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World Champions, Rookies, and Wildcards Find Success in Opening Rounds of Tahiti Pro

Tahiti’s Vahine Fierro Sets the Bar on First Day of SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro; Rookie Sawyer Lindblad Scores Highest Wave of Event So Far, Then Eliminates World No. 1 Caity Simmers

29/Mai/2024 - WSL

TEAHUPO’O, Tahiti, French Polynesia (Saturday, May 25, 2024) - The SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro Presented by Outerknown, Stop No. 6 on the World Surf League (WSL) 2024 Championship Tour (CT), started today with solid conditions in the six-to-eight-foot range at the iconic Teahupo’o in Tahiti. Today’s competition completed the women’s and men’s Opening Rounds and said goodbye to the first four competitors in the women’s Elimination Round, including World No. 1 Caitlin Simmers (USA). 

Today’s top scores included Tahiti’s Vahine Fierro (FRA) with a 9.33, 2024 CT rookie Sawyer Lindblad (USA) with a 9.43, and Australia’s Ryan Callinan with a 9.10. All three surfers maneuvered through thick, critical tubes, taking off late and pulling in deep to come out with or even after the spit. 

With a massive swell on the way, all competitors are eyeing the potential for towering waves next week. The next call will be tomorrow, Sunday, May 26 at 7:15 a.m. TAHT for a possible 7:35 a.m. start. 

Tahiti’s Vahine Fierro Sets the Bar on First Day of SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro 

It’s been known that the event wildcard, Vahine Fierro (FRA), would be the one to watch throughout this competition, but the Tahitian made that extremely clear this morning with her dominant performance in the Opening Round. The local charger is renowned for her fearlessness and skill at this particular wave, and she set the bar high with a near-perfect 9.33 (out of a possible 10). Despite a strong showing with a 14.17 two-wave combined score (out of a possible 20), World No. 1 Caity Simmers (USA) was relegated to the elimination round alongside two-time World Champion Tyler Wright (AUS), who struggled to complete her rides in this heat. 

“It's amazing to have great conditions today,” said Fierro. “It's the first time in this event that I ever got that good of waves, so it's amazing. The waves are kind of slow, but whenever it would come, they’re good waves. And Caitlin [Simmers] started with a good score and I kind of waited for one, and I saw a really rushed one, and I went and paddled really hard, and it’s a brand new board. This is the only event I have here during my competitive season, so it's so nice to be at home to feel everybody's energy and it's just really special.”

Fellow Tahitian and the local trial’s winner, Mihimana Braye (PYF), placed second in his heat against 2029 World Champion Italo Ferreira (BRA), who won the heat. He scored just above World No. 1 Griffin Colapinto (USA), who he will meet again in the opening heat of the men’s Elimination Round when competition resumes. 

Rookie Sawyer Lindblad Scores Highest Wave of Event So Far, Then Eliminates World No. 1 Caity Simmers

Even though Caroline Marks (USA) won the Opening Round, Heat 4, she could have been in trouble after 2024 CT Rookie Sawyer Lindblad (USA) surfed the wave of her career so far, a near-perfect 9.43 (out of a possible 10). Despite the incredible performance, Lindblad was unable to secure a second score and was sent to the Elimination Round alongside World No. 3 Molly Pickum (AUS). 

“That was a moment I've dreamed about forever,” said Lindblad. “Honestly, this is my first time to Tahiti and I was really intimidated by this wave, but I just knew I would hate myself if I let the fear consume me. So I just saw that way of coming and I'm just head down, just got to go even if I fall. I know that I had to do it for myself.”

Lindblad then faced best friend and current World No. 1 Caity Simmers (USA) in the first heat of the Elimination Round. In a massive upset for 2023 even runner-up Simmers, the rookie stole the heat win as the Simmers struggled to find a back-up wave, leaving Lindblad to claim the win by less than 0.50 of a point. Simmers leaves Tahiti with a 9th-place result. 

Experience Pays for Event Wildcards Kelly Slater and Carissa Moore 

Kelly Slater (USA), the 11-time World Champion, earned his second heat win of the 2024 season. With the veteran back in familiar waters, Slater took down the defending event winner Jack Robinson (AUS) and Ramzi Boukhaim (MOR). Despite being the oldest competitor on the CT, at 52 years old, Slater is one of the most experienced at this venue, with five CT wins and two perfect heats. He looked incredibly comfortable in the heat today, earning a 7.67 and 6.83. Boukhaim challenged the American with an 8.33 but was unable to challenge him with a second score. This was an uncharacteristic loss for Robinson, who is regarded as one of the best barrel riders in the world. Robinson did not drop one heat last year, but will now need to come back from the dreaded Elimination Round when competition resumes.  

“There’s a lot of technical aspects to the waves right now,” Slater said. “You can actually take off deeper than people think today because it’s giving you one extra pump before you have to stall. It’s also slow, so people aren’t getting a third and fourth score, so whoever gets the best waves in the heat is going to win. That swell that’s coming looks nice, so I’m looking forward to a couple of days off and getting in the groove with Tahiti and then just sending it mid-week. I feel like people haven’t heard ‘Kelly Slater, Heat Winner’ for a while.” 

Five-time World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) is through to the Quarterfinals after her first heat (Heat 3) of the SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro. Moore faced World No. 2 Johanne Defay (FRA) and Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW), who have showcased impressive performances this season but were unable to overcome the event wildcard. Earlier this year, Moore announced an indefinite break from full-time competition, which included strike missions to this location in order to improve her technique in this challenging wave ahead of this event and the Olympic Games Paris 2024. Her practice looked to pay off today as both Defay and Sakura Johnson were relegated to the Elimination Round, unable to match Moore's 6.50 and 4.43 wave scores. 

“I'm super excited to be here as a wildcard and really grateful that I got the spot,” said Moore. “This is one of the most special waves in the whole world and this is a wave that really deserves time and respect. I've actually been here for like three weeks already, and I've been really enjoying it and I've been learning a lot. The wave is both terrifying and amazing at the same time because when you see that wall of water kind of building in front of you, even if it's like three-or-four foot, it's still really intimidating. But when you make that drop, that rush that you get and then seeing if you make it, with that uncertainty, dancing with that is just so beautiful, and when you come out, oh my gosh. It's one of the best feelings in the world.”

World Champions Marks, Medina, Florence, Ferreira, and Wright Advance

Reigning World Champion Caroline Marks (USA) picked up right where she left out at Teahupo'o with a heat win to kick off her campaign to defend her Tahiti Pro event win. The 22-year-old claimed a solid tube for an excellent 8.00 and a 4.67 backup and the win against Lindblad and Molly Picklum (AUS). 

“I have such good memories of Tahiti and out here at Teahupo’o,” Marks said. “I spent my eighteenth birthday here, I won here last year, and it’s one of my favorite places in the world. It’s also one of the most challenging waves in the world for me, and now it’s an Olympic venue, so there’s a lot more to look forward to. Winning here last year gave me a heap of confidence. A lot of times when you’re taking off on a good one, it looks like it’s going to closeout, which is really weird mentally, but the thing with Teahupo’o is when you choose the right one, the wave does a lot of the work for you, you just have to really commit which is the tough part. It’s just such a magical wave, and it was fun to get some fun waves in that heat.” 

After being sent to the Elimination Round by local standout Fierro, Tyler Wright (AUS) dispatched World No. 2 Johanne Defay (FRA) in Elimination Round 3. As the CT’s sole French representative, Defay was hopeful of finding success at this event, as it will be the same venue for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. Defay started the heat strong, posting an 8.83 for an incredible tube ride with perfect backhand technique. Wright fought back with an excellent tube ride of her own, then backed it up for a two-wave total of 14.60, which was enough to see her into the Quarterfinals, where she will take on Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA). 

Two-time World Champion John John Florence (HAW) continues to showcase his skills in waves of consequence. Although a lower score for his standards, Florence earned a 13.77 combined score to take the win against Rio Waida (INA) and Yago Dora (BRA), who scored 9.60 and 7.80, respectively. Adding to the emotional significance of trying to claim his first win in Tahiti, Florence recently welcomed his first child with his wife, Lauryn Cribb, just a few days before this event. Winning at Teahupo'o would not only be a personal triumph but also a meaningful victory for his growing family. 

“It's so much fun,” said Florence. “It's kind of playful and there's just the barrels are really perfect. It was a little slow in that heat. But yeah, I don't know, I loved it. This is one of the most special places on earth, you know that from everywhere, from the place we're at, the people, everything. It's such a beautiful place and I love coming back here and being able to surf this amazing wave, and I feel very fortunate. The goal is always to win. It t looks like we have a lot of good swell coming, so super excited for that. Hopefully, it's like it was a few years back when it was like 10-foot nonstop.”

Three-time World Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) powered through his heat, also with mid-range scores, but got the job done against Imaikalani deVault (HAW) and Jake Marshall (USA) in Heat 6. Medina is a two-time winner in Tahiti (2014, 2018) and four-time runner-up (2015, 2017, 2019, 2023). The 30-year-old is currently 14th on the rankings but a good result here could vault him straight back into WSL Final 5 contention. 

“This is one of my favorite stops on the Tour,” said Medina. “I'm blessed that we're here again, and it's good to make another one. The forecast looks good. Today is kind of slow, and the heat was pretty slow, actually. In the beginning, I felt like we lost a lot of opportunities just paddling around, and it's kind of hard to surf against two really good friends. I feel like they already teamed it up a little bit, but, I'm stoked that I made it, and it looks good for next week.”

Mixed Results for Next Generation 

With World No. 1 Simmers now out of the draw, a lot can change for No. 3 Molly Picklum (AUS), who was sent to the Elimination Round where she faced good friend Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW). Two of the event hopefuls, both known for their commitment in waves of consequence and ability to backhand barrel ride, were forced to go to turns as the ocean slowed in their heat. Neither competitor posted a solid score, with Sakura-Johnson unable to progress past Picklum.

The last heat of the day saw 2024 form surfer Gabriela Bryan (HAW) take on Teahupo’o standout Brisa Hennessy (CRC) as both surfers look to lock their spots in inside the Top 5 as the season approaches the WSL Finals. Hennessy found a rhythm early, posting a mid-range heat total for a couple of shorter tube rides and turns while Bryan struggled to fund a score of substance. Hennessy will take on Moore in the opening heat of the Women’s Quarterfinals when competition resumes. 

SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro Presented by Outerknown Women’s Opening Round Results:

HEAT 1: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 10.34 DEF. Brisa Hennessy (CRC) 8.16, Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 1.53

HEAT 2: Vahine Fierro (FRA) 16.13 DEF. Caitlin Simmers (USA) 14.17, Tyler Wright (AUS) 2.30

HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 10.93 DEF. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 10.20, Johanne Defay (FRA) 9.10

HEAT 4: Caroline Marks (USA) 12.67 DEF. Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 9.43, Molly Picklum (AUS) 4.17

SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro Presented by Outerknown Men’s Opening Round Results:

HEAT 1: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 13.23 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 12.33, Connor O'Leary (JPN) 7.66

HEAT 2: John John Florence (HAW) 13.77 DEF. Rio Waida (INA) 9.60, Yago Dora (BRA) 7.80

HEAT 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.50 DEF. Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) 12.83, Jack Robinson (AUS) 11.24

HEAT 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.30 DEF. Mihimana Braye (PYF) 11.66, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 11.47

HEAT 5: Jordy Smith (RSA) 12.77 DEF. Matthew McGillivray (RSA) 11.43, Crosby Colapinto (USA) 10.56

HEAT 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 11.90 DEF. Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 6.80, Jake Marshall (USA) 2.20

HEAT 7: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 15.60 DEF. Liam O'Brien (AUS) 11.60, Barron Mamiya (HAW) 9.90

HEAT 8: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.10 DEF. Cole Houshmand (USA) 11.70, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 5.14

SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro Presented by Outerknown Women’s Elimination Round Results:

HEAT 1: Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 9.06 DEF. Caitlin Simmers (USA) 8.76

HEAT 2: Molly Picklum (AUS) 7.73 DEF. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 6.94

HEAT 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.60 DEF. Johanne Defay (FRA) 13.76

HEAT 4: Brisa Hennessy (CRC) 8.63 DEF. Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 3.90

SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro Presented by Outerknown Men’s Elimination Round Matchups:

HEAT 1: Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Mihimana Braye (PYF)

HEAT 2: Cole Houshmand (USA) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)

HEAT 3: Jack Robinson (AUS) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)

HEAT 4: Liam O'Brien (AUS) vs. Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR)

HEAT 5: Jake Marshall (USA) vs. Connor O'Leary (JPN)

HEAT 6: Imaikalani deVault (HAW) vs. Rio Waida (INA)

HEAT 7: Barron Mamiya (HAW) vs. Matthew McGillivray (RSA)

HEAT 8: Crosby Colapinto (USA) vs. Seth Moniz (HAW)

SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro Presented by Outerknown Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups: 

HEAT 1: Brisa Hennessy (CRC) vs. Carissa Moore (HAW)

HEAT 2: Caroline Marks (USA) vs. Sawyer Lindblad (USA)

HEAT 3: Molly Picklum (AUS) vs. Vahine Fierro (FRA)

HEAT 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA)