The Vans US Open of Surfing completed Rounds 3 and 4 today to determine the Quarterfinalists of the sixth stop on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT). Four-to-five foot+ (1.2 - 1.5 metre+) waves provided great conditions for the elite surfers on the southside of the Huntington Beach Pier. Following the women’s heats, the Men’s QS 10,000 continued with Heats 14 through 22 of Round 2.
Local favorite Courtney Conlogue (USA) is heating up at the Vans US Open with her win over three-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore (USA) and Pauline Ado (FRA) in Round 3 Heat 4. Conlogue fired off a 5.83 on her opening exchange and continued to hold the lead with a 6.40. Conlogue will advance to the Quarterfinals and get one step closer to hunting down her first CT win in Huntington Beach.
“When I am put into Round 2, I talk some sense into myself thinking it’s more practice, but honestly none of us want to be there,” Conlogue said. “You just embrace it and get through it. In my heat today I was just not wanting another 9th in my results, so I did everything in my power to just make sure I got to the Quarters. Carissa [Moore] and I had two different game plans and it probably came with a bit of local knowledge for me. Yesterday I was a little out of rhythm with the lineup so I just wanted to find that rhythm in my heat today and feel everything click.”
Moore went on to face Sage Erickson (USA) in elimination Round 4 Heat 3. The Californian wasted no time, scoring a 6.33 in the first few minutes of the heat. Moore battled back with two 4-point rides, but Erickson secured her win with a second 6.33. Moore, who is currently 8th on the Jeep Leaderboard, will leave this event with a 9th place finish. Erickson, World No. 9, will advance to the Quarterfinals for the fourth time this season.
Sage Erickson is all smiles. Photo: WSL / Morris
“I actually didn’t feel nervous until toward the end of that heat when I made a silly mistake on the right that ended up closing out with two-minutes to go,” Erickson said. “There were a few moments of nerves, but I feel really confident in my surfing. Coming up against Carissa [Moore] -- she’s a really hard draw just being a past World Champion -- so I knew that it was going to be a task. I’ve gone through so many seasons of what I’ve been focusing on, there’s so many elements in this sport and I think every athlete can relate to that. But, really just trusting in my dream and my goal to be on this tour and to stay on -- I never wanted to come to this level and just be a survivor, but to challenge the top and be in that position.”
Earlier this morning, current World No. 2 Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) flew through Round 3 with a 14.33 heat total against Erickson and Silvana Lima (BRA). Fitzgibbons took full advantage of the southside sets to post an excellent 8.00 and solid 6.33 for the win and the highest two-wave total of the women’s event today. Fitzgibbons will meet Erickson again in Quarterfinal 3.
“I think a World Title is always the intention and it’s just about how you get there and events like this where anything can happen,” Fitzgibbons said. “It’s shaping up to be a week where you can show up and consistently build, and get that spark in yourself -- the excitement is there for me especially this year. What I love most about coming here and being in this position is putting on the jersey and the process of it all. At this level, it’s the tiniest thing that will send you out of the event, so it’s about just being on and focused.”
Sally in route to the Quarters. Photo: WSL / Morris
2016 WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) lost to Coco Ho (HAW) in her first heat today, but came back with a big win over wildcard Maud Le Car (FRA) in Round 4 Heat 2. Wright threw down a commanding 7.57 to gain the heat lead. Le Car, with a 4.67, needed an excellent 9.07 after Wright locked in a 6.17. Le Car, who previously eliminated six-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), was not able to repeat her victory yesterday and will exit with in 9th place.
“It’s always a part of the plan to end up in the Finals and I treat every heat pretty much the same with the same details and prep,” Wright said. “Obviously, I have to adapt to whatever is on-hand. Clearly not enough training was done on my part as I thought paddling at J-Bay was going to be enough -- but no -- this current is super hectic. The water is constantly pulling you so it’s taken it out of me today, but I’ve kind of just been managing that and I’m managing energy in a heat.”
The opening heat of Round 3 saw Johanne Defay (FRA), 2015 event winner, earn the first spot into the Quarterfinals after defeating Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) and wildcard Maud Le Car (FRA). After a few low-scoring attempts, Defay found her rhythm and garnered the top two scores of the heat. Defay is currently ranked 5th on the Jeep Leaderboard and will look to continue earn another win at the Vans US Open.
Johanne Defay. Photo: WSL / Morris
“It’s such a relief to make it through that heat,” Defay said. “We have really clean and fun conditions, but it’s pretty big and a lot of closeouts are coming in. It was hard to find scores and get those two-turn waves with a good finish. I’m coming here each day early in the morning with different boards to see what fits the conditions and if it stays like this or gets a little smaller I’ll stick with my same board.”
In an extremely close head-to-head elimination heat, Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) narrowly got the advantage over Van Dijk. Weston-Webb received a 9.60 two-wave total to Van Dijk’s 8.73 to earn her spot the Quarterfinals. Weston-Webb’s victory today puts her in a great position to continue her hunt for a back-to-back event win. Van Dijk,who is currently ranked 6th, will leave with her second 9th place result in 2017.
“It was really tough out there I won’t lie,” Weston-Webb said. “I was feeling like I may pass out at one point because the current is ridiculously strong and it’s hard to get into position. I feel like the judges are expecting too much just because the conditions look perfect right now, but it’s really tough and it was weird listening and expecting to hear a score and getting lower scores. But, at least I got the job done and I know if Nikki [Van Dijk] got a good one then she maybe would’ve gotten the score. I’ll just keep continually believing in myself and figure out what the judges really want to see out there because obviously I wasn’t really knowing.”
Coco's camp. Photo: WSL / Rowland
Coco Ho (HAW) advanced straight to the Quarterfinals after her big win against Wright and Weston-Webb. Wright got off to a quick start in Round 3 Heat 2 to take the lead with a 5.00, but Ho climbed back with just a 0.60-point lead. Wright had one final opportunity to close the gap on Ho, but fell just short. Ho will face Wright again in the Quarterfinals when competition resumes.
“I didn’t really think about the accolades in the water around me, everyone rips and everyone knows each other’s strengths, but they’re all really smart,” Ho said. “We were all carrying 4s, which are the sketchiest heats, but I’m stoked to get the one that separated it. I’ve had a lot of support my whole career and I think it was the ones closest to me like my uncle making me aware of my potential. He drove up from San Clemente at 5 a.m. with my backup board that I ended up riding in my heat.”
Pauline Ado (FRA) and Silvana Lima (BRA) closed out the women’s competition today with Round 4 Heat 4. Ado kept an early lead and continued to better her situation, with an 8.80 two-wave total. The Brazilian veteran could not close the 1-point gap and will be eliminated in Round 4 for the second time this year. Ado’s win marks her first Quarterfinal berth of the season where she will have the chance to play spoiler when she comes up against Conlogue.
“It feels really good to make it through that one,” said Ado. “it was a tough heat and I wish I had better scores because it’s really tricky out there with that strong current. I’m just so happy to get in a good rhythm and surf a few heats -- it hasn’t happened much this year so I’m really excited. I haven’t thought about an event win too much, I’ve made a Semifinal here before so I at least want to do as well as that and we’ll see.”