|Seven-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) came out on top of a superheat, battling with Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) for a spot into the Quarterfinals. The two Australian powerhouses found a good score with big backside turns on the lefts, and Gilmore made the difference with a higher backup. She also found one of the rare barrels of the morning to put a smile on her face and advance.
“Sally is an amazing athlete and she’s always on the hunt,” Gilmore stated. “You have to stay on top of your game and you have to want it really bad, so I was doing my best out there.”
For International Women’s Day celebrations, Gilmore’s name is being worn by two surfers in the event, Ryan Callinan (AUS) and local wildcard Afonso Antunes (PRT). She has opted to represent her compatriot Phyllis O’Donnell, the 1964 surfing world champion.
“Phyllis is an idol of mine and I think for all of us women who are here today, it’s the women like Phyllis who paved the way,” Gilmore added. “I know there are a couple of guys like Ryan and Afonso that have my name on the back of their jerseys and that means the world to me. They are both incredible surfers and Ryan is such a sweetheart. I really admire how much he surfs and the way he represents himself all over the world.”
Pictured: Tyler Wright (AUS) attacking the rights at Supertubos. Credit: © WSL / Poullenot
Five-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) won the last heat before the event went on hold through low tide and managed to score a critical three-turn combo for a 7.50 (out of a possible 10), the highest score of the day at this point. The powerful Hawaiian surfer eliminated replacement surfer Bronte Macaulay (AUS).
“The waves and conditions are constantly changing, it’s tricky,” Moore explained. “Bronte is a replacement surfer so there’s no pressure on her and not making it out of the third round at Sunset gave me a little extra nerves so it felt good to make this one.”
Two-time WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) opted to go mostly right and found a nice little barrel punctuated by a late, committed turn for a 7.50 of her own. She backed it up with a ferocious attack of a softer right to eliminate Gabriela Bryan (HAW) in equal 9th.
“The conditions are getting better, the tide is filling in so there are more opportunities,” Wright said. “The barrel was a bonus. I worked really hard to be here and to feel like I’m back to being competitive again, I’m really enjoying the experience. I think everyone is lifting and it’s really notable so it’s exciting to be a part of it. You’ve got to fight to be here now and it’s pretty cool.”
Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) was against the ropes in her Round of 16 bout with rookie Luana Silva (HAW), but the Brazilian stayed in the hunt and came back with two big scores, attacking the lip vertically on the lefts to take out the round’s biggest performance.
“It’s been really hard for me to click into rhythm this year and that heat just showed me that my surfing is still there and I can still compete,” she said.
Pictured: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) was on fire today in Portugal. Credit: © WSL / Poullenot
Weston-Webb also explained her choice to honor retired figure-skater Michelle Kwan for International Women’s Day with childhood memories of greatness.
“When I was really little, the first memory I have of a competition was when I was watching Michelle Kwan at the Olympics winning her gold. It was just so beautiful, it was something that gave me so much inspiration to hopefully one day be at the Olympics and be an athlete. For me I remember that, watching it with my mom. I also wanted to say thanks to my mom, she’s always been the one that inspired me and pushed me.”
Courtney Conlogue (USA), Johanne Defay (FRA), Lakey Peterson (USA) and India Robinson (AUS) complete the women’s Quarterfinals draw.