TARANAKI, New Plymouth/NZL (Thursday, April 4, 2013) - Opening day of the TSB Bank NZ Surf Festival featuring the Dow AgroSciences Pro completed Rounds 1 and 2 of competition, culminating the day’s action in offshore two-to-four foot (1 metre) waves at Fitzroy Beach. The ideal conditions saw performance levels rise throughout the day, including the event’s first perfect 10 point ride earned by California standout Lakey Peterson (USA), 18.
Peterson got off to a slow start in her Round 1 affair, but eventually locked in to a steep lefthander, unloading a powerful combination of committed backhand turns to earn the 10-point ride. The natural-footer backed up the flawless effort with an additional lefthander, notching a 7.60 to punctuate her incredible opening round performance.
“The waves got really fun, actually,” Peterson said. “It was bigger than it had been in the morning and I was really relaxed. It turned on right before we paddled out.”
Peterson, current No. 6 on the ASP Women’s WCT, was in sizzling form at Bells Beach while finishing equal 3rd and has her eye on the podium in New Zealand.
“Bells was a good turning point for me and I came close but I was bummed to lose in the Semifinal,” Peterson said. “It’d feel great to win this event and finish off this leg on a high note. If the waves stay like this it’s going to be a fun event.”
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 22, past TSB Bank NZ Surf Festival Winner (2010), built momentum in the offshore afternoon conditions with fluid combinations on both her forehand and backhand to take a convincing Round 1 win.
“Conditions are improving and we were lucky to wait for tide to turn around,” Fitzgibbons said. “The wind is coming around and I think there will be some really exciting surfing at this event.”
Carissa Moore (HAW), 20, past champion of the TSB Bank NZ Surf Festival (2011), opened her campaign with a dominant Round 1 victory. Moore, who has won the last two ASP Women’s WCT events, carried her Australian success to the New Zealand beachbreak and looked equally dangerous in her opening heat this morning.
“It feels really good to advance straight through to Round 3,” Moore said. “The waves were a little slow and the conditions are a little tough, but the girls are all doing really well. I’m really excited for the next couple of days. I love New Zealand and I’m happy to be back here.”
Bianca Buitendag (ZAF), 19, 2013 ASP WCT Rookie, was responsible for a Round 1 upset, relegating current ASP World Title threat Tyler Wright (AUS), 19, and past ASP World Champion Sofia Mulanovich (PER), 29, to Round 2 with an impressive effort at Fitzroy Beach.
“I just really wanted to skip that second round,” Buitendag said. “The last two or three months is the first time I’ve surfed three man heats where i have had to win the heat to get through, so i have been getting used to that. It’s my rookie year so I’m just finding my feet and it’s an exciting year for me.”
Coco Ho (HAW), 21, has been in dangerous form during the season opening events despite losing a few close heats and found success early in Taranaki today. Ho took out a massive Round 1 win, relegating defending event champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 25, and ASP WCT Sophomore Sage Erickson (USA), 22, to Round 2 with a come from behind effort.
“We got down here at dark and I was excited to get jersey on after Bells,” Ho said. “You never know what’s going to happen in these beachbreak conditions. You don’t have time to watch the other girls, so you just surf. I think I started last of all the girls in that heat. I didn’t get my heat going until later and it was close. I know Steph (Gilmore) can do anything and she ripped that last one.”
While Gilmore fell to Ho’s late heat rampage in Round 1, The five-time ASP Women’s World Champion immediately rebounded in Round 2 against Sofia Mulanovich. Gilmore opened her campaign with a 9.80 and backed the ride up with an 8.60 securing her Round 3 position and the day’s high heat-total.
“It’s actulaly really fun,” Gilmore said. “30 minutes wasn’t long enough. I wanted to stay out all day. I saw a few righthanders earlier and they turned out to be good in my heat. I was looking for a barrel out there and couldn’t find one, but I’ve seen images of this beach with perfect a-frames and hopefully we’ll get some tomorrow.”
Event organizers will reconvene at 7am local time for a possible 7:30am start. The TSB Bank NZ Surf Festival featuring the Dow AgroSciences Pro holds a waiting period from April 3 – 7 and is webcast LIVE via http://www.nzsurffestival.co.nz/