SURF HIGHWAY 45, Taranaki/New Zealand (Tuesday, April 13, 2010) – The opening two rounds of the TSB Bank Women's Surfing Festival, Event No. 3 on the 2010 ASP Women's World Tour, went mobile today along the Surf Highway 45 where offshore three foot (1 metre) righthanders awaited the world's best female surfers.
With howling offshores and the rugged Taranaki seascape providing a majestic backdrop for the ASP Top 17, outstanding performances were a regular occurrence today at the TSB Bank Women's Surfing Festival decided the qualifiers for Round 3.
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 19, current ASP Women's World No. 5, proved the form surfer of the day, lighting up the offshore righthanders to the tune of 17.26 out of a possible 20. The prodigious natural-footer absolutely crushed today's conditions and looks a major threat to take out her first ASP Women's World Tour event.
"I feel like I'm surfing well and putting together good heats," Fitzgibbon said. "It's all about putting together some good heats towards the end of the events though. I've had good starts in both events, but have yet to crack a Final – that's the goal. Steph (Gilmore) has pulled out to a good lead this season and it's up to the rest of us to reign her back in now."
Fitzgibbons will battle Rosanne Hodge (ZAF), 22, in Round 3 of the TSB Bank Surfing Festival.
Coco Ho (HAW), 18, 2009 ASP Women's World Tour Rookie of the Year, was another dominant surfer today, besting Rebecca Woods (AUS), 25, and Amee Donohoe (AUS), 29, to take out the opening heat of the morning.
"I got down here early and got a warm-up surf in," Ho said. "That really helped me out because I had a better handle on the break and knew which waves were going to hit reef right."
The current ASP Women's World No. 5 is on a mission this season to establish herself amidst a select few considered to be legitimate ASP Women's World Title threats.
"I'm definitely looking to make an impact this season," Ho said. "I'm no longer a rookie and I am looking at every heat as a chance to perform. Starting with a third and a fifth is okay, but I'm really trying to establish myself as a world title contender."
Ho will face highly-touted rookie Carissa Moore (HAW), 17, in Round 3 of competition.
Paige Hareb (NZL), 19, New Zealand's only representative on the elite ASP Women's World Tour, sent the hundreds in attendance into a frenzy today as she posted an excellent 9.00 out of a possible 10 for unloading on a running righthander with a barrage of backhand blasts.
"It's very windy out there but there are some beautiful waves coming through," Hareb said. "I'm very stoked to be able to perform in front of my family and friends today. I haven't had the best start to the year, so to win my opening round heat is a good confidence booster."
Hareb takes on Rebecca Woods (AUS), 25, in her next heat in New Zealand.
Rosanne Hodge (ZAF), 22, into her fourth year amongst the elite, is surfing better than ever this season and posted some excellent scores in Round 1 today. The young South African has yet to crack Round 3 this season, an achievement she'll look to nail while in New Zealand.
"It is challenging out there because some of the waves aren't quite hitting the reef right but I just went out there looking for two good waves and found them," Hodge said. "I was able to open up with a 5 and that second wave was such a bomb, it just lined up all through the inside and allowed me to open up the inside. This year, the level of surfing is so high on tour, you have to be on your game at every event. I haven't been able to get past Round 3 yet, but that's what I'm aiming for here."
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 22, reigning three-time ASP Women's World Champion, survived a tight Round 1 bout against rookie Carissa Moore (HA), 17, and wildcard Sarah Mason (NZL), 15. Despite her younger opponents opening up with solid scores, Gilmore answered back with her patented blend of hi-fi surfing to take the win.
"It was a slow one for me but I'm happy to have found a rhythm eventually," Gilmore said. "The young ones (Moore and Mason) started off really strong. They're both very good surfers and very confident. Fortunately, I composed myself towards the end and managed to put up a few good scores, but everyone is a threat these days. I don't view rookies or wildcards any different than the other girls on tour. Anyone can win a heat at anytime."
Gilmore will face wildcard and young Kiwi Sarah Mason (NZL), 15, in Round 3 of competition.
When competition resumes, up first will be Melanie Bartels (HAW), 27, against Bruna Schmitz (BRA), 20, in Heat 1 of Round 3.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7am for a possible 7:30am start.
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 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Coco Ho (HAW) 15.30, Rebecca Woods (AUS) 12.40, Amee Donohoe (AUS) 11.26
Heat 2: Paige Hareb (NZL) 14.27, Melanie Bartels (HAW) 12.43, Lee Ann Curren (FRA) 7.40
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.40, Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.90, Sarah Mason (NZL) 11.34
Heat 4: Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 12.30, Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 11.70, Nikita Robb (ZAF) 8.93
Heat 5: Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 14.00, Silvana Lima (BRA) 10.96, Claire Bevilacqua (AUS) 10.03
Heat 6: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 17.26, Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 12.76, Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 8.10
TSB BANK WOMEN'S SURF FESTIVAL ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Sarah Mason (NZL) 14.83, Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 12.00, Claire Bevilacqua (AUS) 9.20
Heat 2: Lee Ann Curren (FRA), 13.00, Amee Donohoe (AUS) 13.00, Nikita Robb (ZAF)
TSB BANK WOMEN'S SURF FESTIVAL ROUND 3 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Melanie Bartels (HAW) vs. Bruna Schmitz (BRA)
Heat 2: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Carissa Moore (HAW)
Heat 3: Rebecca Woods (AUS) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Sarah Mason (NZL)
Heat 5: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) vs. Lee Ann Curren (FRA)
Heat 6: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Rosanne Hodge (ZAF)
Heat 7: Chelsea Hedges (AUS) vs. Jessi Miley Dyer (AUS)
Heat 8: Silvana Lima (BRA) vs. Amee Donohoe (AUS)