After an opening day that saw underdogs rule, Tuesday at the Vans US Open was a more predictable affair, with Courtney Conlogue leading the charge for total top-seed domination.
The current World No. 1 has a world title on the line for the second year running, and her Round Two win was a crucial one to keep her at the front of the pack. It was obvious from the second the heat started that her eyes were fixed unwaveringly on that prize. She was aggressive, decisive and powerful, effectively trouncing wildcard Meah Collins. Her approach was a far cry from her lackluster showing the day before, when she suffered a head-scratcher of a loss.
"Yesterday was not what I wanted obviously," Conlogue said. "I don't think anyone plans for a shocker like that. It's been so hot back home in Santa Ana and I just haven't slept well so it was great to have a full night's sleep. I woke up feeling good."
'It was kind of a slow and stressful morning,' Gilmore said after her win. 'I just felt a little stuck. But it finally came through, thankfully.' - WSL / Kenneth Morris
Courtney wasn't the only top seed getting back on track. Stephanie Gilmore clawed her way out of a jam, too. It was a refreshing sight in this underwhelming season of hers, which has given rise to questions about her competitive drive. (Gilmore's version of a slump, of course, is sitting at World No. 7.)
Fellow Aussie Nikki Van Dijk seemed to have Steph on the ropes early, and kept her there for much of the heat. But with signature finesse Stephanie snapped into gear as the clock ticked down, scoring a late seven-pointer that won her safe passage to Round Three. It was a tough learning experience for Nikki, who has yet to crack the top five on the CT, but is sitting at No. 3 on the Qualifying Series.
Despite an impressive performance, Nikki was eliminated at the end of her heat. - WSL / Sean Rowland
"That last heat was a bummer," Van Dijk said afterward. "I will definitely reset for the next event. I can't wait to get on a fun canvas to show what I've got."
Perennial top-five finisher Sally Fitzgibbons faced a scenario similar to Gilmore's. Alessa Quizon had Sally on her heels for most of their matchup, and, sitting at No. 14, Quizon is desperately in need of some CT points right now. But Fitzgibbons found a way to get the job done. She shifted into another gear toward the end, slamming the door on Alessa with an 8.17.
Carissa took her morning zen to the lineup, and it paid off. - WSL / Jackson Van Kirk
Carissa Moore, meanwhile, faced none of the trifling hassles of hustling for scores. Her heat, like Conlogue's before her, was a display of domination over rookie Chelsea Tuach in a lopsided battle that was almost not fair...almost, except that Moore was on fire with a 15 point-plus heat total, and young Chelsea has a long career ahead.
'I am sick of losing in the second round and just really wanted to make that one,' Keely said. 'Johanne is such an amazing surfer and competitor. To have a heat with her is always fun and I am pretty happy to get a win over her.' - WSL / Kenneth Morris
The last two heats of the day revealed the only cracks in the top seeds' armor. In the biggest upset of the event so far, rookie Keely Andrew defeated Johanne Defay, who not only won here last year but is fresh off a win at the Fiji Women's Pro. And Laura Enever -- a strong surfer who doesn't always show it in CT heats -- ended Bianca Buitendag's run before it even got started.
Next up for the women is Round Three, a non-elimination round that should be a relief after the high stakes in today's heats. Watch the action starting at 10:30 a.m. local time Wednesday, live on the WSL website and app.
Michael Bradley Photography