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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Sat, 7 July 2018

If you thought the demand to watch women’s surfing was low, you weren’t at Supertubes yesterday. If you thought they didn't surf hot, think again. Melissa Volker gives the female perspective.

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LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Bianca killed it in Round 1, upsetting Lakey Peterson. Photo WSL / Cestari

The air filled with excitement, and a sense of historic occasion was palpable down at the Corona Open JBay yesterday. Down on the beach, up on the stands, even deep in "Casa Corona", every corner of the event area teemed with people who came to watch the best of the women athletes surf J-Bay.

Nature creased the welcome mat, and despite a bit of a tricky NE devils wind earlier on, the girls charged glassy 4-6 faces, with the lightest hint of an onshore. The forecasted NE beast wind failed to materialise.

Bianca Buitendag, who hails from another much smaller town with a right hand point break, showed great strength on her backhand and went straight to round 3, finishing her heat with an incredible 8.87 wave. She left Number 1 Lakey Peterson having to surf her way out of elimination in round 2.

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WINGING IT: Weston-Webb pipped Courtney Conlogue in their Round 1 heat. Photo WSL / Tostee

It was a day of the goofy footers. Tatiana Weston-Webb didn’t let the fact that it is her J-Bay debut stand in her way. She told the WSL that “... there is a spot in Hawaii that’s similar, so I’m hoping to still bring knowledge.” She did just that.

Caroline Marks, the young rookie from California, showed the determination she says was drilled into her by her older brothers. The sixteen year old goofy footer got past tough competitors in Carissa Moore and Coco Ho.

Bronte Macaulay, who hails from Western Australia, told ESPN at the end of last year that she shifted her mental game to break through in her rookie season. She changed her view from one that credited only a win, to one that credited her satisfaction with her performance. “She started having fun again in the water,” said ESPN.

Anyone at Supertubes yesterday will attest to what a treat it is to watch Bronte having fun. She, like Marks, Buitendag and Weston-Webb, got through to round three via a backhand attack, leaving the injured Silvana Lima, and Nicole Pallet, to surf round two for remaining spots in round three.


YES INDEED: Especially when it's just you and one or two others out at Supers. Photo Grant Scholtz

The sun rose this morning on a low tide and not much swell, and the event is on hold. But the seats filled up with hope and people before the 9.30 call. The athletes were keeping an eye on the swell, and so were the dolphins. I just saw two of the slick skinned locals taking the best wave of the morning so far.

No one wants to miss the first heat with Bianca Buitendag up against Carissa Moore and Johanne Defay. Neither the next heat with number one ranked surfer, Lakey Peterson. Can’t miss the next one because Stephanie Gilmore needs to get through if she wants to improve her chances of a world title this year. And the battle of the goofy footers in Heat 4 will also be epic.

So although the event is off for today, there is still the sense of something great is about to happen is in the air. And there are plenty of people here who are frothing to see it.

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MAULY MCCAULEY: Bronte takes charge on a clean green Supers wall. Photo WSL / Cestari

From the WSL media team:

The goofyfooters stole the show with Round 1’s biggest wins going to women such as wildcard Bianca Buitendag (ZAF), World #3 Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), second year CT member Bronte Macaulay (AUS) and rookie Caroline Marks (AUS).

Buitendag, who spent four years on the CT, but dropped off at the end of 2016, showed the benefits of her local knowledge with a huge win over World #1 Lakey Peterson (USA) and Malia Manuel (HAW). The local hero clinched the massive upset with an impressive 8.87 points on her final ride in the 35 minute encounter. In her post-heat interview, Buitendag admitted her struggles with a recent back injury, but that did not stop her from taking a big win in front of her home crowd.

“I think for all the girls it is hard to believe we are actually here,” said Buitendag. “It is actually 4-6' and running all the way down, so it is a bit surreal but we are settling into it. I’m very happy to be here. Maybe it doesn’t seem so, but every time I try to bottom-turn or finish a turn, it kind of locks up in my lower back. I’ve been working twice a day to recover. I guess I’m ready, I’m here and making some heats.”

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ON A PALLET: Nicole was handed a wildcard slot, replacing an ill Tyler Wright. Photo WSL / Cestari

Peterson’s loss to Buitendag relegated her to Round 2 where she matched up with Nicole Pallet (ZAF). Pallet received a late call-up to her career-first CT event to replace Tyler Wright (AUS), who withdrew this morning due to flu. With elimination on the line, Peterson pushed her surfing to the excellent range with a near-perfect 9.00 and the win over Pallet. Peterson advanced to Round 3, while Pallet was eliminated in equal 13th place.

Pallet, the reigning WSL Africa regional women’s champion, was elated to get the late call-up to replace Wright and get a chance to compete in her first CT event against her surfing heroines in great waves: “It was a last minute call-up and I didn’t really have the right equipment, but my legs were like jelly as I was sitting out there competing with my favourite surfers on the CT. It was almost not real, such a dream,” said Pallet. “My first heat was against Silvana Lima and Bronte Macaulay, and I finished third, and in the next round I had Lakey Peterson.

“It was quite intimidating just being in the competitors’ area, their warm-ups are so gnarly, so I took my equipment down to the beach and did my preparation there like a QS event. But in the end I had fun and I learnt a lot. These girls are so controlled, a lot stronger and fitter. It was really inspiring, so I’m going to go home and work harder and try to get to their level.

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ON A PALLET: Nicole was handed a wildcard, replacing an ill Tyler Wright. Photo WSL / Cestari

Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), six-time WSL Champion, defeated fellow Australians Nikki Van Dijk and Macy Callaghan. Gilmore attacked the sets for two solid 7-point rides and direct entry into Round 3.

“That feeling of waking up, peering out the window, and seeing a six-foot set is the greatest feeling in 'Knowing you get to paddle and surf it with nobody else is such a joy.'the world,” said Gilmore. “Then, knowing you get to paddle and surf it with nobody else is such a joy. It can be overwhelming and you have to remind yourself that this is a contest. I watched Filipe (Toledo) win yesterday and it was so inspiring. I feel like I didn’t even get started out there.”

The second Round 1 heat, featuring Macaulay, Lima, and Pallet, witnessed domination by the Australian with a 15.43 heat total. Macaulay threw down big turns on her backhand for the win, with Lima in second with a 13.83, and Pallet in third with a 4.37.

Macaulay said: “It is very similar to Western Australia with the cold morning and the offshores, kind of like more harsh conditions but beautiful at the same time. I feel like i am learning a lot and it is hard, you are going against the best surfers in the world. I’m pretty much a regular surfer from Gracetown who grew up pretty normally. They are the best and I am learning. This is my second year so I am taking it slow. I’ll do my best, there’s still a lot to improve on.

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TEEN SPIRIT: Aged a mere 16, Caroline Marks keeps on wracking up wins. Photo WSL / Cestari

Caroline Marks (USA), 16, continues to rack up heat wins in her rookie year on the elite CT. Marks claimed a big opening win over three-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) and CT veteran Coco Ho (HAW). Marks will now be against Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb and Macaulay in Round 3.

Weston-Webb claimed the highest heat total of the day with a 16.37 combined score over Courtney Conlogue (USA) and Keely Andrew (AUS). Conlogue and Andrew surfed in Round 2 where they were eliminated by Moore and Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), respectively. Australians Sally Fitzgibbons and Macy Callaghan were also eliminated today in Round 2 against respective opponents, Coco Ho (HAW) and Johanne Defay (FRA).

A bad fall on her opening wave in Round 1 caused an injury to Brazilian Silvana Lima’s knee and forced her to withdraw from Round 2 against Malia Manuel (HAW).

The Women’s Corona Open J-Bay is being broadcast live on the WSL’s Facebook page. More info www.WorldSurfLeague.com.

Women’s Corona Open J-Bay Round 1
1Heat 1: Sage Erickson (USA) 13.03, Johanne Defay (FRA) 11.90, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 9.70
Heat 2: Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 15.43, Silvana Lima (BRA) 13.83, Nicole Pallet (ZAF) 4.37
Heat 3: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 15.04, Malia Manuel (HAW) 13.50, Lakey Peterson (USA) 10.93
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.24, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 13.67, Macy Callaghan (AUS) 8.90
Heat 5: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 16.37, Courtney Conlogue (USA) 16.27, Keely Andrew (AUS) 14.40
Heat 6: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.77, Caroline Marks (USA) 11.90, Coco Ho (HAW) 7.43

Women’s Corona Open J-Bay Round 2
Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) def. Silvana Lima (BRA) INJ
Heat 2: Coco Ho (HAW) 15.50 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.10
Heat 3: Lakey Peterson (USA) 13.47 def. Nicole Pallet (ZAF) 4.93
Heat 4: Johanne Defay (FRA) 14.67 def. Macy Callaghan (AUS) 12.26
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.47 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 8.26
Heat 6: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 11.00 def. Keely Andrew (AUS) 10.33

Women’s Corona Open J-Bay Round 3 (top 2 to quarterfinals)
Heat 1: Johanne Defay (FRA), Carissa Moore (HAW), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)
Heat 2: Lakey Peterson (USA), Malia Manuel (HAW), Coco Ho (HAW)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Sage Erickson (USA)
Heat 4: Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), Caroline Marks (USA), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)

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