Reigning five time ASP World Champion Stephanie Gilmore re-entered the competitive arena at the 6-Star Hunter Ports Women’s Classic and found a way to take the heat win against the odds, with just minutes remaining in her see-sawing heat.
Gilmore was in fourth place requiring a 6.43 ride to advance with just on three minutes remaining and with inconsistent waves and all four surfers bunched together in the line-up the task looked extremely tough.
Gilmore called on her championship qualities when she found a late wave that allowed her to unleash a series of well-connected turns which resulted in the day’s second highest scoring ride of an 8.77 elevating her from 4th to 1st.
“It was tough out there to find waves, the girls had me up against the ropes right ’till the end but fortunately I found a good wave and got the score” said Gilmore.
“I find it difficult surfing in heats with four in the water and without priority. My opponents in that heat were extremely hungry for waves, it’s not easy especially in smaller conditions like today but I’m through and it’s good.”
Sally Fitzgibbons, the number two seed at this event had few problems dealing with her opponents posting two excellent 8 point plus rides to easily win through.
“That was a fun heat for me, when you find the right wave there’s some fun sections that connect to allow for excellent scores” said Fitzgibbons.
Bethany Hamilton (Haw) struggled in today’s shifting peaky 3 feet (1metre) surf and was eliminated by Pauline Ado (Fra) and Felicity Palmateer (Aus).
The top two ranked ASP World Junior surfers, Nikki Van Dijk (Aus) and Bianca Buitendag (Zaf) put on an impressive display when they clashed in their heat today, going wave-for-wave in a high scoring duel that saw both surfers advance with Buitendag taking a narrow heat win after she posted the day’s single highest wave score of the day of 9.33.
Three other emerging young surfers who stood-out and advanced today were Hawaiian Tatiana Western-Webb, Alize Arnaud (Fra) and Australian pair Ellie-Jean Coffey and Keely Andrew.