Friday on Queensland's Gold Coast saw the women contestants of the Roxy Pro hit the water again after several days on hold. A slight bump in swell was visible early on Friday morning, prompting rightfully panicky event officials to pull the trigger and take advantage of the shoulder-high, less-than-perfect waves on offer at Duranbah. The past few days, the Goldy has taken on the feeling of Groundhog's Day: wake up early, check the surf, get a coffee, talk story with others trying to find out if the event is on, find out the event is on hold, and then spend the rest of the day trying to find something to do. But with the event window closing mid next week and only Round One run so far on both the Roxy and Quiksilver Pro, everyone was relieved to be making some headway, and Round Two of the women's event paddled out at 7:15 a.m. Queensland time.
The losers round, as its jokingly known, consisted of only two three-woman heats, and it saw Sofia Mulanovich, Megan Abubo, Jacqueline Silva, and Rebecca Woods advance to Round Three, while Jessi Miley-Dyer and trials qualifier Ashleigh Smith, took an early bow from the event.
Round three was a bloodbath for a few of the rookies who'd shined so brightly in Round One, including Alana Blanchard, Rosie Hodge, and Sally Fitzgibbons, who, despite losing a close one to Rebecca Woods, is undoubtedly bound to make an impact on the women's tour in her first year. Chelsea Hedges and Sofia Mulanovich looked their old world-champ selves, easily eliminating Jacqueline Silva and Alana Blanchard and cruising to quarterfinal berths. But the ladies who really shined in Round Three were Coco Ho, Paige Hareb, Melanie Bartels, and current world number one, Steph Gilmore, who's surfing is so fluid, connected, and critical that money bet against her winning a third title might as well be flushed down a drain. From wave selection to fins-free surfing, Steph is very scary girl to draw in a heat. PS: She's 21.
The quarterfinals arrived in tandem with declining conditions (including a low tide and mild but disrupting onshore wind which caused the waves to section and crumble, truncating rides and offering little in the way of workable open faces), and the state of the waves dictated the action. Paige Hareb beat Brazilian Bruna Schmitz soundly, Stephanie Gilmore barely squeaked by Chelsea Hedges, and Melanie Bartels soundly beat a struggling Sofia Mulanovich (who strangely seemed to pass on her two set waves that came in with time running out). Coco Ho needs to be singled out for praise after her quarterfinal drumming of Rebecca Woods. Ho's smile is reminiscent of all that's good about childhood innocence, but when she's got the singlet on, it's like watching a starving hyena attack a wounded antelope. There is no remorse, and it's beautiful to watch.
"I had fun," 17-year-old Ho giggled after her Round Three dismantling of Sylvana Lima (who probably would have advanced to the Quarters, had she pulled an air she attempted with two minutes left in the heat. "Silvana scores 10's so I wasn't sure what to expect, but the waves went my way. We can both get good scores, so it was just up to who got the better rides and towards the end of the heat, it went a bit quiet so I was lucky I got some early scores."
By the end of the quarters the waves were head-high on the sets, but the conditions were still deteriorating, so officials called the event off with just three heats remaining—the two semi finals and the final itself. Hopefully, they'll run it during the men's final day, giving the women's final the attention (and waves) these competitors deserve.
No one is willing to go on the record and commit to a surf forecast for the weekend, but most think the Quiksilver Pro men will run Saturday and Sunday, leaving Monday or Tuesday for the final push, depending on waves. A tropical disturbance could send some powerful swell on Tuesday, but no one's betting what's left in their bank accounts on it. So stay tuned…
Roxy Pro Gold Coast Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 12.73, Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 10.07, Ashleigh Smith (AUS) 7.83
Heat 2: Megan Abubo (HAW) 12.33, Rebecca Woods (AUS) 11.16, Jessi Miley Dyer (AUS) 9.43
Roxy Pro Gold Coast Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Paige Hareb (NZL) 15.17 def. Amee Donohoe (AUS) 11.34
Heat 2: Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 13.50 def. Samantha Cornish (AUS) 13.43
Heat 3: Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 14.00 def. Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 11.90
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.83 def. Megan Abubo (HAW) 8.40
Heat 5: Coco Ho (HAW) 15.33 def. Silvana Lima (BRA) 11.50
Heat 6: Rebecca Woods (AUS) 13.50 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.50
Heat 7: Melanie Bartels (HAW) 15.40 def. Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 12.86
Heat 8: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 11.83 def. Alana Blanchard (HAW) 6.70
Roxy Pro Gold Coast Quarterfinals Results:
QF 1: Paige Hareb (NZL) 12.17 def. Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 8.20
QF 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.83 def. Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 14.83
QF 3: Coco Ho (HAW) 15.34 def. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 7.23
QF 4: Melanie Bartels (HAW) 11.57 def. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 11.50
Roxy Pro Gold Coast Semifinals Match-Ups:
SF 1: Paige Hareb (NZL) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
SF 2: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Melanie Bartels (HAW)