Top Seeds Lead Opening Day of O’Neill Women’s World Cup

Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 19, earned the top scores of O'Neill Women's World Cup Round 1 competition. Credit: ASP/CESTARI

Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 19, earned the top scores of O'Neill Women's World Cup Round 1 competition. Credit: ASP/CESTARI

Sunset Beach, Oahu/Hawaii (Wednesday, November 24, 2010) - The opening day of the O'Neill Women's World Cup, the second jewel of the Vans Triple Crown and final stop on the ASP Women’s World Tour, saw the top seeds dominate their Round 1 heats in firing six-to-eight foot (2 metre) surf at the world famous pointbreak of Sunset Beach on Oahu's North Shore.

With Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 22, wrapping up the ASP Women's World Title in Puerto Rico, competitors are battling for the ratings points towards the Vans Triple Crown title and requalification for the 2011 ASP Dream Tour.

Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 19, current No. 2 on the ASP Women's World Tour and a finalist at last year's event, donated a strong performance in her opening O'Neill Women's World Cup heat, putting the field in need of a combination of two scores by earning the day's highest single-wave score of an 8.50 before clinching the highest heat total of a 14.83 out of 20 with crisp rail-to-rail surfing to advance to the Quarterfinals.

"We've got really good conditions out here today," Fitzgibbons said. "I just got in a good rhythm out there and I'm happy to move through. It's all about timing and I think I've gained a lot of confidence from last year."

Fitzgibbons, who has three runner-up finishes on the 2010 season, is hungry to wrap up her year with a win at the O'Neill Women's World Cup and better her standing on the Vans Triple Crown.

"It's a long way to go, but I love surfing at Sunset and having some bigger waves," Fitzgibbons said. "We haven't really  had many big waves this year on tour and it's good to break out the big boards and have a crack. I'd love to make a final here and help my Triple Crown cause."

Gilmore, freshly crowned four-time ASP Women's World Champion, got off to a slow start in her Round 1 heat, but built momentum throughout the 30 minute matchup and managed to battle back to victory with three clean forehand carves on her final wave to see the stylish natural-footer advance straight through to the Quarterfinals.

"I was kind of really slow at the start," Gilmore said. "I was probably pretty lost out there, it's only my second surf out at Sunset since I've been here and these conditions are really testing because it's kind of half swell. Half of the waves are over to the point and to the middle and you've got to just stick to one of them. I sort of got lost in the middle, but I got one in the end."

Gilmore, two-time Vans Triple Crown champion and current series leader, admitted that competing at Sunset Beach often poses different challenges than any other wave on the ASP Women's World Tour.

"This is definitely one of the most challenging waves on tour," Gilmore said. "You never know whether you're going to be on or off. You could get caught inside for 20 minutes or have the best heat of your life, so it's really hard. I'm happy I got a couple."

Carissa Moore (HAW), 18, who enters the event as defending champion after last year's victory as a wildcard, won her opening heat today and is out for redemption after an uncharacteristic Round 1 loss at the first stop on the Vans Triple Crown, the Cholo's Hawaiian Pro.

"I'm happy to get that heat win," Moore said. "I was pretty frustrated after Haleiwa last week and I just want to try and take it heat-by-heat and not put too much pressure on myself as defending champion. I want to have a good showing here at Sunset to redeem myself from Haleiwa. We'll see what happens."

Tyler Wright (AUS), 16, who is an O'Neill Women's World Cup Wildcard, will be competing in her rookie year on the elite ranks in 2011 and expressed the importance of the gained experience in tricky waves such as Sunset after winning her Round 2 heat.

"I've been worked over a few times out there so it's good to finally get a few waves," Wright said. "It's great experience for next year. Several of the girls that are going to be on tour were out there so it's great."

The O'Neill Women's World Cup of Surfing will be off tomorrow for the Thanksgiving holiday, but event organizers will reconvene Friday, November 26 to assess conditions to potentially resume the event.

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O'Neill Women's World Cup Round 2 Reuslts:

Heat 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) 12.00, Malia Manuel (HAW) 9.07, Rebecca Woods (AUS) 8.20, Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 7.74, Nikita Robb (ZAF) 4.70

Heat 2: Sage Erickson (USA) 12.16, Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 11.43, Claire Bevilacqua (AUS) 8.93, Paige Hareb (NZL) 8.17, Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 2.07

O'Neill Women's World Cup Round 1 Results:

Heat 1: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 12.66, Coco Ho (HAW) 11.27, Nikita Robb (ZAF) 9.00, Sage Erickson (USA) 8.00

Heat 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.74, Lee Ann Curren (FRA) 11.33, Malia Manuel (HAW) 11.04, Rebecca Woods (AUS) 6.93

Heat 3: Silvana Lima (BRA) 12.94, Melanie Bartels (HAW) 11.77, Tyler Wright (AUS) 11.37, Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 6.34

Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.83, Alana Blanchard (HAW) 4.73, Claire Bevilacqua (AUS) 4.00, Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 3.23

Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.67, Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 9.80, Paige Hareb (NZL) 5.50, Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 2.10

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