Stephanie Gilmore
Stephanie Gilmore

Steph keeps an eye on the rookies

REIGING ASP world champion, Stephanie Gilmore made an impressive start to her title defence in round one of the Roxy Pro at Duranbah Beach yesterday.

The contest was moved from Snapper Rocks to D-bah due to the small conditions.

But Kingscliff product Gilmore, who lives in Coolangatta, took control of her heat in the small but clean conditions to outpoint South African Rosanne Hodge and her good mate Kingscliff wildcard and Roxy Pro Trials winner Ashleigh Smith.

The waves never got bigger than one metre, but her familiarity with the Duranbah break served her well.

“The conditions were pretty hard actually - it was really small,” Gilmore said.

“The waves on the Gold Coast have been firing for the past two weeks, so it was a little disappointing, but at the same time there were some fun ones out there.

“I am pretty confident and comfortable in any kind of waves on the Gold Coast I guess.

“I love all the point breaks and D-Bah is where I surf every day.”

Former world champion and Tweed Heads resident, Chelsea Hedges, making a comeback on the ASP scene, caused the biggest upset of the day, relegating defending Roxy Pro event winner, Peru's Sofia Mulanovich, to the elimination round two with some impressive surfing on both her forehand and backhand.

“It's always a bit nerve-racking coming back after such a long break from the tour,” Hedges said.

“I've had such a great time off though, just being at home spending time with my family.”

“It has given me a whole new approach to surfing because I can't just go whenever I want, so when I get out there I really enjoy it.”

But it was the new girls, led by Australian Sally Fitzgibbons, the 2009 ASP Women's World Tour rookie, who really made an impression, winning four of the six round-one heats.

Fitzgibbons took command in a hard-fought round one heat, scoring the highest heat total of the day with an 18.77 out of a possible 20, to overtake Brazil's Silvana Lima and Hawaiian Megan Abubo.

The Brazilian Lima scored the event's first 10-point wave, but it wasn't enough as she finished with 18.67.

Hawaiian rookie Alana Blanchard caused a big upset with her win over veteran surfers Aussie Amee Donohoe and Brazil's Jacqueline Silva, while Kiwi rookie Paige Hareb posted a solid 15.06 to overtake veteran Australian surfers Samantha Cornish and Jessi Miley-Dyer.

“It's pretty cool, they have a lot of experience so it's pretty cool to beat them in my first heat ever,” Hareb said.



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