset Beach, Oahu, HAWAII) — Hawaii’s Keala Kennelly proved she is a contender in all conditions today, winning the 4-star World Qualifying Series (WQS) Turtle Bay Resort Women’s Pro, held in highly difficult waves. Better known for her tube-riding skills and ability to charge fearlessly on giant waves, the 25-year-old from Kauai proved to be untouchable in strong on-shore, 2-4 foot surf at the 5-star Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu. Advancing in first place through four rounds today, Kennelly posted her first ever Vans Triple Crown of Surfing event win to earn $3,500 and has moved to second on the Triple Crown Series ratings, behind Sofia Mulanovich (Peru). The final WQS event of 2003, the Turtle Bay Resort Women’s Pro was not part of the elite Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Championship Tour (WCT) and therefore had no baring on the world title race that Kennelly currently leads.
In the 30-minute four-woman final with Kennelly today were Megan Abubo (Hawaii), Sofia Mulanovich (Peru) – winner of last week’s Roxy Pro at Haleiwa, and Rebecca Woods (Australia), who finished second through fourth respectively. Kennelly posted a two-wave total of 16.06 points out of a possible 20, Abubo scored 11.7, Mulanovich scored 11.43 and Woods trailed all with 9.84. Kennelly’s closest rival Abubo required a score of 8.39 to win.
Early morning glassy conditions fast gave way strong on-shore winds and a shredded lineup that tested even the most seasoned professionals. A sample of those who fell victim to the unpredictable waves today included world champion Layne Beachley, who only posted a two-wave total of 4.67, current world No.3 Chelsea Georgeson (Australia), and world No.4 Heather Clark (South Africa), all of whom were eliminated in their opening heats this-morning.
For Kennelly, her performance today bodes well for the upcoming Billabong Pro on Maui, December 8-20, where she hopes to clinch her first ASP world title. Her strategy was strong, her wave selection good, and her maneuvers sharp and vertical.
“Turtle Bay is a really tough wave to surf,” said Kennelly, after clinching the event. “If anyone thinks they can go out there and find a winning place in the lineup, they’re dead wrong. It’s impossible to read the lineup because there is no defined lineup. The swells just come in and peak up all over the place. My strategy was to just go out there and catch a million waves and hope that some of them would turn out. Thankfully they did and I had a few that linked up all the way and scored well.
“To be honest, I’ve been surfing like a bit of a kook in the WQS events this year,” laughed Kennelly. “I don’t think I’ve done any good in any of them. I’ve been leading the WCT, but I’ve had nothing on the WQS, so it’s pretty cool to do something like this now.
“Heading to Maui, I think that any one of the girls in contention for the world title is good enough to win it. It’s pretty much going to come down to the day, the heat, the moment. I just want to be the highest placing finisher. I’ve never been in the lead heading into the last event. I’ve always been somewhere down near fourth, needing to do something drastic to win, so I haven’t really developed a strategy yet. But I have to wonder if Layne’s developed a strategy yet either, because she’s used to being the one in the lead and now she’s not.”
Runner-up to Kennelly today was Hawaiian Megan Abubo, who could finally breathe a deep sigh of relief having faced possible elimination from the WCT tour if she didn’t post a strong result here. She is now the last definite qualifier for next year’s WCT lineup.
“It’s such a relief!” said Abubo, 25. “I’m just stoked to be able to go to Maui with no pressure. It’s been pretty stressful this last couple of weeks, but now I’m looking forward to having some fun in the last event of the Triple Crown.”
At this time, four WQS surfers have definitely qualified for next year’s WCT tour: Melanie Bartels, Pauline Menczer (Aus), Maria Tita Tavares (Brazil), and Abubo. Australian pair Prue Jeffries and Melanie Redman-Carr are also in line to qualify but must technically await the final ratings outcome of the Billabong Pro WCT in two week’s time.
On hand to present the awards today was Jericho Poplar, one of the pioneering female professionals who dominated pro competition during the 70’s. Jericho brought her five children to the Turtle Bay Resort from their home in Long Beach, California, to witness first hand the current state of women’s surfing.
RESULTS:TURTLE BAY RESORT WOMEN’S PROFINAL:1st. Keala Kennelly (Haw) 16.06 – $3,5002nd. Megan Abubo (Haw) 11.7 – $2,2003rd. Sofia Mulanovich (Peru) 11.43 – $1,8004th. Rebecca Woods (Aus) 9.84 – $1,300Semi-Finals:1st & 2nd advance, 3rd=5th, 4th=7thH1: R. Woods 15.83, S. Mulanovich 11.83, Pauline Menczer (aus) 11.07, Melanie Bartels (Haw) 6.33H2: K. Kennelly 16.0, M. Abubo 12.5, Prue Jeffries (aus) 10.13, Lynette MacKenzie (Aus) 9.9Quarter Finals:1st & 2nd advance, 3rd=9th, 4th=13thH1: S. Mulanovich 13.84, P. Menczer 11.07, Jacqueline Silva (Brz) 9.2, Ellen Black (Aus) 7.74H2: M. Bartels 16.17, R. Woods 14.73, Anastasia Ashley (USA) 10.84, Samantha Cornish (Aus) 4.4H3: K. Kennelly 15.4, M. Abubo 13.17, Silvana Lima (Brz) 9.17, Marie Pierre Abgrall (Fra) 7.8H4: P. Jeffries 12.26, L. MacKenzie 12.0, Serena Brooke (Aus) 9.7, Julia Christian (USA) 8.67