The first event of the2004 women’s World Championship Tour (WCT), The Roxy Pro presented by BoostMobile, commenced today in excellent 3-4 ft (1-1.5m) waves at world famousSnapper Rocks. The US$62,500 event, featuring the world’s top 17 ratedwomen, plus one wildcard, ran right through from round one to the completionof the third this afternoon.
A predicted southerly swell increased slowly throughout the morning, withlong walling waves exploding behind Snapper’s infamous take off rock andpeeling through to Rainbow Bay. A strong current also swept through thelineup making conditions as much a physical battle for contestants as theywere mentally and tactically.
The shock elimination of 2003 world title runner-up Keala Kennelly (Haw) wastoday’s biggest upset. Kennelly lost a nail-biting round three battle withtour newcomer Laurina McGrath (NSW, Aus), who had only qualified for the2004 WCT earlier this year, after winning an intense four-way surf off forthe ASP Injury Wildcard position.
Kennelly, the hot favorite, was obviously disappointed.
“My biggest problem here is wave selection and I just picked a bunch ofstupid waves in that heat,” explained Kennelly. “Obviously people that livehere and surf here all the time, surfers like Laurina, have a better idea.We’ve surfed against each other in the WQS (World Qualifying Series) andboth beat each other a couple times, but I think I need to study this wave abit more. Now I gotta wait ’til next year.”
McGrath’s father was the first to congratulate her as she left the water,having driven up from her hometown of Byron Bay to see his daughter surf.
“My parents are my number one fans,” explained a delighted McGrath. “I was abit worried at the start of my heat when I caught a couple of waves thatclosed out but then I re-focused and just tried to wait for the better wavesand it paid off.”
McGrath will now face another former world #2, Jacqueline Silva (Brz), inthe quarterfinals, after the Brazilian eliminated Peruvian Sofia Mulanovichtoday.
The most highly anticipated clash of the day featured a grudge match betweensix-time world champion and defending Roxy Pro winner Layne Beachley (NSW,Aus), and former four time world champion and event wildcard Lisa Andersen(FL, USA).
The pair met in this morning’s first round with Beachley getting the upperhand in the dying moments, but in round three it was the six-time championall the way. While Andersen surfed well, she simply chose waves that weretoo small, allowing Beachley full command of the higher scoring sets.
“Wave selection is absolutely crucial out there,” explained Beachley. “Ijust kept putting the pressure on Lisa by paddling outside her and sheseemed to slowly give up. She’s always a tough a competitor, you can neverrelax against her, even if she needs a nine, but I think towards the end Ijust broke her.”
The day’s highest combined two-wave score belonged to Melanie Redman-Carr(WA, Aus) with a total of 18.6, which included a near perfect 9.9 in roundone. Despite some awesome barrel rides on offer, Carr’s ride was earned “thehard way”, repeatedly smashing a perfectly walling wave the length of thepoint. Her awesome form continued in round three, where she eliminated lastyear’s event runner-up, Trudy Todd (QLD, Aus) on her do-or-die last wave.
“It’s been a really, really hard day,” explained Redman-Carr. “My legs feellike jelly. At the end of a couple waves I nearly fell off and with the windthe way it is, it’s hard to hear the scores being called out. Lucky for me Igot the score I needed on my last wave. I only had a few seconds to go so Ijust made sure I gave it all I had.”
Maria Tita Tavares (Brz) was another round three stand out, defeating world#3 Heather Clark (SAfr). Despite her reputation as one of the world’s mostexplosive female surfers, Tavares was absent from last year’s elite tour dueto financial hardship, but her performance today proved beyond doubt she’slost nothiing during the break.
“Snapper is so good, the contest today was so much fun. I love being back onthe WCT and I just try to smash it every wave. I love the barrels here toobut so far I can’t get any. The swell looks good for the week so I can’twait. We’ll see!”
Along with the US$10,000 first place prize, all competitors are vying for anadded incentive with Torquay Natural Mineral Water offering an additionalAUD$5,000 prize purse for the “Torquay Time Tunnel” – for the longestrecorded tube ride during the event.
Although eliminated, Kennelly holds the record for the longest recordedbarrel thus far, from round one. The Hawaiian free fell from the take off onher backhand into a dredging tube and “backdoored” a cascading section. Sheemerged 4.5 seconds later to hoots from the crowd.
Roxy Pro presented by Boost Mobile – Round One (1st, 2nd>Rnd3; 3rd>Rnd2)
H1: Samantha Cornish (Aus) 15.3; Lynette MacKenzie (Aus) 11.5; Prue Jeffries(Aus) 11.3
H2: Chelsea Georgeson (Aus) 13.77; Melanie Bartels (Haw) 13.74; RochelleBallard (Haw) 12.17
H3: Layne Beachley (Aus) 15.7; Lisa Andersen (USA) 14.07; Pauline Menczer(Aus) 13.4
H4: Melanie Redman-Carr (Aus) 18.6; Keala Kennelly (Haw) 16.77; LaurinaMcGrath (Aus) 15.84
H5: Maria Tavares (Brz) 13.83; Heather Clark (SAfr) 10.67; Jacqueline Silva(Brz) 5.03
H6: Trudy Todd (Aus) 14.24; Sofia Mulanovich (Peru) 14.17; Megan Abubo (Haw)12.83
Round Two (1st, 2nd>Rnd3; 3rd=17th receives US$2,250)
H1: Rochelle Ballard (Haw) 13.73; Laurina McGrath (Aus) 13.33; Megan Abubo(Haw) 10.83
H2: Pauline Menczer (Aus) 15.66; Jacqueline Silva (Brz) 13.34; Prue Jeffries(Aus) 11.17
Round Three (1st>1/4 Finals; 2nd=9th receives US$2,750)
H1:Chelsea Georgeson (Aus) 14.67 def. Melanie Bartels (Haw) 8.5
H2: Samantha Cornish (Aus) 16.6 def. Pauline Menczer (Aus) 11.13
H3: Rochelle Ballard (Haw) 16.67 def. Lynette MacKenzie (Aus) 11.33
H4: Layne Beachley (Aus) 15.5 def. Lisa Andersen (USA) 12.47
H5: Laurina McGrath (Aus) 14.77 def. Keala Kennelly (Haw) 10.23
H6: Jacqueline Silva (Brz) 15.84 def. Sofia Mulanovich (Peru) 14.6
H7: Melanie Redman-Carr (Aus) 14.84 def. Trudy Todd (Aus) 14.83
H8: Maria Tavares (Brz) 13.06 def. Heather Clark (SAfr) 7.33