After a year that featured mediocre swell at many stops on tour, the Hurley Pro and Swatch Women’s Pro has scored epic conditions on Day 1 of the waiting period. Solid overhead rights greeted the iconic Lowers lineup in a day of high-performance surfing for both the men and women.
A slowly fading Southern Hemi swell blended in with a new swell from Hurricane Linda to provide consistent sets, especially later on in the day. The predominant northwest wind was strangely absent as unusual offshore winds groomed the surf to perfection for the women’s heats in the afternoon. Lowers has always been known to be a showcase for aerials, but given the conditions today it was clear that powerful turns and a strong rail game were going to be the recipe for high scores. Linking together major maneuvers with a seamless flow is what the judges rewarded the most.
Action started early for the guys with legend Kelly Slater taking to the water in Heat #1. Slater started off the 2015 Hurley Pro with an 8.0 and never looked back, taking an easy win. The next five heats featured surfers locked in the World Title race. With only 1750 points separating these top five surfers on tour, each heat was watched closely. Filipe Toledo looked off as Adrian Buchan sliced the long walls with surgical precision to take the win in Heat #2. Aussies Julian Wilson, Owen Wright, and Mick Fanning put forth blazing performances for convincing heat wins, while Jeep rankings leader Adriano de Souza narrowly won a tough heat against Michel Bourez and local Ian Crane. Jeremy Flores, who won the last contest a month ago in Tahiti, continued his winning form and seemed to adjust to the Lowers waves easily.
It was a bittersweet moment when Freddy Patacchia Jr. dropped the hammer on one of the biggest waves of the day to snag a perfect 10. Because shortly thereafter, in a move that shocked everyone, Freddy P announced that it would be his last heat on tour! Although it seems weird to retire mid-way through an event when you just won a heat, it must me nice to have your last wave on tour be a perfect one. Hats off to the Hawaiian.
San Clemente local Kolohe Andino finally returned to form after a string of bad results. He took a hard fought heat win over a ripping Josh Kerr and Matt Wilkinson. Plenty of hype surrounded John John Florence‘s return to competition after a tough ankle injury, but rookie sensation Italo Ferreira blasted past JJF and a stiff looking Ricardo Christie. Aussie vets Kai Otton and Taj Burrow finished off Round 1 with heat wins that showcased more of the same – big rail carves and vertical snaps.
By the time the women hit the water for Round 1 of the Swatch Women’s Pro, an offshore breeze made the lineup look like a dream. It was nice to see the Women’s Tour get such good conditions. Locals, commentators, and competitors were claiming the waves were “as good as it gets”, and it was easy to see why. Long aquamarine rights that looked more Indo than SoCal kept getting better and more frequent as the day continued.
Santa Barbara’s Lakey Peterson destroyed the set waves with impressive power snaps and gouging turns as she topped a silky smooth Malia Manuel and an in-form Alessa Quizon in Heat #1. The next heat saw Rookie upstart Tatiana Weston-Webb’s easily take down Bianca Buitentag and Dimity Stoyle with powerful backside blasts. Perhaps the best performance of the day came next when Courtney Conlogue showed why she’s the most powerful woman in the world. Some of her turns looked more powerful than ever, and we can bet that a lot of guys on tour wouldn’t want to compete against her. She also weaved through the only barrel of the day! Wild card Bethany Hamilton caught a few good ones, but couldn’t keep up with Courtney’s attack. Hawaii’s Carissa Moore took down a confused Silvana Lima and 13 year old Wild Card Caroline Marks in flawless overhead conditions that looked too good to be true.
In an interesting final heat of the day, Ventura’s Sage Erickson fought a tough battle with World Number 3 Sally Fitzgibbons and tiny Hawaiian Coco Ho. All three of the girls were tearing it apart in what each could be considered their best performances of the year. The lead went back and forth after each exchange. Although Sage seemed to get the best waves and pull off the strongest turns with perfect style, the judges strangely gave Sally the nod after executing a series of predictable turns on a longer wave. When reviewing the heat, it seems the judges were off on that one.
With an insane forecast on offer for the next four days of the 12 day waiting period, contest organizers are looking to run the Hurley Pro and Swatch Women’s Pro straight through the weekend. Round 2 of the men and Heat #6 of Round 1 for the women will commence when action resumes tomorrow morning! Watch the event live at worldsurfleague.com