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Saturday, April 14, 2012
Updated: April 16, 1:13 PM ET
Gilmore wins Dow AgroSci NZ Pro

By Casey Butler
ESPN Action Sports

Stephanie Gilmore
Stephanie Gilmore surfed beautifully to win the AgroSci NZ Pro at the TSB Bank Surf Festival.

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3

The World Title-fueled tug of war between Steph Gilmore and Carissa Moore continues after Gilmore claimed her second 2012 win on Saturday at the Dow AgSci NZ Pro in Taranaki, New Zealand. Gilmore defeated Moore by just 0.70, saying, "This is, by far, the best season I've ever had in my whole career. I'm kind of tripping out. [The final] was really close. I'm glad it went my way."

Rookie Lakey Peterson flipped the status quo on its head when she took down defending champ Sally Fitzgibbons in quarterfinal three and Taranaki's own Paige Hareb finished equal third (with Peterson) after conquering one Aussie (Laura Enever) but perishing at the hands of another (Gilmore.)

The final day of competition slowly came to life as the tide filled in and allowed the 3 to 5-foot swell to realize its full potential. By the time Hareb paddled out for the first quarterfinal, there were some little barrels rolling through at Fitzroy Beach. An early lead and consistently dramatic power surfing subdued feisty Enever and sent Hareb to her first semifinal in four years. Sunburned beachgoers lost what little cool they had stashed as they erupted in support of the local goofy footer.

Taranaki
Fitzroy Beach, Taranaki provided an excellent New Zealand venue for the women's third tour stop of 2012.

"I'm pretty competitive, so I definitely want to get at least another third," Hareb said after her semifinal loss to Gilmore. "[The hometown crowd] is pretty cool. It gets you pumped. I kind of lost my breath out the back; I had to take a few deep breaths, but looking back and seeing everyone here--friends and family and a lot of Taranaki--it's pretty cool to see."

The secret to beating Sally Fitzgibbons is having fun, Lakey Peterson said after quarterfinal number three, which was a rapid-fire exchange between the two. Each surfer put down nine scores, but Peterson led right through the heat and actually had the title contender in a combo situation for a while. She again demonstrated her strategic prowess as she used priority to block Fitzgibbons from catching a score booster in the final minute.

"Sally surfs amazing and whenever I surf against her, it makes me surf better. She really inspires me," Peterson said. "Beach breaks just fit into my style of surfing. I'm excited for Brazil--I think it will be really fun over there."

"This should help my campaign a little bit [for Rookie of the Year]," she continued with a laugh. "It's a big goal of mine and after this result, it should put me in the lead for that, but all of the rookies are so good this year. We'll see what happens." The path to the final was fraught with land mines. For Gilmore: Tyler Wright and Paige Hareb. For Moore: Courtney Conlogue and Peterson.

When last year's World Champion met her successor in the water on Saturday afternoon, it was ...boring. Only at first, though. A colossal set marched toward the black sand just after the heat began, but 10 minutes in, no waves had been ridden and officials called for a re-start. This was unfortunate for Moore, who had, at that very moment, tucked into a radiant, sea glass green tube.

"I was like, 'Really? We're re-starting right now?'" she said later, laughing. She brushed it off and executed four huge backside carves on her next ride. Her form was impeccable. Gilmore replied with three successive vertical snaps--the third of which was insanely quick and polished. Moore drew clean lines, smashed lips to smithereens, and stuck reverses while Gilmore stylishly finished off layback hacks and beyond vertical re-entries. In the end, Moore was the one spraying champagne on Gilmore (she apologized for hitting her in the side of the head). Gilmore took the handcrafted trophy, but it was a provocative match-up and it will be interesting to see how the top three go at the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic in Sydney next week.

Stephanie Gilmore and Carissa Moore
Friendly rivalry yes, but it's still a rivalry: Steph Gilmore and Carissa Moore clashed in a serious final.

"I love to be pushed and Carissa had a little bit of a slow start to the year, but she's just surfing stronger and stronger than ever," Gilmore said. "Yeah, I'd love to have some more finals with her in good waves. I think both of us push each other."

"I'm just feeling being on Tour right now. I feel like it's where I should be and I enjoy doing it, and we've had pretty decent waves at each event, too!" Gilmore added. "It really helps--you get so excited to go surfing. I'm excited for the Layne event. It's always a pretty challenging wave--it's either the point or the beachy and they're both wobbly waves, but I always have fun there."

"I'm looking forward to a new event, another clean slate, and hopefully getting some good waves," Moore said of the upcoming Dee Why comp.

TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL FINAL RESULTS:
1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.76
2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.06

TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.44 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 14.07
SF 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.93 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 11.92

TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Paige Hareb (NZL) 14.33 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 12.16
QF 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.33 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 11.60
QF 3: Lakey Peterson (USA) 16.50 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.00
QF 4: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.66 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 12.90