The Vans US Open of Surfing, Stop No. 6 of 10 on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), is down to the final four competitors after completing the Quarterfinals in three-to-five foot (1 - 1.5 metre) conditions today. The day also ran through the Men’s QS 10,000 with the remaining Round 2 heats and the first eight heats of Round 3, in addition to the Men’s Pro Junior Quarterfinals.
Local favorite Courtney Conlogue (USA) dominated her Quarterfinal heat against Pauline Ado (FRA) to earn the final spot in the Semifinals. Conlogue set the tone from the start of the heat with a solid 7.67 (out of a possible 10) to put early pressure on Ado. Ado fought back with a 5.60 and 4.87, but Conlogue locked in the win with a powerful 6.40. Ado will leave a 5th place finish and her best result of 2017. Conlogue will march on to the Semifinals against Sage Erickson (USA), where she will be one step closer to earning her first CT victory at her homebreak.
“I think any one of these women on Tour are masters of being able to switch on and put that competitive face on,” Conlogue said. “Sage [Erickson] and I are good friends, but when we get in the water, it’s so fun. We just go so far back and it’s always going to be a great competition. I always look forward to heats with her because she brings out the best in me and I’m excited for it. It’d be awesome to take this event on home turf and I just have so much support, which gets me all choked-up and fuels me to do that much better.”
The extremely dramatic Quarterfinal match-up between reigning WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) and Coco Ho (HAW) saw a nail-biting finish to determine the second elimination of the day. Ho opened up with a near-excellent 7.83 by laying into two opening turns before a hefty shorebreak float to finish it off. Wright found a 5.33, but unleashed even bigger turns on her next attempts to capture the lead with a 7.17. Still leading, Wright broke her board with ten minutes left and was forced to exchange it on the shoreline. In the dying minutes of the heat, Ho surpassed the required 4.67 with a critical 5.03 to steal the win from the current World No. 1.
Coco Ho and Dave Riddle. Photo: WSL / Morris
“I just went for it on that last one,” said Ho. “It’s for sure intimidating coming up against girls, like Tyler [Wright], because they can manufacture scores in very average waves, but in the same sense it pushes you and makes you surf harder, which is what I tried to do. I want to find my feet on the Tour and stop doing the QS, but it is such a tight race from 7th to 12th place. Everyone’s really close so I’m stoked there’s a lot of room to move this year. We’re only halfway through the year and I feel better than ever.”
In an intense battle between two former event winners, Johanne Defay (FRA) and Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) put all on the line to advance to the Semifinals. Weston-Webb got off to a quick start and earned a 6.00 with two snaps on her backhand. With more than fifteen minutes elapsed in the heat, Defay unleashed an incredible ride for a 7.17 to take the lead away from the defending event winner. Weston-Webb quickly fired back with a 6.80, leaving Defay no time to challenge. Defay, current World No. 5, will exit with her second consecutive 5th place result.
“I feel like Johanne [Defay] and I are really strong contenders out here and she’s such a great surfer,” said Weston-Webb. “She’s been on a roll, but I felt like I had some momentum backing me. I just wanted to take what I learned from the judges yesterday and put it in my surfing. I didn’t get that one really good wave I wanted, but I did my job and I’m so stoked. We were really exhausted from yesterday with a long day on the beach and had to take it step-by-step today.”
Tatiana Weston-Webb. Photo: WSL / Rowland
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), current World No. 2, fell victim to the in-form Sage Erickson (USA), who began her Quarterfinal bout with a series of backhand attacks to post a 6.67. Fitzgibbons responded with back-to-back 4-point rides that had Erickson in need of a minimal score -- which she acquired on the dot with a 2.43. But, the Californian found a gem to unleash another searing backhand snap that she was able to bash a closeout maneuver for a 5.03. With time winding down, Fitzgibbons was left waiting out the back with no opportunities and the final horn sounded -- sending Erickson to her second CT Semifinal of 2017.
“I feel like I’ve come up against girls like Tyler [Wright] and Courtney [Conlogue] quite a bit this year and I feel like I know their respect level and space” said Erickson. “I don’t compete that much against Sally [Fitzgibbons] besides last year and it was aggressive. I was feeling it. We’re going old-school elbow-to-elbow, which was cool to see from her. She’s always so kind and gracious, so to see her fired up was fun so I knew I had to keep level-headed and not get too much into the aggressive game."