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Courtney Conlogue rattled the ranking with her first win of the 2013 ASP Women's World Tour season at the Dow AgroSciences Pro after a turn of events on Saturday morning that was -- let's face it -- pretty unexpected. The upsets continued in Taranaki as Conlogue knocked defending champion Steph Gilmore out of the event. Coco Ho then eliminated world number three Sally Fitzgibbons, further unbinding the title race. With her first win in Taranaki, Conlogue moves up to third in the world and runner-up Ho jumps to seventh. The Top 17 are becoming accustomed to waiting for the call in pitch black pre-dawn. As light began to filter over the horizon, contestable, shoulder-high walls appeared. After her semifinal win, Conlogue described them as "a little mushy, but fun on the sets."
Both semis were well-fought, and won by less than a point. Conlogue and Gilmore traded the lead for the first half of their match-up before Conlogue leapt ahead with a 7.30 and tried to prevent Gilmore from scoring a 7.17--a score she's quite usually capable of finding. After a slow start, the second semi came down to a thrilling volley in the last 18 seconds and the margin between Ho and Fitzgibbons was even smaller: Ho won by 0.09.
The "final jinx" took effect as Conlogue and Ho paddled straight back out after their semis and the ocean went flat for nearly 10 of the heat's 35-minutes. There was a great exchange as both surfers demonstrated their backside skillzzz and picked off lefthanders. Ho grabbed the lead with technically beautiful, spray-hurling snaps. Conlogue only needed a 3 to take it back and she scored an 8.33. She followed it up with a big floater for a 3.63, which didn't change her position, but added some shine to a kind of flat final. With three minutes remaining, Ho lost priority with a paddle and Conlogue knew she had the win as the clock ran out.
"[This win] is a great way to end the Australia-New Zealand leg," Conlogue said. "It's been so much fun being back on Tour with all of the girls. We're very fortunate to be here in Taranaki and to have a great contest like this, run by the locals. It's really cool to have the support. The fact that they put together sixty-something sponsors to support women's surfing is absolutely amazing."
Coco Ho was ecstatic with her second-place result after a tough-luck start to the season.
"This definitely helped my rating and just kind of gave me that confidence to know that this is where I belong," Ho said. "I put this standard on myself to make a podium and it just kept not happening for me. I'd have heats with 17-point totals and I was like, 'What did I do to deserve this?'" she joked. "But yeah, it's just falling into place, I think. Every girl on Tour is amazing and deserves to be in the top five, but for Courtney and I to make this final and shake it up, it's good."
The next stop on the ASP Women's World Tour is the Billabong Rio Pro, which begins on May 8.
"It'll be nice to go home and recoup a little bit, then head off to Brazil," Conlogue said. Is she thinking about the title race? Of course not. "I'm just thinking about the now, not the later," she said, smiling. "I've still got a long race to run."
TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL FINAL RESULTS:
1. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.00
2. Coco Ho (HAW) 9.27
TSB BANK NZ SURF FESTIVAL SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.47 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.97
SF 2: Coco Ho (HAW) 15.33 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.24
CURRENT ASP WOMEN'S WCT TOP 5 (Following Completion of TSB Bank NZ Surf Festival):
1. Carissa Moore (HAW) 31,700 pts
2. Tyler Wright (AUS) 30,000 pts
3. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 26,900 pts
4. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 26,200 pts
5. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 24,700 pts