Sally Fitzgibbons’ run of outstanding form has taken her through to a Quarterfinal showdown with former champion Sofia Mulanovich (pictured above) at the Women’s Surf Festival on New Zealand’s Fitzroy Beach.
The Australian teenager, currently tied with Coco Ho for the ASP World No. 5, scored the highest heat total of the event, an 18.07 out of a possible 20 in Round 3. That included the highest single-wave score of the day, a 9.40 out of a possible 10 for a series of powerful forehand maneuvers punctuated by a progressive grab-rail reverse on the end section.
Clearly, the Aussie is in her element. “It’s more of a level playing field today,” said the 19-year-old. “It’s shifty, thumpy beachbreaks and I love these as they remind me of home. I started my heat off really well and I knew that if I wanted to get the big scores I would have to really push the progressive side of my surfing, and that’s what I did.”
As sensational as her performance was, it wasn’t the biggest talking point of the day, however. Sarah Mason, a 15-year-old wildcard entry from New Zealand, defeated three-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore in Round 3.
The defending champion held a solid lead throughout the majority of the bout, but the young Kiwi pulled out an impressive right-hander for a 6.93 and a last-ditch 7.10 to take the win.
"It’s shifty, thumpy beachbreaks and I love these as they remind me of home." –Sally Fitzgibbons
“I’m buzzing right now,” Mason said. “I’m so excited. This is the biggest win of my career. I was down for most of the heat, then I got a pretty good right-hander and that put me back in the hunt. I was just hoping that I could get another opportunity to score. That came right at the end and when I heard I got the score, I was blown away.”
Gilmore’s loss means the iconic natural-footer will miss her first final since October of last year, six events ago.
Carissa Moore (pictured below) was another to cause a major upset this morning, defeating fellow Hawaiian and current ASP Women's World No. 5 Coco Ho in their Round 3 bout. Moore wasted no time, opening up with an impressive 9.17 for a series of blistering backhand moves.
"The conditions are very tricky out there and it's difficult to be on the spot when the good ones come through," Moore said. "I was fortunate to be in position for that first one and it allowed me to string together some maneuvers. I went out there with the mindset to just have fun and that's what I did."
The young Hawaiian's result already marks her best of the season; she will look to build the momentum throughout the final day of competition tomorrow.
"I've had two ninths this season and I was starting to get frustrated," Moore said. "It's my rookie season and there's a lot to learn, but every heat is a clean slate and I'm excited to crack into the Quarterfinals. I've been watching Mel (Bartels) the last few comps and she's in really good form so it should be a good match-up."
Melanie Bartels (HAW) vs. Carissa Moore (HAW)
Paige Hareb (NZL) vs. Sarah Mason (NZL)
Sofia Mulanovich (PER) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
Chelsea Hedges (AUS) vs. Silvana Lima (BRA)