It’s rare, in fact I don’t think it has ever happened before, that I’ll sit up all night to watch a WCT event knowing that it is just the women. But things have changed this year, for all the moaning about the new ASP, most of which is unfounded, one thing they have got incredibly right is the Women’s tour.
Now with more stops, and this week crucially, five days to themselves at Cloudbreak in Fiji, one of the best reef pass waves in the world, with a building swell, expected to peak in the ten feet plus range tonight (BST), it’s a contest which is going to show exactly what the girls can do.
Cloudbreak sits alone, with no land around it miles off the Fijian coast and therefore hoovers in all available swell and turns it into a heavy and hollow left-hander. Like any forerunners of an approaching swell though, the early sets were unruly especially when combined with the brisk cross shore trade wind.
No one wants to be in the first heat on a day like this, the sets are inconsistent, and the lineup just a little ragged, and that first heat was ugly. Coco Ho looked like here Hawaiian experience would win through, but it was Paige Hareb who pieced together the result.
Johanne Defay, one of two French girls in the event had the right idea by getting two good waves off the bat in the second heat, but the experience of multiple world champion Stephanie Gilmore clawed her back and sent her into sudden death round two. Once again Carissa Moore looked in spectacular form, and dominated her heat, as did fellow title contender Sally Fitzgibbons.
But the star of the first round was Hawaiian Malia Manuel. The Hawaiian, who is highly regarded, yet has failed to perform this year, revelled in the building conditions. Recording an 8.50 and a 9.03. If the surf reaches the size predicted she is going to be the one to beat.
Sudden elimination, and the condition were getting more testing. Niki Van Dijk had to pull out through injury, Lakey Peterson, a favourite in these conditions just couldn’t get a wave in the tricky conditions and was eliminated.
Elsewhere the biggest shock was Johanne Defay knocking out Hawaiian Coco Ho, in solid fashion. Conditions though were getting tough, the swell was building slowly, but the fresh trade winds were making conditions harder and harder. So rightly so the event was put on hold.
So tonight, with the swell continuing to build all day, and the wind forecast to be a lot more favourable it could be one of the best days in women’s surfing history. It will be worth tuning in to, as it will either be at pumping Cloudbreak, or if it’s too big, the perfect barrel of Restaurants. The broadcast starts at 8.30 BST right here – www.aspworldtour.com.