Aussie Rebecca Woods put on a stunning performance in Round 1
Hedges set the benchmark for her fellow competitors when she opened her account with a near perfect 9.50 (out of a possible 10.00) and followed it with a 9.00 leaving her opponents Nicola Atherton (AUS) and Jacqueline Silva (BRA) needing a combination of good scorning rides to catch her.
"I was just lucky," Hedges said. "It's one of those places where if you're in the right spot at the right time and those waves come through, it can make or break the heat. I caught a right and paddled back out and a left came straight to me and I thought. 'I can't not go!' It's just a matter of being in the right position out there."
Hedges, the 2005 ASP Women's World Champion, shares the World No. 1 spot with travel-buddy and rookie title contender Gilmore. The day's high scorer is well aware that she cannot give Gilmore an inch, and as her Round 1 performance proved, is thoroughly enjoying the challenge.
"It's awesome!" Hedges said. "This is the first year in a while that I've felt really, really motivated and I guess I needed someone like Steph to come along and amp things up. I love it, it's great for women's surfing and it makes me push myself even harder."
Gilmore was equally as fired up about the battle for the ratings lead, emerging as one of the day's top scorers with an excellent 8.50 ride, to defeat Caroline Sarran (FRA) and Jessi Miley Dyer (AUS).
"Chels and I are staying together which is pretty crazy but it's going great," Gilmore said. "We're good mates and we love surfing together because we push each other and we just want to surf better. It's great traveling together but when a heat is on we know that we're going to do whatever it takes to win."
Gilmore, one of the most progressive and influential girls on the ASP Women's World Tour at present, will be watched closely by her rivals as she progresses through the upcoming rounds.
"It's about pushing the limits, going for big moves and getting out of your comfort zone," Gilmore said. "There is no doubt that all the girls are going out there with a different frame of mind at this event and everyone will be looking to step it up."
World No. 4 Rebecca Woods (AUS) joined Hedges and Gilmore in pushing the limits on Monday. The former ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) champion posted the second highest two-wave heat total of the day (14.25 out of a possible 20.00) to dispose of local favorite Silvana Lima (BRA) and fellow Australian Claire Bevilaqcua.
"The waves are really hard," Woods said. "They can be all over the place but if you get the right one, you're stoked. That's what happened to me today, so I'm really pleased and just looking forward to Round 3."
Surfers finishing 1st and 2nd in the three-woman heats go straight to Round 3. The third place surfer in each of the six Round 1 heats surfs Round 2 and faces early elimination.
Defending Billabong Girls Pro Champion Layne Beachley (AUS) had an adrenaline charged start to her Billabong Girls Pro Itacare campaign when she was locked out of her hotel room and almost missed her heat.
Currently #1 in the rankings, Stephanie Gilmore dominated her Round 1 heat
Despite her shaky start, Beachley defeated Hawaii's Megan Abubo and Rochelle Ballard to advance directly to Round 3.
"It's my first heat since Bells when I lost against Sofia in the Semifinals," Beachley said. "It's been a four month hiatus and I think I've got a bit of work to do! It felt good to get started though and the conditions were pretty good out there."
All six heats of Round 1 were completed in punchy meter 3- 4 foot (1- 1.5 meter) surf today. The next call on Round 2 competition status will be made at 10am local time.
The Billabong Girls Pro Brazil – live on www.ASPWorldTour.com
COMPLETE ROUND 1 RESULTS:
(1st & 2nd advance to Round 3; 3rd advances to Round 2)
Heat 1: 1- Melanie Bartels, 2- Sam Cornish, 3- Sofia Mulanovich
Heat 2: 1- Stephanie Gilmore, 2- Caroline Sarran, 3- Jessi Miley-Dyer
Heat 3: 1- Chelsea Hedges, 2- Jacqueline Silve, 3- Nicola Atherton
Heat 4: 1- Layne Beachley, 2- Megan Abubo, 3- Rochelle Ballard
Heat 5: 1- Amee Donohoe, 2- Melanie Redman-Carr, 3- Roseanne Hodge
Heat 6: 1- Rebecca Woods, 2- Silvana Lima, 3- Claire BevilacquaUPCOMING ROUND 2 HEATS
(1st & 2nd advance to Round 3; 3rd finishes =17)
Heat 1: Sofia Mulanovich, Roseanne Hodge, Nicola Atherton
Heat 2: Rochelle Ballard, Jessi Miley-Dyer, Claire Bevilacqua