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The Drug Aware Margaret River Pro – Better than Bells

The retirement of old dog and new daddy Taj Burrows and an unexpected win by injury replacement surfer Sebastian ‘seabass’ Zeitz were only two of the unplanned and rather odd happenings at Margaret River.

The third stop on 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro saw the world’s best surfers chasing that yellow leader’s jerseys through big, bumpy right-handers at Western Australia’s famous river break.

Current leader of the Women’s championship tour Courtney Conlogue got stung as Tyler Wright stole the win and a wave during the final of the Women’s leg. Proving that the Owen’s little sister can stake up in less than perfect conditions.

Tyler Wright of Australia celebrating her victory at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. Image WSL

Tyler Wright of Australia celebrating her victory at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. Image WSL

Three-time WSL Champion, Carissa Moore also fell victim to Wright’s forehand hooks during the semi finals, despite being in her element on big right-hander walls.

Moore blazed out the gates to secure the lead at the half way mark with a 14.77 combination score, leaving Wright needing a 7.27. Wright answered with a 7.57 to make up the difference and Moore was unable to complete another ride, taking an awkward free fall and missing out on her 4th consecutive final.

The rise of the underdogs and absence of the champions from this year’s event finals is a bold power shift

The rise of the underdogs and absence of the champions from this year’s event finals is a bold power shift in comparison to 2015. Six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore’s power hack during Heat 4 of the Quarterfinals wasn’t enough to build the combination scores needed to retaliate against Wright’s two 8-point wave scores; a super heat which saw Gilmore end her run at Margaret River in 5th place.

Tatiana Weston-Webb is keeping up the pressure as she fearlessly racked up giant heat scores all the way through to the semi’s, having eliminated Sally Fitzgibbons in the opening heat of the quarterfinals.

The young Hawaiian locked in several strong waves, taking advantage of Fitzgibbons’ slow start and securing her place in the semi finals. Conlogue eventually proved too strong for Weston-Webb who wasn’t able to find the waves needed to challenge Conlogue’s 8.17 and 9.27 wave scores. But the battles helped her crack the world tour’s top 5, landing in as world number 3 and securing herself as a serious competitor on the tour.

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As the current world number 2, Wright oozed confidence as she threw hack after hack off the choppy faces off Margaret’s 6-8ft set waves, seemingly un-phased by Conlogue’s clean sweep of heat wins and continuously rising heat scores.

Her heavy footed surfing was perfect for the conditions as she effortlessly jammed around difficult sections and snatched a 9.6 point barrel against defending event champion Conlogue when it mattered most.

Conlogue will leave Western Australia with the yellow leader’s jersey and a small points advantage as they head to Rio for the next leg of the tour.

Former elite tour competitor and injury replacement surfer Sebastian ‘Seabass’ Zietz made history in the Men’s competition by taking the title after a dramatic final against Julian Wilson.

Obviously this also meant that Wilko’s dream run of a triple win came to an end, as fellow goofyfoot Nat Young shook him out of Margaret River’s winning race in Round 5.

To everyone who follows the Pro circuits combine amazement, Wilkinson still holds the top spot as they head to Rio. But there’s a new Number 2 chasing him. Zeitz’s win places him firmly into the world rankings.

It was a close final with both surfers locking in early waves but it would be one last set that rolled in with only 5 minutes to go decided which surfer would take the title. Having posted a 9.10 score at the beginning of the heat Seabass showcased his trademark Hawaiian power and style and finished with a combined wave score of 17.40.

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2015 Rookie of the year Italo Ferreira had faced Zetiz in the semi finals and was left needing a 9.50 in the dying seconds. Joel Parkinson took the first wave of his semi final against Australia’s Julian Wilson and set a strong president of retaliation to every wave his competitor got. But Parko was left searching for rhythm and Wilson seized priority and snatched the heat with a 1.10 lead.

The 18 year old responsible for taking out a whole heap of previous world champions from this leg of the title race

One name causing mayhem in this competition is Leonardo Fioravanti; the 18 year old responsible for taking out a whole heap of previous world champions from this leg of the title race. It was only a year ago that the young Italian was lying horizontal in Bordeaux with a broken back and metal rods holding his vertebrae together. Now his big surfing saw off Kelly Salter and Adriano de Souza during the early stages of the competition.

So where are we left? Simply with a lot of big names that are yet to make an impact on this year’s tour, and a bunch of newbies absolutely dominating. Toledo and Conlogue will attempt to defend their titles of the Oi Rio Pro in May; let’s hope for some colour.

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