BELGAS, Peniche/Portugal – Coco Ho (HAW), 18, 2009 ASP Dream Tour rookie, collected her inaugural victory on the ASP Women’s World Tour today, taking out the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search over former ASP Women’s World Champion (2005) Chelsea Hedges (AUS), 26, in punchy two-to-three foot (1 metre) surf at Belgas.
Event No. 4 of 7 on the 2009 ASP Women’s World Tour, the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search saw some of the best conditions of the year at the backup venue of Belgas, and throughout the two days of competition, it was the youngster Ho who proved most adept at navigating the hollow beachbreak peaks.
Ho exercised excellent judgment in the Final, patiently waiting while her elder opponent kept herself busy. With conditions deteriorating, the young Hawaiian let loose with a barrage of backhand hits on the dumpy lefthanders, collecting a 7.50 and an 8.33 to combo Hedges and take the win.
“I knew Chelsea (Hedges) would be dangerous on the left after seeing her this morning getting those barrels,” Ho said. “This afternoon it turned into a more rippable wave and it was hard on the forehand, but I was lucky to get the waves I did.”
With this win, Ho moves from 5th to 3rd on the ASP Women’s World Tour rankings and announces herself as a major force heading into the final three events of the year.
“It feels so good to be on top,” Ho said. “I’m trying not to think about too much. I love my trophy. When I started the year, I set a goal to make Quarterfinals or better at every event in order finish Top 5 by the end of the year, and I’m doing my best to accomplish that."
For Hedges, today’s return to form marks the first time the inspiring goofy-footer has seen a Finals’ berth since 2007, and moves her from 8th to 6th on the 2009 ASP Women’s World Tour ratings. Her dominance in the earlier rounds of the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search cannot be overlooked as she consistently dominated the playful pits of Belgas, even eliminating reigning two-time ASP Women’s World Champion and current ASP Women’s World No. 1, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 21, in the Quarterfinals.
“It was close but no cigar,” Hedges said. “It feels good to be back on the podium. It’s my best result this year. I came into the event forgetting about world titles and just wanted to improve on my results. Coco (Ho) was ripping and she got the better waves out there this afternoon. I am happy with my 2nd and I will work on that from here.”
The former ASP Women’s World Champion took a sabbatical from competition in 2008 to give birth to a daughter, Meika, and was given the ASP Women’s World Tour wildcard to compete this season. Today’s Runner-Up finish is Hedges’s best of the season, and she’ll be a major threat in the final three events of the season.
“This year, I was kind of questioning my ability a bit at the first event with these young girls like Coco (Ho) and Sally (Fitzgibbons),” Hedges said. “They are surfing so good and it really pushes my surfing and makes me look at what I am doing. It felt really good to take out Steph (Gilmore). She is the best out there in my opinion, her surfing still has that little edge. I still feel that, come the end of the year, she is going to be the one to beat.”
Rosanne Hodge (ZAF), 22, was the surprise juggernaut of the event, claiming three heats today before falling to eventual Runner-Up Hedges in the Semifinals. Despite missing out on a Final’s berth, Hodge took some major scalps in the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search and moved from 12th to 11th on 2009 ASP Women’s World Tour.
“I’m really very happy with my performance in Portugal,” Hodge said. “It’s been a very important competition for me with the WQS having already finished. I need some good results in the last four events and this event has given me a good start."
Silvana Lima (BRA), 25, current ASP Women’s World No. 2, was in impressive form throughout the final day of competition, edging past Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS), 23, before dispatching of Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 18, in the Quarterfinals. Although failing to advance past eventual winner Ho, Lima’s Semifinal finish moved her even closer to Gilmore in the race for the 2009 ASP Women’s World Title.
“For sure I am happy with making the Semis here,” Lima said. “The conditions got pretty tough towards the end, but I’m happy with my result and looking forward to the next event. I saw Steph (Gilmore) lose to Chelsea (Hedges) but it doesn’t change the way I surf. I just surf my heat. Steph is an amazing surfer and competing against her this year is great. She is so powerful and it’s so good for surfing. This year I’m a lot more focused and I think that’s why I am doing better."
The next stop on the 2009 ASP Women’s World Tour will be the Movistar Peru Classic presented by Rip Curl from November 3 through 8, 2009 at Lobitos in Northern Peru. The ASP Top 17 will be traversing the Atlantic en route to South America in the next couple of days to contest the long, lefthand points of Peru.
RIP CURL WOMEN’S PRO SEARCH FINAL RESULTS:
1 – Coco Ho (HAW) 15.83
2 – Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 9.37
CURRENT ASP WOMEN’S WORLD TOUR TOP 5 (After RC Pro Women’s Search):
1 – Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 3793 points
2 – Silvana Lima (BRA) 3636 points
3 – Coco Ho (HAW) 2923 points
4 – Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 2691 points
5 – Melanie Bartels (HAW) 2535 points