Semifinalists determined at Margaret River Pro
MARGARET RIVER, West Australia/Australia (Sunday, June 2, 2019) - The fourth stop on the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Margaret River Pro, is now down to its final four women and final four men after big eliminations today in four-to-six foot (1.2 - 1.8 metre) waves at Main Break.
The men completed the Round of 16 and Quarterfinals to see John John Florence (HAW), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Kolohe Andino (USA), and Julian Wilson (AUS) still standing, while the women completed the Quarterfinals to determine Semifinalists Lakey Peterson (USA), Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Carissa Moore (HAW), and Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS).
Lakey Peterson (USA) unleashed the performance of 2019 season so far with the highest two-wave total of the year, a near-perfect 18.83 (out of a possible 20), in Quarterfinal 4. Peterson’s incredible surfing eliminated seven-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) from the Margaret River Pro in Equal 5th place. Gilmore got the best of a year-long World Title race against 2018 runner-up Peterson to win her seventh World Title, but today Peterson struck back with the dominant win. Peterson now advances to the Semifinals where she matches up with Carissa Moore (HAW).
“The win was really satisfying,” Peterson said. “Steph (Gilmore) and I had the Title race last year and every time we meet up in heats she beats me. Going into that heat just now I was like, ‘I’m done losing to her.’ Steph is such a phenomenal surfer and I feel like this year she is surfing better than ever, so even when I scored my first nine, I was still scared because she could always get an 8.5 or something. That one felt really good and was definitely good for my confidence, so I’m stoked. I love competing with Steph as she always brings the best out in me. I’m really happy to be doing well here at Margaret River.”
In a rematch of their Quarterfinal heat at last week’s Corona Bali Protected, three-time WSL Champion Moore took on 2019 CT Rookie Brisa Hennessy (CRI) for a spot in the Semifinals. The rookie clinched the last-minute win at Keramas, but Moore got redemption at Main Break. Hennessy leaves with a 5th place result, while Moore continues her hunt for a third event title heading into Finals Day.
“I had so much more respect for Brisa (Hennessy) after Keramas,” Moore said. “I knew that you couldn’t give her an inch if she needed a score, so I was definitely a little bit nervous especially when that long lull came because all she needed was one wave, but luckily, the universe was on my side this time. I really respect Lakey (Peterson) and she is on fire so our Semifinal should be fun.”
2017 event winner Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) eliminated current World No. 2 Caroline Marks (USA) in Quarterfinal 2. The high-scoring match-up saw Fitzgibbons put early pressure on the 17-year-old with an 8.17 (out of a possible 10) and 7.33. Marks fought back with a 5.83 and an 8.57 but needed a 6.93 score to advance. Fitzgibbons will face Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) in the Semifinals.
After an uncharacteristically slow start to the 2019 CT season, Brasilian Title hopeful Weston-Webb guaranteed her best result of the year after taking down former Margaret River Pro winner Courtney Conlogue (USA) in the opening Quarterfinal. Weston-Webb thrived in the powerful conditions, unleashing her trademark backside re-entries to overcome to current World No. 3.
“I feel like this season so far I have had a few little mistakes that have been pretty costly because a good start is really critical for a good year,” Weston-Webb said. “It doesn’t mean that I can’t come back midway through and I’m feeling really good. Courtney (Conlogue) and I have had some amazing battles over the years. We’ve had many heats and I’m glad to get one back. She’s been doing really well especially with that win at Bells. I was super envious that I missed out on the big day at Bells, so I really wanted to make sure that I was in the Final Series here.”
John John Florence (HAW), 2017 event winner and current World No. 1, commanded the Main Break lineup today with big victories over Italo Ferreira (BRA) in the Quarterfinals and Sebastian Zietz (HAW) in the R/16. Florence scored three excellent rides throughout the day, including his 9.23 (out of a possible 10) to beat Ferreira. Florence took the Jeep Leader Jersey off of Ferreira after Bells Beach and continues to add the pressure to the Brasilian’s World Title campaign after his win today.
Florence’s win against Zietz came with an 8.17 to combat Zietz’s 7.90. Zietz has made a name for himself in West Australia with his Perfect 10s in 2017, event victory in 2016., and standout performances in 2015. Zietz now leaves the West in 9th place, his best finish of the season.
“I got inspired by Lakey (Peterson) in the heat before,” said Florence. “She was ripping in that heat. You just have to find the ones with the clean face on it. It really gives you an edge to be able to surf the wave because there is so much bump it is hard to fit your board and find the spot. I just got lucky on some mid-size ones with clean faces.”
After eliminating two-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) yesterday, Caio Ibelli (BRA) continued his upset streak today with his win over 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA). Ibelli is the replacement surfer for injured athletes on the 2019 CT and has been subbing in for Adriano de Souza (BRA) in the first four events. Ibelli himself missed out on 2019 full-time CT qualification with an injury that occurred at this location last year. The full-time CT wildcard went to Slater this season -- giving Ibelli extra motivation to win their matchup. Ibelli got the win with a 14.50 heat total to Slater’s 10.26.
Ibelli went on to face Jordy Smith (ZAF) in Quarterfinal 2. An extremely close heat saw Ibelli advance with only two-hundredths of a point separating the high-scoring heat. Smith’s 15.24 two-wave total included a critical air-reverse for an 8.07 but narrowly missed the mark over Ibelli’s two 7-point rides.
“There was so much going on in that heat,” Ibelli said. “I stepped on an urchin, I was getting hit by sea lice, cut my foot on the reef, so I was just trying to regroup the whole time. When I saw that wave coming, I knew what I wanted and then Jordy (Smith) went on the first wave and I got the best one out the back. I’m feeling so good and staying calm here. At the other events this year, I put so much pressure on myself but this event I’m just letting everything happen naturally and not trying to control everything. I’m stoked to have a rematch with John John (Florence) and am really excited for the Semifinals.”
Heat 3 of the Quarterfinals saw 2019 CT Rookie Seth Moniz (HAW) take on former Margaret River Pro runner-up Kolohe Andino (USA) as the wind dropped and conditions began to turn on at Main Break. Currently sitting in 5th place on the rankings, Andino is positioned to make a big jump up the Jeep Leaderboard with a solid result in Margaret River. The pair had to wait for their opportunity as the competition was placed on a temporary hold while a shark was observed adjacent to the contest zone. Once the shark was confirmed to be moving west and away from the lineup, while being monitored closely by the safety drone and jet skis, the competition resumed. Andino went into overdrive, taking down Moniz and moving on to Finals Day where he will take on Julian Wilson (AUS) in Semifinal 2.
The last heat of the day saw the last two Aussie males left in the draw, Wilson and Ryan Callinan (AUS), go head-to-head in idyllic Western Australian conditions. The pair went back and forth attempting to outdo each other, but Wilson finished with the upper hand as he continues to search for a breakthrough result in 2019.
Local wildcard Jack Robinson’s run in his backyard was ended by good friend Moniz in Heat 5, R/16. With the event moved back to Main Break, Robinson had to show that his skills in the tube were accompanied by an impressive rail game. With the heat coming down to back-up scores, Moniz secured his Quarterfinal position with a second 7-point ride, while Robinson was left needing a 7.11. Robinson has come close to qualifying for the elite CT via the WSL Qualifying Series (QS) but has fallen short the past few years. 2019 could be Robinson’s year as he currently sits in 5th on the QS rankings (Top 10 men on the QS qualify for the CT at the end of the year).
Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) was riding on a high after his first CT win at the Corona Bali Protected last week. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old was unable to continue his run in Western Australia with a loss to Callinan in Heat 8, R/16