The Turtle Bay Resort Women’s Pro Tests Competitors

Wednesday, December 4 (Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu, Hawaii)The second leg of the women’s Vans Triple Crown of Surfing the Turtle Bay Resort Women’s Pro got underway today, and while the setting for the event was nothing short of five-star, the giant winter waves on offer posed a five-star challenge to competitors. As has become the theme for this 20th anniversary Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, an over-abundance of large-to-giant winter surf has proved to be the biggest obstacle.

This $20,000 four-star World Qualifying Series event is the final chance for many aspiring female professional surfers to secure themselves a place on the elite ASP World Championship Tour which will determine the world title in 2003. The ocean is one half of the battle and top-ranked women the likes of 4-time world champion Layne Beachley (Aus) who enter the draw tomorrow are the other half. Sixty-four women entered the Turtle Bay Resort Women’s Pro, making it one of the strongest international lineups of the year. Forty-three of them took to the ocean today and 16 advanced to round three tomorrow where they will take on the top seeds.

Conditions were tough today. Competitors arrived this morning to find a fifteen-foot northwest swell that was closing out on the outer reefs of the shores of the Turtle Bay Resort, reforming on the inside to offer six-to-eight foot waves that would become the arena for the event. The day itself was spectacular a clear sky with very warm temperatures and it couldn’t look better from shore than it did from the poolside viewing lawn that lies a stone’s throw away from the break that competitors were surfing. But it wasn’t a stroll by the pool for those competing. While there was plenty of high-scoring potential, surfers had to act fast, receiving a freight-train ride out to the lineup in a strong rip-current, before having to make their way immediately onto a ride for fear of being swept out of position.

Australian Dara Penfold read the conditions perfectly and was rewarded accordingly with the highest scores of the first two rounds of competition. On her first ride, Penfold rode a wave from way outside, maneuvering strongly right through to the inside for judges’ scores of 9.5, 10, 10, and 10 to average a near-perfect final score of 9.83. A second impressive ride of 7.0 saw Penfold more than double the scores of any of her opponents. Over each surfer’s top two scores, Penfold totaled 16.83 out of 20 to Linda Fisher’s (Aus) 7.97, 7.33 for Suzy Stewart (Haw), and 7.1 for Mariela Acosta (Puerto Rico). Tomorrow Dara will face current world number three Lynette MacKenzie (Australia), world number six Heather Clarke (South Africa), and Linda Fisher (Australia).

“I took off way on the outside on that one,” recalls Penfold of her 9.83 ride. “I took off in the white-water and then rode it through to the inside. When I took off I wasn’t even sure that it was going to turn into a good wave, but it did. I only ended up catching two waves in the whole heat, but it was one of my better competition heats here in Hawaii. I lost in this round in the Roxy Pro at Haleiwa, so things went better for me today. I really only caught one wave in that heat, it was a good wave but I didn’t catch anything else to back it up.”

Californian Jodie Nelson, who has been in Hawaii for close to a month now, was one of the unlucky ones. Despite riding one of the highest scoring waves of her second round heat, Nelson was unable to back it up with a second strong score and was subsequently eliminated. As one of the more qualified, experienced World Qualifying Series competitors, her elimination came as a surprise.

“I really only caught one wave in that heat,” said Nelson. “It was a good wave but I didn’t get anything else to back it up.” To soften the blow, Nelson ordered a drink from the poolside bar and sat down to soak in the perfect Hawaiian sunset before her imminent return to the West Coast.

Otheers to successfully advance through the rounds today included Hawaiian Leilani Gruyde, Australians Alisa Dragan and Claire Bevilacqua, South Africa’s Sacha Moller, French-woman Pierre Marie Abgrall, and US Mainland surfers Holly Beck and Veronica Kay.

The Turtle Bay Resort Women’s Pro will run to completion tomorrow and competitors will likely face similar conditions to those of today. Surf forecasts predict only larger swells for Friday and the weekend.