The Southern Cape’s Bianca Buitendag continued her excellent run of form by advancing to her second WSL Championship Tour final in as many events.
Bianca was tearing into the powerful walls at Cloudbreak.
Bianca peaked in her semi final match-up with Johanne Defay (FRA), scoring a solid 18.40 (9.23 and 9.17) two wave heat total to take the win. In the final, Bianca faced brave Australian, Sally Fitzgibbons, who was surfing with a bandaged head after perforating her ear drum in Round 2. Sally found her rhythm in the final to put together a strong 18.56 heat total, while Bianca was unable to recreate her form from the semis and could only accumulate a 14.40 total.
Still, by earning a spot in back-to-back finals, Bianca has now jumped up to sixth in the rankings, and she doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
Two finals in a row for Bianca Buitendag.
Check out the official press release below.
BIANCA BUITENDAG FINISHES RUNNER-UP AT FIJI WOMEN’S PRO; JUMPS TO 6th ON WSL RANKINGS
TAVARUA, Fiji (Tuesday 4 June 2015) – Bianca Buitendag finished runner-up to Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) in the Final of the Fiji Women’s Pro after a day of big upsets which saw the world’s best female surfers battle one another in solid 3 – 3.5 metre waves at Cloudbreak.
Today saw Buitendag’s second consecutive Final appearance of 2015, after her match-up with Courtney Conlogue (USA) in Rio last month where she also finished second, and the third of her CT career. The 21 year-old from Victoria Bay earned 8,000 points and jumped up three places to sixth place on the Jeep Leaderboard.
“It’s been an incredible day for women’s surfing and I’m very proud of Sally (Fitzgibbons),” Buitendag said of her opponent who continued to compete despite suffering a perforated eardrum in Round 2. “She is a true warrior and deserves this win.”
“Of course, I’m a little disappointed to not come out on top, but it was a great event for the WSL. We had excellent waves and all the girls stepped up. It was impressive to see and another runner-up finish puts me in a great position for the back half of the year.”
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) on her way to victory.
Buitendag was in devastating form today, posting three nine-point rides on her way to the Final. The South African got the better of Malia Manuel (HAW) in Round 4 and Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) in the Quarterfinals, where she began her heat by breaking her favourite board but quickly recovered, posting a 9.70 on her back-up equipment. An 8.33 left Van Dijk in a combination situation and saw the South African through to the Semifinals where she faced good friend Johanne Defay (FRA).
Defay has delivered incredible performances throughout the competition. However, it was the South African who dominated the heat with two consecutive nine-point rides for an 18.40 heat total. Despite posting an 8.70 and an 8.27 Defay she wasn’t able to find the near-perfect score needed and takes home a third-place finish.
Today’s victory is Fitzgibbons’ first of the year and the ninth elite CT win of her career. The result sees the Australian move up three places to third on the Jeep Leaderboard, putting her firmly back in the world title race. The 2014 event winner was able to defend her title, claiming back-to-back wins in Fiji despite suffering a perforated eardrum in Round 2.
Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) and Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) celebrate on the podium.
“I’m so exhausted the tears came out,” said Fitzgibbons. “It’s been such a big couple of days and quite a bit of pain. I just thought whatever the ocean is going to deal up to me I’ll be happy with it. At this stage to have a win is so amazing and I’m just so happy. Credit to the medical staff for taping me up and to everyone supporting me back home – I love you guys, we did it. In the face of adversity this is definitely one of the most special wins I’ve ever had.”
Fitzgibbons showed commitment, focus and resolve throughout the Final and was the first competitor to post a significant score, a 9.23, to put Buitendag in a combination situation with only 2 points on the board. With twelve minutes remaining the South African broke the combination with a 6.90, now looking for an 8.67. An exciting final exchange saw Buitendag claim a 7.50 while an excellent 9.33 from Fitzgibbons for two big, committed turns, sealed her victory and left Buitendag searching for two huge scores that she was unable to find.
Defay looked electrifying, eliminating world no. 5 Tyler Wright (AUS) in Round 4 with two excellent scores, a 9.27 and a 9.33, and the highest heat total of the entire competition, an 18.60. The 2014 rookie of the year also took down American powerhouse Courtney Conlogue (USA) in the Quarterfinals. Today marks the third CT Semifinal berth for Defay and her best result this year.
Johanne Defay (FRA) smashes the lip on her way to the semi finals.
“Bianca (Buitendag) did so good and picked the right waves,” said Defay. “I think she’s going to win and I really hope so. It was a great heat with Bianca, one of my best friends, with perfect waves and great scores. I’m going to go back home now to train. Huntington will be very different but I’m looking forward to it.”
Lakey Peterson (USA), who went down to eventual winner Fitzgibbons, goes home in equal third place. Today was her first Semifinal appearance since the Rio Pro last year and her best result of 2015. Peterson previously delivered two big upsets, first by defeating event standout Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) in Quarterfinal 2after the rookie looked dominant through the opening four rounds of competition, posting two nine-point rides before succumbing to Peterson.
The American also took down two-time World Champion and current no. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard Carissa Moore (HAW) in Round 4. The 9th place finish is Moore’s worst result since the Swatch Women’s Pro last year, where she was also defeated by Peterson in Round 4.
See scores, images, video highlights and more from the Fiji Women’s Pro at www.worldsurfleague.com
Fiji Women’s Pro Final Results:
1 – Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 18.56
2 – Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 14.40
Fiji Women’s Pro Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16.83 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 3.33
SF 2: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 18.40 def. Johanne Defay (FRA) 16.97
Fiji Women’s Pro Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 17.06 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 11.34
QF 2: Lakey Peterson (USA) 12.57 def. Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 11.73
QF 3: Johanne Defay (FRA) 13.00 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 4.26
QF 4: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 18.03 def. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 9.57
Fiji Women’s Pro Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Laura Enever (AUS) 13.67 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 9.00
Heat 2: Lakey Peterson (USA) 14.67 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.60
Heat 3: Johanne Defay (FRA) 18.60 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 10.76
Heat 4: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 14.70 def. Malia Manuel (HAW) 12.36
Jeep Leaderboard (After Fiji Women’s Pro)
1. Carissa Moore HAW 37,800
2. Courtney Conlogue USA 36,900
3. Sally Fitzgibbons AUS 29,600
4. Lakey Peterson USA 27,300
5. Tyler Wright AUS 26,700
6. Bianca Buitendag ZAF 26,250