Defay Celebrating. Photo Courtesy WSL / Morris.
Johanne Defay (FRA) and Hiroto Ohhara (JPN) reigned supreme on the final day of the Vans US Open of Surfing in front of a capacity crowd. Defay has been crowned champion of the Women’s event, stop No. 6 on the Samsung Galaxy World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), while Ohhara has won the Men’s Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 event.
Johanne Defay (FRA) claimed her first elite CT victory today, taking out Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) in a tense Final at Huntington Beach Pier. The win sees her earn 10,000 points and move up five places to sixth on the Jeep Leaderboard.
The Reunion Island surfer took an early opportunity in the Final and earned a heat-high 7.67 for a series of backhand snaps to take the lead and put the pressure on Fitzgibbons, who was left looking for a 5.52. Fitzgibbons found a comeback wave with five minutes remaining, showcasing a reverse followed by two more turns. She was rewarded with a 7.00 and the lead but Defay answered with two big turns for 5.87 and reclaimed the top spot to take the win.
Joahnne Defay wins the Vans US Open of Surfing. Photo Courtesy WSL / Rowland.
“I don’t think I can put it into words,” said Defay. “It’s very hard to digest and I don’t know how to say how I feel — it’s so crazy. I’m very happy to have some of my friends here and I’m thinking of the people back home too. I guess it’s all the work I’ve done before and it’s all come together. I’ve just been sticking to same game plan, trying to get a lot of waves. It was tricky at the start but then I got that score which put me in a better position. I feel really good, last year everything was so new and this year I feel way more comfortable.”
Defay previously defeated good friend Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) in the Semifinals in a rematch of the Fiji Pro. Neck-and-neck throughout the heat, Defay won with the narrowest of margins, 0.01, to earn her first ever CT Final appearance.
“It’s pretty amazing, I could never imagine that I could win here or that I could win an event,” continued Defay. “I just took it heat by heat and it’s so crazy. This is definitely my biggest win. Ending up last year at eighth on the rankings I thought maybe I could do top five so we’ll see what happens this year.”
Sally Fitzgibbons. Photos Courtesy WSL / Rowland.
Fitzgibbons, the 2011 event winner, earned herself a runner-up finish and remains at third place on the Jeep Leaderboard. Searching for her 10th CT win, the Australian previously dispatched the new Jeep ratings leader Courtney Conlogue (USA) in the Semifinals. Fitzgibbons posted four scores before Conlogue could find her first wave and kept the advantage throughout the match-up. A no-grab reverse from Fitzgibbons earned her a 6.33 to increase the lead with 5 minutes remaining. Both surfers took a wave in the final seconds but Conlogue’s fell short of the 6.60 required and she takes home a third-place finish.
“I just try to make the most out of every opportunity that comes my way,” said Fitzgibbons. “I had to really slow things down before this competition and I’ve been focused on keeping things calm and enjoying it down here. It’s going to take me some time to adjust to not wearing this helmet once I’m all healed!”
“I’m just so blessed to be here and to be able to compete in this event,” continued Fitzgibbons. “The crowds and the atmosphere they create is so awesome and there’s so much support across the whole beach and along the pier. I’m really happy to make the Final and it’s great to see Johanne (Defay) take the win. Thank you for a great event everyone.”
Highlights from the event are available at WorldSurfLeague.com and VansUSOpenofSurfing.com.
Women’s CT Final Results:
1: Johanne Defay (FRA) 13.54
2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.83
Women’s CT Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.17 def. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 12.16
SF 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.83 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 7.50
Bianca Buitendag. Photos Courtesy WSL / Rowland.