Two-time defending event champion Sofia Mulanovich (PER) made her intentions to remain atop the Roxy Pro podium crystal clear when she reached the quarter-finals of the US$78,{{{300}}} event today.

Mulanovich, the 2004 Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) Women’s World Champion, was in dynamic form in the perfect 4-6 foot (1.2 – 2 meter) waves at Cloudbreak Reef, off the islands of Tavarua and Namotu, Fiji.

She earned the day’s highest heat score with a brilliant round three heat against South Africa’s Heather Clark, scoring 19.10 out of 20 possible points with a 9.5 and a 9.6 ride.

“I just love this place! Plus I feel way more comfortable after that win,” Mulanovich said after the victory. “I was pretty nervous in my first heat and not really surfing top to bottom, but then I said to myself: ‘If you can’t surf top to bottom, maybe you don’t deserve to win this contest.’ So I gave it everything I had in that heat and I am feeling really confident now.”

Mulanovich, like reigning world champion Chelsea Georgeson (AUS), needs to post a solid result here if she wants to factor into the 2006 world title race. Both Georgeson and Mulanovich, numbers one and two in the world respectively last year, fell victim to early exits in the first event of the year, the Roxy Pro on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Judging by her first round heat however, Georgeson seems poised to launch another explosive campaign in 2006. She slotted into the deepest barrel of the day and earned a nine-point score for her efforts.

“To get a good result in Fiji is really important, even if it’s just for myself. Especially after a not-so-great start to the year,” Georgeson said. “I always love coming to Fiji and it suits me because I’m on my forehand and facing the wave. Simply surfing here is exciting, but a win would be nice.”

In a similarly epic performance, rookie Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) racked up the day’s highest wave score – a 9.75 (out of 10) – in the first heat of the day. The score was enough to easily trump tour veterans Trudy Todd (AUS) and Megan Abubo (HAW), both of whom were later eliminated in their round three heats today.

“I was watching what Trudy and Megan were doing because they both surf so well and have more experience out here and I could see that I was out of position. I was having a hard time catching anything at first,” Miley-Dyer said.

“Then I saw that wave coming so I paddled like crazy for it. I was so excited that I almost fell off at the start though. I had to tell myself: ‘Settle down, you’re surfing one of the best waves you’ve ever seen in your life,’ so just relax and enjoy it. Once I did that I was able to link a few good maneuvers and was scored well for them.”

Miley-Dyer’s success in her round one heat did not translate to her surfboard-caddying skills in round two however. She and team manager Kate Skarratt, along with several boards, were tossed about the reef after a rogue eight foot set caught them off-guard and swept them inside onto the razor-sharp reef. Heat winner Julia Christian (USA) got a front row seat to the carnage.

“I rode a wave all the way into the inside only to turn around and see one wave, then two waves, and then all of the caddies and boats get scattered on the reef,” Christian said. “I was thinking, ‘OK, here we go,’ but it really wasn’t too bad thanks to the jetski water patrol.They come and pick you up and take you out. They were definitely a big help today.”

Melanie Redman-Carr was another standout during day one of the Roxy Pro. Redman-Carr, who comes into the event leading the 2006 ASP ratings, advanced through her round one and three heats with ease to move into the quarter-finals.

“Winning the first event of the year on the Gold Coast has given me confidence that I can win an event, and I generally have a lot of confidence here as well, so it’s added to that,” Redman-Carr said. “I’ve been surfing lefts for the past five weeks in Western Australia so if I haven’t fit in enough practice yet, there’s something wrong with me.”

Four-time Roxy Pro trialist Caroline Sarran (FRA) won her third wildcard into the main event today. Sarran, whose former Roxy Pro berths were earned in 2003 and 2004, beat an international field of hopefuls in Carissa Moore (HAW), Rosy Hodge (ZAF), Carly Smith (AUS) and Seini Loga (FIJI) to secure her spot amongst the elite. Unfortunately, Sarran was unable to repeat that success against the best in female surfing and she was eliminated in round two.

Half of round three was completed today and four more heats are needed to complete the round, at which point only the quarters, semis and final remain to be surfed. The swell is forecast to reach eight feet-plus (2.5m plus) in the next few days so the surfers are psyching for a big wave battle to decide the Roxy Pro title. A decision regarding further competition will be made at 6.30am local Fiji time tomorrow (Tuesday 25 April) after organizers evaluate the conditions.

The Roxy Pro, which has a competition window until this Friday 28 April, carries a US$10,{{{600}}} first place purse. It is the second event on the 2006 ASP Women’s World Tour, which decides the world champion.


ROUND THREE: 1st advances to quarterfinals, 2nd finishes equal 9th and earns $USD3000
HEAT 1: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 19.10 def. Heather Clark (ZAF) 11.35
HEAT 2: Rebecca Woods (AUS) 10.50 def. Megan Abubo (HAW) 7.75
HEAT 3: Keala Kennelly (HAW) 9.10 def. Trudy Todd (AUS) 4.10
HEAT 4: Melanie Redman-Carr (AUS) 15.50 def. Jaqueline Silva (BRA) 5.40

ROUND TWO: 1st and 2nd advance to round three, 3rd finishes equal 17th and earns $USD2500
HEAT 1: Rochelle Ballard (HAW) 16.50; Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 14.00; Caroline Sarran (FRA) 6.75
HEAT 2: Julia Christian (USA) 12.00; Trudy Todd (AUS) 10.{{{90}}}; Serena Brooke (AUS) 9.75

ROUND ONE: 1st and 2nd advance to round three, 3rd surfs round two.
HEAT 1: Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 16.25; Megan Abubo (HAW) 13.25; Trudy Todd (AUS) 10.00 HEAT 2: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 13.00; Keala Kennelly (HAW) 10.00; Julia Christian (USA) 5.20
HEAT 3: Melanie Redman-Carr (AUS) 15.25; Rebecca Woods (AUS) 10.10; Caroline Sarran (FRA) 5.45
HEAT 4: Chelsea Georgeson (AUS) 16.75; Claire Bevilacqua (AUS) 13.50; Serena Brooke (AUS) 4.23
HEAT 5: Layne Beachley (AUS) 14.10; Silvana Lime (BRA) 13.75; Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 13.75
HEAT 6: Samantha Cornish (AUS) 10.65; Heather Clark (ZAF) 10.40; Rochelle Ballard (HAW) 9.50