Bethany breaks through
PERFECT waves – arguably the best surf the WSL Women’s World Tour has enjoyed this year – greeted competitors in the Fiji Pro at Tavarau.
A cracking swell turned on for the finals day of competition at the famous Cloudbreak outer reef, which the week before had been blasted by a massive 15-20ft swell.
Luckily it was a more-manageable 4-6ft for the competition but it still packed a punch with some double overhead sets that produced some cheese grating on the shish kebab end section.
The contest delivered plenty of upsets with No.1 seed Tyler Wright falling to Hawaiian wildcard Bethany Hamilton who stole the show with some impressive performances in the early rounds.
The shark attack survivor was on fire early, taking down one top seed after another.
Her run however came to an end in the semis, beaten by eventual winner Frenchwoman Johanne Defay.
“Coming here and competing in the Fiji Women’s Pro is a dream come true and I am stoked with how I did,” Hamilton said.
“The women on the championship tour are surfing amazing right now and the level continues to get better and better.
“I have so much respect for all the girls and it has been an amazing time here. I am so thankful for my husband and family’s support and all of my fans for cheering me on.
“It has been an incredible experience.”
Defay, from Reunion Island, built momentum throughout the event, outsurfing Hawaiian three-time world champion Carissa Moore in a one-sided final.
Moore had impressed early, notching a 10-point tube ride in the quarters to down North Narrabeen’s Laura Enever but she was unable to repeat the feat in the final.
“It was really an amazing event and I’m really happy with the way everyone surfed,” Moore said.
“Disappointing that I wasn’t able to stay in rhythm for the final but congratulations to Johanne, she surfed incredible.”
It was the second elite win for Defay, who claimed her first CT victory at the Vans US Open last year.
No doubt growing up at St Leu, a predominant left-hand point reef break has sharpened Defay’s fast-hitting backhand style.
The result moves Defay up three places to fourth in the rankings.
“I’ve never beat Carissa (Moore) before,” Defay said.
“She is such an amazing surfer and she took nine-point rides in every heat. It is crazy and I am so happy.
“The waves were really incredible for us this year, we are so fortunate.
“All the girls were ripping. I felt like I wasn’t surfing very smart heats leading up to the final. I was getting good waves at the end and advancing so I wanted to start strong in the final.”
Six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore struggled to explain her early exit, knocked out by Victoria’s Nikki Van Dijk in round four.
“During the heat I was questioning if I was under-gunned and if I should try to get barrelled instead of trying to find waves with less wall to do turns,” said Gilmore, who is now rated seventh.
“It was frustrating. I could not hear much so I was going by feel and I did not see Nikki get too many good ones either. That is just the way it goes sometimes. I am pretty disappointed.”
While regaining the ratings lead from Tyler Wright, Californian Courtney Conlogue, who was beaten by Defay in the quarters, now leads the rankings ahead of Wright with Moore third but the American admitted it will be long, hard battle to claim this year’s world title.
“Getting the frontrunner position on the rankings definitely gives me opportunity but it does not change anything with this season,” Conlogue said.
“It is such a long season.”
Courtney Conlogue was eliminated in the quarter finals by Defay.
“In the start of the heat I definitely had control of it,” Conlogue said.
“As I came around, I lost my rhythm with the ocean and Johanne ended up maximising on it and I made a few mistakes in that heat. I just have to go back to the drawing board and learn from my mistakes heading into the US Open.”
Those on the women’s tour will now head to California for the Vans US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach from July 25-30.