Credit: WSl / Dunbar
World Champions Prevail at Strickland Bay
The Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona, the fifth stop on the 2021 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) and the final event of the Australian leg, witnessed a day of pumping waves and massive scores as the world’s best went to town in the super clean three-to-five foot surf at Strickland Bay. The event is now down to the final four men and the final four women in the Semifinals. An exciting Finals Day awaits with the two Rankings Leaders through, and a rookie and a wildcard still in the mix.
Olympic qualifier Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) is through to the Semifinals after defeating Malia Manuel (HAW) in Quarterfinal 1. Fitzgibbons escaped a deep tube for an excellent 8.33 (out of a possible 10) and showcased sharp turns for a 6.77. Manuel put down a strong effort but it was not enough to overcome the Australian’s 15.10 two-wave total (out of a possible 20).
“That was really fun today,” Fitzgibbons said. “That heat kind of had everything, rights, lefts, and then a couple of barrels. Those few that were a bit thicker and looked like they were going to run fast were awesome. It’s cool when you’re in a heat and you can lock into that instinctual surfer mode and do what the wave requires. To get a couple of those sorts of waves in a heat is really special.”
Along with booking herself a spot in the Semifinals for the second time this season, Fitzgibbons also put herself in the running for the best barrel of the event, alongside Michel Bourez (FRA), and Miguel Pupo (BRA).
In addition to the highly coveted Search trophies, the Rip Curl Rottnest Search will also award the surfer with the best barrel of the event. The winner will be given a Didgeridoo that was handmade by Ashley Collard and Kelly Collard. The story for the Didgeridoo is about the Rottnest Island bushland that is surrounded by the ocean and waves. The white dots are the stars of the Aboriginal dreaming and stories that are shared on the Island. Within blue ocean are our spiritual Guardians that are represented by the different colour dots.
Ashley is a Balardong Nyungar man from Kondinin Western Australia and an artist of 30 years. He was named 2013 NAIDOC Perth Indigenous artist of the year, runner up in the 2013 National Deadly awards (Education category) and winner of the Visual Art Award for the City of Kwinana’s Inaugural Arts and Culture Awards in 2018.
Ashley and Kelly, an artist of 10 years, now produce artworks together, which include paintings on musical instruments, surfboards, kangaroo skins and clothing. They also create murals for schools and businesses around Perth Western Australia and are musical performers and artists.
Fitzgibbons and Johanne Defay (FRA) will meet up with Tyler Wright (AUS) and Carissa Moore (HAW), respectively, in the Semifinals when competition resumes at the Rip Curl Rottnest Search. Two-time WSL Champion Wright narrowly progressed through her Quarterfinal matchup with fellow Australian Nikki Van Dijk, whilst reigning four-time WSL Champion Moore took a commanding win over rookie Isabella Nichols (AUS) in Quarterfinal 3.
Nichols looked in the game until Moore unloaded two massive, critical backside snaps to post a near-perfect 9.50 (out of a possible 10) and claim the heat win. Moore is guaranteed to hang onto the top spot on the rankings as she looks to secure the highest seed heading into the Rip Curl WSL Finals, the new one-day event to decide the 2021 World Title, at Lower Trestles later this year.
Moore will be tested when she takes on an in-form Defay in Semifinal 2 when competition resumes. Defay has been one of the most solid surfers of the Australian Leg, and with a Semifinal spot here on Rottnest is guaranteed her best result of the year. Defay earned her spot with win in Quarterfinal 4 over injury replacement Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN), who took her best CT result to date here at Rottnest with an equal fifth place.
“I’m definitely happy to be into the Semifinals,” Defay said. “Amuro has proven that she can get big scores and she also has nothing to lose as a replacement, so it was a scary one. We are all trying to make it into the top 5 and get to Trestles at the end of the year, so I’m stoked to get more opportunities here. To requalify you need to make the Quarterfinals at least and that is always an aim for me, plus there is the top 5 now. To be here is my dream, I want to live off surfing as long as I can so requalifying is always the goal, but each year I do think maybe I could win a World Title, so I just need to keep making these results and get be in the top 5 at the end of the season.”
Two-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) has been sneaking his way through heats here on Rottnest Island and finds himself in a Semifinal matchup with compatriot Italo Ferreira (BRA) after taking down Conner Coffin (USA) in the Quarterfinals and Owen Wright (AUS) in the Round of 16.
2015 WSL Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA) surfed what could be his last ever heat on Australian shores today as he was eliminated in a nail-biting matchup with reigning WSL Champion Ferreira. Last year, De Souza announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2021 season. The 16-year CT veteran showcased his incredible competitive nous, challenging Ferreira right till the end of the heat, posting an impressive 14.27 heat total that saw him go down by less than half a point.
Miguel Pupo (BRA) broke through to his first 5th place finish since 2018 with a win over Michel Bourez (FRA) in Heat 4 of the Round of 16. Pupo fell off of the elite CT at the end of the 2017 season, surfed as a replacement surfer for 2018, and then requalified for the 2021 CT season via the Qualifying Series. With another opportunity in 2021, today’s win could be a pivotal moment in Pupo’s season after a string of disappointing 17th place results on the Australian leg. Pupo was eventually dispatched by injury replacement Liam O’Brien (AUS) in Quarterfinal 2.
Yago Dora (BRA) closed out the last heat of the Round of 16 with the biggest heat total of the event so far, an excellent 18.67 (out of a possible 20), made up of a near-perfect 9.57 and 9.10. Dora’s huge heat total came from an impressive combination of tight rail surfing and massive air-reverses showing his on-face game is just as lethal as his skill above the lip. Unfortunately, Dora was unable to repeat this performance in his Quarterfinal and was eliminated by reigning WSL Champion Ferreira.
2021 CT rookie Morgan Cibilic (AUS) has booked himself a spot in the Semifinals for the second time this season after taking down Aussie veteran Julian Wilson in their epic Quarterfinal matchup. Cibilic will come up against his friend and training partner, Liam O’Brien (AUS), who is on his way to a huge result in his first-ever CT appearance. The youngsters will face off in the opening heat of the men’s Semifinals.
Rip Curl Rottnest Search Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.10 DEF. Malia Manuel (HAW) 9.47
HEAT 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 12.50 DEF. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 11.43
HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 16.53 DEF. Isabella Nichols (AUS) 14.43
HEAT 4: Johanne Defay (FRA) 13.60 DEF. Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN) 9.80
Rip Curl Rottnest Search Women’s Semifinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)
HEAT 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
Rip Curl Rottnest Search Men’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.00 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.20
HEAT 2: Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 12.50 DEF. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 10.77
HEAT 3: Liam O'Brien (AUS) 10.83 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 8.10
HEAT 4: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.77 DEF. Michel Bourez (FRA) 13.07
HEAT 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.50 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 11.00
HEAT 6: Conner Coffin (USA) 15.23 DEF. Mikey Wright (AUS) 13.50
HEAT 7: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.70 DEF. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.27
HEAT 8: Yago Dora (BRA) 18.67 DEF. Connor O'Leary (AUS) 12.83
Rip Curl Rottnest Search Men’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 15.70 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.16
HEAT 2: Liam O'Brien (AUS) 13.23 DEF. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.83
HEAT 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.80 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 13.60
HEAT 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.94 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 11.97
Rip Curl Rottnest Search Men’s Semifinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Morgan Cibilic (AUS) vs. Liam O'Brien (AUS)
HEAT 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)