In an action-packed competition at the Roxy Pro France, 2014 US Open Champion Tyler Wright of Australia took the title, defeating Courtney Conlouge of the U.S.
The first three rounds of the competition (held at Landes, in the southwest of France) kicked things off with upsets and plenty to watch on the waves. Conlouge would show her dominance early in Round 1 claiming a heat win over Sally Fitzgibbons of Australia. Conlogue, in her second WCT competition since her ankle injury in April, was excited not only to be back to action, but to come out and start putting the pieces together again.
“It feels really good to be back in a jersey," said Conlogue. “I’m just so stoked to be competing again. Right now I’m trying to build my little brick house, one brick at a time. I’m just really happy to be here.”
Conlogue would set the bar early in Round 1 dropping the first 9.00 score of the competition.
Other top faces in the crowd in Round 1 were Tyler Wright, Stephanie Gilmore, Carissa Moore, and Bianca Buitendag, all winners of their heats.
Heading into Round 2, it was a battle to stay in the game. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) faced off with Aussie Laura Enever and despite a slow start picked things up in the second half of the heat to claim the win.
In another close battle, current No. 1 ranked Fitzgibbons went head to head against Wild Card Lee-Ann Curren (FRA). Surfing fiercely, Fitzgibbons grabbed the lead out of the gate, but it wasn’t long until Curren came storming back. With two much-needed scores of a 5.70 and a 5.27, Curren grabbed the lead with just nine minutes to go. The battle of fives continued, as Fitzgibbons earned a 5.83 with just a minute left in the heat, giving her victory.
More action from Rounds 2 and 3 included impressive performances from Malia Manuel, Lakey Peterson, and Johanne Defay.
The battles continued in Heat 4 as the fight to the quarterfinals intensified. The biggest and closest battle of Round 4 was in Heat 1, with Defay taking on France's Pauline Ado. Ado would draw first blood but couldn’t make anything of it. Defay came answering back and would take the lead over Ado early on with a score of 5.67. It wasn’t long until Ado took the lead. Defay would struggle in finding a perfect set, but would eventually do so and took a set with a clean ride on the inside corner upping her total score at 11.77. With just 7:40 to go Ado needed a 6.14 but came up short of that, sending Defay into the quarterfinals.
Quarterfinals Heat 1: Johanne Defay vs. Malia Manuel
In a much anticipated match-up, both surfers were coming in on full momentum. Manuel took the lead first, hitting off the lip nicely in the second section. Not long after Defay came charging back with a 6.50 wave to take the lead from Manuel. With another lead change, Manuel would hold a slight lead over Defay. With just 10 minutes left in the heat, Defay caught two crucial waves to retake and then backup her lead. In a final attempt from Manuel, a mistimed turn would cost her, and the Hawaiian surfer came up short.
Quarterfinals Heat 2: Tyler Wright vs. Sally Fitzgibbons
In an all-Aussie battle, top contenders Wright and Fitzgibbons put on quite a performance. Wright came out strong with multiple clean carves and a nice 6.33 to put her in the lead. At the 17:52 mark, she extended that lead to 11.33. Fitzgibbons, needing an 8.00, started chipping away, and with 10 minutes left in the heat, Wright was clinging to the lead by only 0.46. Fitzgibbons would force a lead change dropping in on a 6.37 wave. On a buzzer-beater wave, Wright needed at least a 5.92 to claim the win and got it, with a 6.20.
Quarterfinals Heat 3: Courtney Conlogue vs. Bianca Buitendag
In yet another close battle, Conlouge came storming out hitting key waves. Buitendag kept up but in the end couldn’t produce scores to push her to the semifinals.
“She had priority and I was wanting to replace my score and hoped for a set to come through,” said Conlouge. “I was kind of gambling a bit, rolling the dice, so I’m psyched to make it through.”
Quarterfinals Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore vs. Carissa Moore
Former No. 1 ranked Moore took on five-time world champion Gilmore in what looked like it was going to be a heavy battle. Moore's impressive two-maneuver opener gave her the lead. Luck was not on Gilmore’s side, as she struggled to find balance and footing and could not produce a high score on any wave, and would only see one score of 5.03.
Moore expressed her feelings on the conditions changing, affecting her battle with Gilmore.
“I was kind of bummed, because I was looking forward to that match-up with Steph,” said Moore. “I thought we were really going to go blow-to-blow, but I am stoked to make it through."
Semifinals Heat 1: Tyler Wright vs. Johanne Defay
Coming off big quarterfinals wins, Wright and Defay went head-to-head for a spot in the finals. Wright drew first blood with a big connection to the lip followed by a clean wrap throwing lots of spray and a clean finish to set the bar high early on nabbing the first nine-point ride of the day. Defay responded with a right-hander followed by a clean round turn, a claim to fame for Defay. She would grab a mid range score. With 17:30 remaining, Defay lost her board missing crucial time in the water. Wright capitalized with clean carves, nabbing adding to her lead extensively. Defay then busted out multiple fins carves. With 9:00 left in the heat, Defay was put in a combo situation needing a two-wave total of 17.01. Defay bettered her situation with 3:13 minutes left in the heat, but still needed a 9.67. With the clock winding down, Defay would finish her hometown campaign.
Semifinals Heat 2: Courtney Conlogue vs. Carissa Moore
Both surfers came into Heat 2 of the semifinals with a lot of prove. Conlouge, coming off an injury, wanted to set the tone on her comeback, while Moore, after losing her yellow jersey at Trestles, had to prove her dominance. Moore would get on the board first with a 3.00, but it wasn’t long until Conlouge would come charging out, opening up with a big turn, and finishing with a grab rail connection. Moore would answer back right away with a bottom turn, throwing the fins out, finishing with a layback. With just 10 minutes left in the heat Conlogue needed a 6.44. Waiting for a score with 7:16 to go, Conlogue attacked another wave, with a nice big wrap and two big snaps off the lip proving she was back and better than ever. With 4:00 left in the heat, Conlogue dropped a key 7.00 wave grabbing the lead from Moore. With one more score waiting to drop, Conlogue was looking to improve a 6.67 and she did just that with a 6.77, putting added pressure on Moore. With 30 seconds to go, Conlogue dropped in a huge wave with a clean right hander, followed by a clean snap, carving her way back in with a wrapping cutback, and finished with a big closeout. With Moore not getting high enough scores from her last wave, Conlogue moved onto the finals to face Wright.
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Finals: Tyler Wright vs. Courtney Conlogue
In the finals of the 2014 Roxy Pro, both Wright and Conlogue would benefit tremendously with a title. A win for Wright would boost her in the World Championship Tour tremendously. For Conlogue, a win would put her in the cutoff for 2015. Wright came out with a bang, nabbing a near perfect score of 9.50. Conlogue opened with a 7.00 wave, followed by a mid-range score to grab the lead with 26:47 left. Wright came storming back with another near-perfect score of 9.03, and quickly regained the lead from Conlogue, putting the U.S. surfer in a big combo situation. Needing a combo of 18.54, she took off on a wave, hitting a layback carve, and got caught in the barrel ending her wave. Wright responded on another wave, hitting clean turns then driving it straight up, earning a 9.70. It was enough to secure her second WCT event title.
“That was one of the best finals I’ve surfed, wave-wise,” Wright said. “It wasn’t a wave-catching contest, it was a wave-riding contest and that’s how I love to surf .”
The next stop on the WCT for the women will be the Cascais Pro in Portugal, which will conclude on October 7.