Hawaii’s four-time world champion Carissa Moore survived a round filled with upsets of other top pro surfers and will surf in the quarterfinals of the women’s Olympic competition Monday at Japan’s Tsurigasaki Ichinomiya Beach.
Moore, 28, reigning World Surf League Championship Tour titleholder and the top-seeded Olympic woman surfer, squeaked past Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich in heat five of round 3, after watching Stephanie Gilmore, Australia’s seven-time world champ, defeated by South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag, who has not won a championship tour event, and France’s Johanne Defay, ranked world #2, taken down by Portugal’s Yolanda Hopkins, a qualifying series veteran who has yet to reach the championship tour.
Moore advanced to the finals on Tuesday in Tokyo and will attempt to win a gold medal in her heat beginning tonight at 9:30 p.m. Hawaii time.
A surf pioneer and still-formidable opponent, Mulanovich, 38, won both the women’s world championship title and the International Surfing Association World Surfing Games gold medal in 2004, dropped off the championship tour after 2013, then came out of retirement in 2019 to win her second ISA gold and qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
In the 2019 ISA games, Brazil’s Silvana Lima won silver and Buitendag took the copper medal, with Moore placing fourth for the bronze.
There were some tense moments at the halfway point in heat five, with Mulanovich in the lead, but Moore edged ahead with a three-turn combination, releasing a great white fan that the announcer called a “rooster tail of spray” but was more of a whale tail for her relieved Hawaii fans.
Moore’s teammate, 19-year-old Caroline Marks of Florida also advanced to the quarterfinals, defeating Mahina Maeda, the Hawaii native surfing for Team Japan; Marks’s powerful, exuberant backhand style worked miracles in surf turned to mush by onshore winds, although the waves were bigger at 5-6 feet (2.5-3 feet Hawaiian) than on Sunday, due to a distant typhoon.
Ranked #6 on the world championship tour, Marks was awarded the best score of the entire round, an excellent 8-point ride, on top of a 7.33.
The women’s quarterfinals will also include Brisa Hennessy of Costa Rica, Silvana Lima of Brazil, Sally Fitzgibbons of Australia and Tsuzuki Amuro of Japan, who in other upset defeated Hawaii-raised Tatiana Weston-Webb, ranked world # 4 , who surfs for Brazil.
Surf for Tuesday (Monday in Hawaii) at Tsurigakawa Beach is predicted to be still sizable and much cleaner than the choppy, mushy, small-to-middling waves in the first two days of competition, as winds shift offshore.