The Asp 6-Star Swatch Girls Pro France held a marathon day running through three rounds of competition to decide the final remaining 12 athletes in the chase for the 2011 Swatch Girls Pro France title. Many excellent displays of surfing from both Top Seeds and young challengers were witnessed as performance levels rose in solid 4ft waves at the main event site at Les Bourdines.
A slight overnight decrease in swell size greeted event officials and surfers early this morning with the green light given to start Round Two in consistent punchy peaks with little or no wind. Conditions improved with the incoming afternoon tide to the delight of the crowds lining the beach. The Swatch Girls Pro Junior France was once again postponed today with Europe’s finest under-21 athletes expected to begin their Pro Junior campaigns at the Swatch Girls Pro Junior France tomorrow.
Sarah Baum (Durban, ZAF) 17, who placed second behind 4-time and reigning Asp Women’s World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), was not to be over shadowed during their 25-minute Round Four encounter when she ripped apart a hollow high tide left with two savage forehand snaps to secure an 8.75 out of 10, the highest single wave score of the contest.
“I saw this little left coming towards me on the inside,” stated Baum. “I just tried to keep all my nerves together and just did two big hacks and fell on the third one but it was still a good wave so I am stoked. I am doing the Star Tour full-time now so hopefully I can make it through and the Pro Junior is just for fun and to see how far I can get. However, I am still going to give it my all in both events for sure.”
Sally Fitzgibbons (Gerroa NSW, AUS) 20, racked up the highest combined two-wave total of 15.40 out of 20, the highest of the event during her first appearance at the Swatch Girls Pro France and then backed it up with a stunning Round Four performance to comfortably advance to the business end of competition. Concentrating on the improving lefts during the incoming tide, Fitzgibbons currently ranked nº2 on the Asp Women’s World Title race, applied her electric backhand attack to rack up the points finishing ahead of fellow elite Tour surfer Paige Hareb (NZL).
“I enjoy coming to France and this year I went first to Roland Garros which was an amazing experience and now here the waves a good fun and I am feeling relaxed and just enjoying myself and looking forward to the next rounds.”
“I am here with my family and they are here for the ride,” continued Fitzgibbons. “Actually a lot of families are here so it is great to be here hanging out on the deck at the contest site and enjoying the lifestyle.”
Paige Hareb (Taranaki New Plymouth, NZL) 20, faced a stacked heat against fellow World Tour campaigners Sally Fitzgibbons and Pauline Ado (FRA) knowing she would have to build on her previous performances earlier in the day.
“As soon as saw I was against those girls I knew it was going to be hard and I knew I was going to need a couple of good ones. In my last two heats I was only catching really only one average wave. I lucked onto a couple of good ones and had fun. It kind of turned on for us out there”
Paige kept busy with several waves to find her way through a tense first 10 minutes and eventually nailed a long left with excellent critical turns to secure an 8.50 and a comfortable position in the clash.
“I am riding a bigger board now and it is a little thicker and it is going well so I am feeling good. My goal was hopefully to make it through to the quarters so I will take it heat by heat and see what happens.”
Courtney Conlogue (Santa Ana CA, USA) 18, currently leading the Asp Women’s Star Tour, grafted out a solid heat win working the lefts and right peaks to build on her final two-wave heat total of 12.25 and advance easily despite the physical conditions.
“I think I will sleep really well tonight whether because of all of the nerves or from doing all the loops but especially because I have made it through these first two rounds.”
“I caught this wave that looked really good,” continued Conlogue of a possible dangerous incident when her board struck her in the face. “I did a first hit and then on the next section I wanted to hit it really bad to get it up to the 6.5 range and then I caught a rail and the board came up and hit me in the mouth. My jaw is a little sore but it is all ok.”
Georgia Fish (Mornington Peninsula, AUS) 18, placed second in the final moments behind Conlogue to oust former elite tour member Lee Ann Curren (FRA) on her final wave with a combination of backhand snaps on a hollow left. Currently ranked nº58 on her first season on the Asp Star Tour, Fish was ecstatic with the results already obtained at the Swatch Girls Pro France.
“I am so stoked. I couldn’t be happier. This whole competition has been a dream and I haven’t had a result in a long time so I am really happy now. In the end I was trying to find anything I could because I knew I didn’t need a big score. I got lucky and caught that left and did a couple of turns. I wasn’t sure if it was enough but then I heard it was enough so I got so excited. This is my first year on the Star Tour so it is a good start for me.”
Surfers competing at the Swatch Girls Pro France are out to gain the valuable points on offer in an attempt to either maintain themselves on the elite Asp Woman’s World Tour or possibly qualify for the 2012 Asp Woman’s World Tour. Meanwhile Europe’s finest under-21 athletes will face some of the world’s best up-and-comers in the Swatch Girls Pro Junior France in their attempt to qualify for the Asp World Junior Series which starts October 3, in Bali, Indonesia.
The Swatch Girls Pro is webcast LIVE on www.swatchgirlspro.com