Beaten Gilmore tips Aussie pair to shinephotos

SIX-TIME world champion Stephanie Gilmore believes Bronte Macaulay and Sally Fitzgibbons will be among the toughest to beat at Surfest this weekend after falling to themon Friday.

RISING STAR: West Australian surfer Bronte Macaulay gets vertical during her heat win over Sally Fitzgibbons and Stephanie Gilmore on Friday. Picture: WSL/Bennett

Gilmore wasfrustrated by slow, small waves in her round of 24 heat at the 6000-point qualifying series Anditi Women’s Pro, which is set to gain better swell but wet weather for the finals.

The 29-year-old was third behind West Australian young gun Macaulay and Surfest 2016 winner Fitzgibbons.Surfing the northern end of Pogos at Merewether, the trio had little to choose from but Macaulay got the jump on her fellow championship toursurfers early with a 5.67 then a three-hit ride to post a heat-high 7.5. Macaulay edged out Fitzgibbons 13.17 to 13.16, leaving Gilmore needing a 6.4 in the final minute to progress. Gilmore, who lost in the final last year, finished on 10.77.

“My wave choice was pretty bad,” Gilmore said.“There was just a bit less energy than yesterday in the waves, so the waves were hard to get some kind of push, so I struggled a bit. But that’s all right.Bronte and Sally are probably the best two girls in the event, so to lose to them is not so bad.”

Gilmore believed that “if conditions stay like this”, Macaulay, Fitzgibbons and Silvana Lima would be ones to watch in the finals.

“Bronte’s one of my favourite humans ever,” she said.“She’s so nice, and Sally as well, so it was cool to have a heat with them but tough because I know both of them have a really great team around them, so they were going to be in the right spots for the right waves and put on a great show.”

Macaulay was just “happy to get through that heat”.

“For me, they are the top two surfers in the event,” Macaulay said. “So it was really stacked and in the end it wasn’t a super high-scoring heat but it was tricky and just a nice one to get through. Hopefully I can keep it going.”

Fitzgibbons, who is aiming for a record-equalling third Surfest crown, felt the same.

“It’s pretty rare in the round of 24 to have a full CT heat,” she said. “It was a good split when Steph and Bronte went down the beach and I stayed on thatrip bowl. I just had to hold my nerve.There’s a couple of little things I want to fix up for the next round and I’m just glad I could make it through.”

Gilmore was still happy with her time in Newcastle after scoringa near-perfect 19 on Thursday in her first World Surf League heat of 2017. Shewas also named best female surfer of the Australian Boardriders Battle national final at Newcastle last weekend. Her club, Snapper Rocks, finished second.

“It’s good to be down and around the contest vibe and get those feelings happening again,” she said.

“We had a great week. I started in the boardriders battle then had a couple of heats here, so it’s a pretty nice way to start the season.

Beaten Gilmore tips Aussie pair to shine | photos Sally Fitzgibbons

Ryan Callinan

Tatiana Weston-Webb

Silvana Lima

Sage Erickson

Reef Heazlwood

Paulina Ado

Alejo Muniz

Malia Manuel

Macy Callaghan

Keely Andrew

Yago Dora

Ezekiel Lau

Felicity Palamateer

Tanner Gudauskas

TweetFacebook Surfest Day 5Surfest and WSL photographers capture the action from day five at Surfest on Friday“It was head high for ants out there but I think it’s more the energy of it. Small waves are OK as long as there’s a bit of push behind them. There wasn’t much today.

“It’s a bit of a bummer but it’s OK, I waspretty happy with my round one, so I’ve just got to build and grow, and onto the next.”

Gilmore was heading home to prepare for the opening event of the CT at Snapper Rocks.

CT surfer Nikki Van Dijk was the other high-profile casualty of the round, finishing last in heat seven of eight with a 9.77 two-wave total.

In the round of 16,Tatiana Weston-Webb takes on Lima,Mahina Maeda meetsPaige Hareb, former champion Malia Manuel drewCarol Henrique,Keely Andrew will clash withSage Erickson, young gun Macy Callaghan takes onFitzgibbons, Macaulay is againstSophie McCulloch,Zoe McDougall takes onPauline Ado andJohanne Defay is matched withIsabella Nichols.