DEE WHY, New South Wales (Wednesday, September 30, 2009) – The opening day of the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic saw current ASP World No. 5 Melanie Bartels (HAW), 27, and reigning two-time ASP Women's World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 21, lead the world's best women's surfers through Round 1 in two-to-three foot (1 metre) surf at Dee Why.
Gilmore stayed busy throughout her entire Round 1 heat today and emerged victorious in a tough battle over defending Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic champion Tyler Wright (AUS), 15, who eliminated Gilmore in Round 3 of last year's competition, and 2005 ASP Women's World Champion Chelsea Hedges (AUS), 25, to advance directly through to Round 3 with a solid 14.00 out of 20 heat total.
"I wasn't really focusing on redemption over Wright, but it was more about shaking off the first heat nerves," Gilmore said. "Chelsea (Hedges) and Tyler are a couple of my favorite surfers and Tyler did so well here last year, so I guess it felt good to come back with a win after a long break. It's a bit disappointing that we're not surfing at the point this morning, but it's (Dee Why) a great wave and who knows what's going to happen later in the week, maybe we'll be up at the point for the Final, that'd be awesome."
Although the talented regular-footer felt pressure entering the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic after a long mid-year break, Gilmore showed no sign of nerves and the poise shown by the defending ASP Women's World Champion carried her directly through to Round 3.
"I think there is pressure after such a long break," Gilmore said. "There's sort of that safety net of Round 2, but I wanted to go out there and surf hard and my equipment is amazing at the moment and I'm stoked to be through to Round 3."
Aside from the pressure of returning to contest mode after a long break, Gilmore also expressed the weight of entering an ASP Women's World Tour event as the top seed.
"The pressure is always sort of there if you're within the top five on the ratings, especially when you're No. 1," Gilmore said. "You're expected to be fit and ready to go. I'm feeling fit and happy and I'm excited to be back in the action."
Gilmore will have a Round 3 rematch against Wright when competition resumes.
Bartels surfed impressively throughout her entire opening round heat, but found her two best waves in the back half of her bout to claim the highest heat total of the day, an impressive 15.25 out of 20, while capitalizing on a rare barrel, leaving fellow competitors Rosanne Hodge (ZAF), 22, and Amee Donohe (AUS), 28, needing a combination of scores to top the Hawaiian standout.
"I'd been eyeing that little barrel out there," Bartels said. "I was just waiting and that wave came to me and I was able to find that little barrel which gave me the good score. It's been such a long time between events that I forgot I was surfing in a contest out there. I just tried to get a wave and surf."
The explosive Hawaiian veteran started her year off strong with a runner up finish at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast before suffering a 17th place finish at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Bartels was elated to advance directly through to Round 3 at Dee Why and get the second half of her season off in the right direction.
"Bells is a very hard wave and it was really small when we surfed it, so it was tough for me," Bartels said. "The waves out here are offshore and bigger than two-foot, so it's perfect, I'm stoked."
The Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic holds a waiting period from September 30 through October 5, 2009. Event officials will reconvene at Dee Why at 7am local time tomorrow to assess conditions for the potential start of Round 2 at 8 a.m.
Stay tuned to transworldsurf.com and ASPWorldTour.com for the latest on the contest.
Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Rebecca Woods (AUS) 10.45, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 9.15, Layne Beachley (AUS) 8.25
Heat 2: Melanie Bartels (HAW) 15.25, Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 11.05, Amee Donohoe (AUS) 10.85
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.00, Tyler Wright (AUS) 12.40, Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 12.05
Heat 4: Silvana Lima (BRA) 8.60, Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 8.60, Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 4.70
Heat 5: Coco Ho (HAW) 10.65, Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 10.35, Alana Blanchard (HAW) 10.25
Heat 6: Samantha Cornish (AUS) 9.55, Paige Hareb (NZL) 7.85, Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 6.40
Upcoming Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic Round 2 Heats:
Heat 1: Amee Donohoe (AUS), Layne Beachley (AUS), Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS)
Heat 2: Chelsea Hedges (AUS), Bruna Schmitz (BRA), Alana Blanchard (HAW)