Aussie gun Sally Fitzgibbons set an impressive benchmark in the opening heat of women’s round one action of the World Surf League’s Rip Curl Newcastle Cup presented by Corona.
The current world No. 3 posted a 14.00-point heat tally on Thursday 1 April at Merewether Beach, which included a near-excellent 7.83 score (out of a possible 10) for her heat victory.
Like male counterpart John John Florence, Fitzgibbons is renowned for her big wave surfing but her performance in today’s fun peeling smaller waves reminded all just how good she surfs on the smaller days.
“I’m frothing,” she said.
“It’s so nice to be back competing and with a crowd on the beach, especially an Aussie one.
“Heat one is always exciting, so I definitely had a lot of energy going into that one.
“My preparation was good and I had a great free surf leading into that heat, so I was trying for some progressive moves that didn’t quite come off.
“But, I’ll definitely be trying for more of them in my next heat.”
United States’ Caroline Marks dominated the opening day with the highest single-wave score of the event so far.
She garnered an excellent 8.00-point ride for a series of critical backhand snaps all the way to the beach.
Marks’ success sent Brisa Hennessy (CRI) to elimination round 2.
“It’s so good to be back competing in Australia,” she said.
“It’s been a few years, so it’s great to be back, as it’s definitely one of my favourite places in the world.
“It was definitely stressful getting here, but I’m happy to be healthy and back doing what I love.
“I’ve missed competing so much.”
Fellow Olympic qualifier and four-time WSL champion Carissa Moore, of Hawaii, was also a top-performer.
She put on a power surfing clinic in her opening heat, carving her way to an early win over local hope Philippa Anderson and Sage Erickson (USA).
Moore wasn’t the only multiple world titleholder to find success in round 1 with Stephanie Gilmore also taking a solid victory in the smaller-than-hoped-for surf.
The seven-time WSL champion looked fired up as she kept busy all heat to overcome Bronte Macaulay (AUS) and Johanne Defay (FRA).
Prior to the competition getting underway at Merewether Beach, surfers and fans were treated to a moving Acknowledgement of Country and Smoking Ceremony led by Uncle Kevin McKenny of Wandiyali Group with Jackie Allen performing the National Anthem in Awabakal language, and Perry playing the didgeridoo.
The words and Smoking Ceremony acknowledged that the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup was taking place on the land of the Awabakal people.
Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Women’s seeding round 1 results:
- HEAT 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.00 DEF. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 10.27, Macy Callaghan (AUS) 8.44
- HEAT 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.37 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 10.50, Keely Andrew (AUS) 8.90
- HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.73 DEF. Philippa Anderson (AUS) 10.70, Sage Erickson (USA) 10.13
- HEAT 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.50 DEF. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 9.27, Johanne Defay (FRA) 8.56
- HEAT 5: Caroline Marks (USA) 14.93 DEF. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 11.10, Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 10.10
- HEAT 6: Isabella Nichols (AUS) 9.84 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 9.73, Malia Manuel (HAW) 8.14
Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona Women’s elimination round 2 match-ups:
- HEAT 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Brisa Hennessy (CRI) vs. Keely Andrew (AUS)
- HEAT 2: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Sage Erickson (USA) vs. Macy Callaghan (AUS)