April 28, 2003 (Tavarua & Namotu Islands, Fiji) Hawaiian Keala Kennelly today won the 2003 Roxy Pro. Boasting the richest prize purse in the history of women’s surfing – US$70,800, the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Championship Tour (WCT) ran all the way from round three through the quarterfinals, semis and then climaxed with the grand finale this afternoon.
Good 4-5 ft (1.5m) surf was on offer, though strong offshore winds persisted throughout the day. Pods of dolphins and even a deadly sea snake greeted the lineup as competition unfolded, with both Tavarua and Namotu Island staff out to watch the world’s best women in action.
Kennelly, 24, lived up to her reputation as a fearless competitor in powerful reef breaks. Against South Africa’s Heather Clark, the world #4 entered her first final since winning in Tahiti last year and displayed the same determination.
Despite a somewhat anti-climatic 30-minute decider, since both contestants were out of position for many of the good waves, Kennelly made the most of what she found to create a lasting lead. Although her trademark barrel rides didn’t feature, forehand snaps and a couple of floaters proved enough. By claiming victory the Kauaian moved into equal first position on the current ratings and received US$10,600 prizemoney. “I’m so stoked,” began Kennelly. “It’s unfortunate the conditions got worse as soon as the final started, as when you win an event you hope it turns on and is an awesome final. Heather’s an incredible surfer and she’s been ripping all day. I can’t believe it (laughs).
“I was stoked it was an all goofy footer final,” she added, since the two previous winners have been regular footers. “I’m in a way better position than I was in this time last year. After being on tour for six years, I’m definitely thinking about the world title now.”
Clark, who also finished runner-up last year in the Roxy Pro, earned the highest combined total of the day during her quarterfinal match with 16.5-points. Against Kennelly in the final, however, the South African struggled to find any good scores. The 31-year-old only required a ride worth 7.06-points, but as time elapsed, she ultimately sat waiting in vain.
“I was glad to be in a final with Keala,” began Clark. “Especially in a good left. It wasn’t great then, but I’m really stoked to have finished second. Last year I did the same, so you never want to do worse than the previous year. I’m really happy and stoked for Keala too.
“Next week we’re in Tahiti and I just hope I don’t get her in the early rounds, as she loves the barrel,” she continued. “I was trying to get one then, but was too deep and it just didn’t happen. I’m still happy with the result.”
Equal third was WCT newcomer Sofia Mulanovich (Peru) and 2002 ASP ‘Rookie of the Year’ Chelsea Georgeson (Aus). Both 19-year-olds were standouts during the Roxy Pro, but had their runs stopped during the semifinals.