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Power and Progression Set the Standard on Opening Day at Surf City El Salvador

Top 5 Women Advance to Quarterfinals; Caroline Marks and Tatiana Weston-Webb Pull Through First Eliminations

10/Jun/2024 - WSL

PUNTA ROCA, La Libertad, El Salvador (Thursday, June 6, 2024) - Opening day of the Surf City El Salvador Pro Presented by Corona, Stop No. 7 on the World Surf League (WSL) 2024 Championship Tour (CT), kicked off with the women’s and men’s Opening Rounds and women’s Elimination Round at Punta Roca (also known as La Punta or Punta Chilama). Solid, four-to-six-foot wave faces provided a canvas for competitors to showcase their progression and power. The women's Elimination Round witnessed World Title contenders battling to stay in the Final 5 race, while the men's elimination heats are set to begin when competition resumes.

World No. 1 Hennessy Pushes the Pace, Continues Consistent Form

World No. 1 Brisa Hennessy (CRC) enters the Punta Roca arena fresh off a historic runner-up showing in Tahiti and looks to hold the yellow Leader’s jersey. Hennessy’s forehand attack overtook a last-minute surge from proven CT contender Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW). Now, Hennessy advances directly into the Quarterfinals and looks for a fifth Semifinal showing in 2024, while Sakura Johnson and event wildcard Leilani McGonagle (CRC) battled in the Elimination Round.

“It was firing out there, and it was really special to be out there with no one else in glassy conditions,” said Hennessy. “How much more could we ask for? It feels really special to be in Central America, and I’m just feeling that good energy, that pura vida energy. The yellow jersey comes with so many challenges and I think it can really either lift you up or drag you down. Wearing it definitely feels heavier, but I just think about what the color yellow means to me and it’s positivity and brightness, and I feel like El Salvador brings that.”

All Top 5 Women Through to Quarterfinals, Strengthening Their World Title Campaigns 

Good friends Caity Simmers (USA) and Molly Picklum (AUS) are both through to the Quarterfinals after their opening-round wins today. Simmers, who is the current World No. 2, took down Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) and Lakey Peterson (USA) in Heat 3. Simmers, aiming to improve on her previous best result of 9th in El Salvador, showed she’s ready for the task of securing the win. Meanwhile, in Heat 4, World No. 3 Picklum advanced by defeating 2024 CT Rookie Sawyer Lindblad (USA) and Gabriela Bryan (HAW) with a women’s Opening Round best, 13.90 heat total (out of a possible 20). Both Simmers and Picklum move forward, strengthening their World Title campaigns as they look to clinch a spot in the WSL Final 5. 

“We’re in pumping Punta Roca, and there’s a lot of fun waves but I feel like there’s different sections and zones to the point that I want to try and tap into,” said Picklum. “I just wanted to lean on my surfing, and that’s why I was trying a couple of airs. I think in the heat I identified a few double-ups that I wasn’t really going for, but there are so many different sections to the wave it’s so long so we’ll see. I really want to surf though.”

Current No. 4 Johanne Defay (FRA) was dealt an early elimination in Tahiti but returned to her impressive form on the outstretched wall of Punta Roca. Defay’s decimating forehand faced a pair of WSL Champions, two-time WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) and reigning WSL Champion Caroline Marks (USA), and handled the challenge with a 13.33 heat total. Marks’ 7.50 (out of a possible 10), the best wave of the heat, put her back in the heat with only six minutes remaining, and a priority error from Defay provided Marks an opportunity to strike. But, the ocean went silent as Marks and Wright faced the Elimination Round. 

First Eliminations Dealt, Marks and Weston-Webb Thrive

A tough start to her event title defense sent Caroline Marks (USA) to the Elimination Round, where she bounced back in powerful form, accruing a solid 7.67, to eliminate event wildcard Leilani McGonagle (CRC). Plus, recent Tahiti standout Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) also regained her rhythm in the face of elimination with an excellent showing over rookie sensation Sawyer Lindblad (USA) in their all-goofy foot bout.

“I had an interesting heat this morning; I was just in really bad priority rhythm, made some priority mistakes, and that set me up for a seven-minute heat,” said Marks. “I really wanted to avoid that in that heat, and the waves have gotten a lot better. It got more consistent, and the tide helped it, so we had a really consistent heat, and we had a lot of fun. I just wanted to surf and not sit there too long. El Salvador has treated me well, and this was my first event back after taking some time off, my first event win back to start my World Title campaign.”

Today's Elimination Round also saw two-time WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) defeated by Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) in Heat 4, and Gabriela Bryan (HAW) take down event wildcard Lakey Peterson (USA) in Heat 3. 

World No. 1 Florence Flourishes in Punta Roca Return

An incredible showing from current World No. 1 and two-time WSL Champion, John John Florence (HAW), elevated the standard with an excellent 16.33 heat total. Florence’s signature combination of power and aerial tendencies led to an 8.50 over local wildcard Bryan Perez (SLV) and Australia’s Liam O’Brien in an intense final exchange. Perez was able to showcase his prowess at home, posting an impressive 7.70 on his final attempt, and will now look to carry that form into the Elimination Round while Florence goes straight to the Round of 16.

“The waves are pumping when they come in right now even with the long waits, but it was nice to start that heat with a high seven,” said Florence. “Liam got that 6.20 and I was too deep, and that was my one mistake, but I got lucky on that last wave, it was a fun wave. It’s pretty good for airs right now if you can find the section. First heat is always a little nerve-racking but it’s nice to start with some good scores and start with a heat like that. If I was surfing with my brothers and no one else out I’d be so fired up and it’d be so hard to contain myself.”

Medina Makes His Statement, While Top 5 Contenders Raise the Standard

The men’s hunt for a Final 5 spot turned up a notch in the El Salvador heat with 2023 World Title contender Jack Robinson (AUS) taking control of his debut with an excellent 8.33. Current World No. 3 Robinson will be joined by No. 2 Griffin Colapinto (USA) and No. 4 Ethan Ewing (AUS). But they have three-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) pushing the scale for a 15.90 heat total to put the field on notice. Medina’s ability to turn on in the back half of the season was on full display with his backhand attack and a spot into the Round of 16 over No. 5 Italo Ferreira (BRA), who will have to deal with the Elimination Round when the competition resumes. 

“I’m happy to be in El Salvador, and I’m happy with my performance, and the waves are incredible,” said Medina. “It got slow in the end, but the beginning was incredible. It’s all about the feeling. You see the wave and decide to go, and that’s all I was trying to do is pick the right ones. I felt like I got the ones that had more wall and a win is a win.”

The next call for the Surf City El Salvador Pro Presented by Corona will be tomorrow, Friday, June 7, at 6:30 a.m. CST for a possible 7:05 a.m. start. 

Surf City El Salvador Pro Presented by Corona Women’s Opening Round Results:

HEAT 1: Johanne Defay (FRA) 13.33 DEF. Caroline Marks (USA) 12.43, Tyler Wright (AUS) 10.57

HEAT 2: Brisa Hennessy (CRC) 12.80 DEF. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 12.20, Leilani McGonagle (CRC) 8.40

HEAT 3: Caitlin Simmers (USA) 12.16 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 10.40, Lakey Peterson (USA) 6.36

HEAT 4: Molly Picklum (AUS) 13.90 DEF. Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 12.93, Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 12.3

Surf City El Salvador Pro Presented by Corona Men’s Opening Round Results:

HEAT 1: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 12.73 DEF. Rio Waida (INA) 9.93, Matthew McGillivray (RSA) 8.10

HEAT 2: Jack Robinson (AUS) 13.60 DEF. Connor O'Leary (JPN) 13.27, Crosby Colapinto (USA) 9.66

HEAT 3: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 14.43 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 10.84, Joao Chianca (BRA) 9.93

HEAT 4: John John Florence (HAW) 16.33 DEF. Liam O'Brien (AUS) 13.56, Bryan Perez (SLV) 13.20

HEAT 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.40 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.93, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 13.37

HEAT 6: Jordy Smith (RSA) 10.60 DEF. Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) 10.57, Seth Moniz (HAW) 9.57

HEAT 7: Jake Marshall (USA) 13.17 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.04, Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 8.84

HEAT 8: Yago Dora (BRA) 16.64 DEF. Cole Houshmand (USA) 10.84, Barron Mamiya (HAW) 5.90

Surf City El Salvador Pro Presented by Corona Women’s Elimination Round Results:

HEAT 1: Caroline Marks (USA) 14.50 DEF. Leilani McGonagle (CRC) 12.03

HEAT 2: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 13.43 DEF. Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 10.33

HEAT 3: Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 14.33 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 13.44

HEAT 4: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 13.97 DEF. Tyler Wright (AUS) 12.00

Surf City El Salvador Pro Presented by Corona Men’s Elimination Round Matchups:

HEAT 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Bryan Perez (SLV)

HEAT 2: Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)

HEAT 3: Barron Mamiya (HAW) vs. Joao Chianca (BRA)

HEAT 4: Rio Waida (INA) vs. Seth Moniz (HAW)

HEAT 5: Cole Houshmand (USA) vs. Connor O'Leary (JPN)

HEAT 6: Crosby Colapinto (USA) vs. Imaikalani deVault (HAW)

HEAT 7: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Matthew McGillivray (RSA)

HEAT 8: Ryan Callinan (AUS) vs. Liam O'Brien (AUS)

Surf City El Salvador Pro Presented by Corona Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups:

HEAT 1: Caitlin Simmers (USA) vs. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA)

HEAT 2: Molly Picklum (AUS) vs. Gabriela Bryan (HAW)

HEAT 3: Brisa Hennessy (CRC) vs. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW)

HEAT 4: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Caroline Marks (USA)