On Sunday, Hawaii's Carissa Moore beat Sally Fitzgibbons of Australia in the final of the Billabong Pro Rio, 14.87-13.80. Moore was ranked No. 1 and Fitzgibbons was No. 2 coming into Brazil. This result solidified those standings. And there are sure to be epic battles between these two on the backside of the ASP women's season. However, the main story Sunday is that four-time World Tour champ Stephanie Gilmore is now out of contention for a world title.
This has been an uncharacteristic year for Gilmore, who won the 2007 season as a rookie and has been untouchable since. It stands to reason that eventually a threat would come from an up-and-comer, but Gilmore only actually faced Moore once this season. Gilmore was the victim of a senseless assault outside her Tweeds Head, New South Wales, home on Dec. 27. She took two blows to the head with a pipe and sustained a broken wrist that had her out of the water for much of the offseason.
It's not that Gilmore is surfing poorly. She had the speed and power that has elevated women's surfing during her reign, but she wasn't able to bring things together like she has in the past. The waves she chose in the semifinal were fat and walled and didn't offer more than one move, as she went down to Fitzgibbons, 13.16-9.23.
The event overall continued to show the rapidly progressing talent among the women's field. If young Brazilians wanted to see some inspiring surfing, you have to imagine there will be some groms trying Silvana Lima rail-grab cutbacks and imitating Courtney Conologue backside bashes and Sally Fitz lippers in the lineup on Monday. But Moore is proving to be a complete package. She displayed brilliant patience in her quarterfinal against Conologue, of California, winning with a 11.50 total after only catching two waves. She was able to execute frontside and backside, and where her competition peaked in Round 1, she saved her best wave scores for the semis (8.50) and final (8.10.) That's how calculated surfers win world titles.
Moore powered out an 8.10 on her backhand in the final to put her in the lead. She has now won the Quik Gold Coast, the Beachley Commonwealth Classic and Rio. But even more impressive, she's made the finals of every event this year.
"I just went out there and had fun, and to me, there was no pressure in the final," Moore said. "I was just stoked to be in the final regardless of how I finished. Obviously I'm happy that I won. The girls really didn't go on those lefts, but they worked out for me today."
The men have yet to even start their event. Directors will assess conditions at 7 a.m. local time on Monday, but the immediate forecast does not look epic. Thursday is predicted to be the best day this week, with a bump up in windswell and light winds. The event window period runs to May 22.
Billabong Rio Pro Women's Round 3 Match Ups:
Heat 1: Silvana Lima (BRA), Tyler Wright (AUS), Alana Blanchard (HAW)
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW), Courtney Conlogue (USA), Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Sofia Mulanovich (PER), Pauline Ado (FRA)
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Coco Ho (HAW), Laura Enever (AUS)
Billabong Rio Pro Round 1 Match Ups:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS), Heitor Alves (BRA), Bobby Martinez (USA)
Heat 2: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Adam Melling (AUS), Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS), Alejo Muniz (BRA), TBA
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS), Dusty Payne (HAW), TBA
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Patrick Gudauskas (USA), TBA
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA), Julian Wilson (AUS), TBA
Heat 7: Bede Durbidge (AUS), Jadson Andre (BRA), Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA), C.J. Hobgood (USA), Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA), Tiago Pires (PRT), Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 10: Michel Bourez (PYF), Chris Davidson (AUS), Cory Lopez (USA)
Heat 11: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Kieren Perrow (AUS), Daniel Ross (AUS)
Heat 12: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Taylor Knox (USA)