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O'Neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach
HALEIWA, Oahu, Hawaii - -- The opening day of the O'Neill Women's World Cup, the second jewel of the Vans Triple Crown, 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 now battling for 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 here, donated a strong performance in her opening O'Neill Women's World Cup heat. Fitzgibbons put 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. She is through to the quarter finals.
Above: Fitzgibbons on one of the larger waves of the day. Photo: Cestari
"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 has three runner-up finishes on the 2010 season and is hungry to wrap up her year with a win at the O'Neill Women's World Cup to 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 match-up to battle back to victory. Three clean forehand carves on her final wave saw 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."
Despite being a two-time Vans Triple Crown champion, Gilmore admits 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, enters this event on a defending champion's wildcard. She 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 gaining 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.