|The holding period for the highly-anticipated Western Australia Margaret River Pro, Stop No. 5 on the World Surf League (WSL) 2023 Championship Tour (CT) and the final event before the Mid-season Cut, opens tomorrow, April 20 2023. The forecast is looking promising for the open ocean venue to deliver powerful, quality waves for this high-stakes event.|
For the bottom third of the field, this will be the end of their 2023 CT season. For the rest, this is only the beginning of the road to the Rip Curl WSL Finals and a shot at the World Title. Margaret River also marks the confirmation of the first provisional Olympic qualifications. The first four surfers to qualify have already been confirmed, and more qualifiers could be announced throughout the event window.
Tatiana Weston-Webb, Johanne Defay, Brisa Hennessy, Teresa Bonvalot Confirmed as First Surfers To Provisionally Qualify for Paris 2024 Olympics
Due to their WSL CT rankings, Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Johanne Defay(FRA), Brisa Hennessy (CRC), and Teresa Bonvalot (PRT) have provisionally qualified and will represent their respective countries at the Paris 2024 Olympics. This will be the second Olympic appearance for all four women as they all competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. In contrast to the last Olympics, which took place at a beach break, the venue for the 2024 Olympics is none other than one of the scariest waves in the world: Teahupo’o in Tahiti. Teahupo’o is also the final regular-season event on the CT and will be an incredible preview of the upcoming Olympics.
“I’m super excited to be provisionally qualified for the Olympics for a second time,” said Weston-Webb. “For me, it’s a dream come true and an opportunity to make one of my dreams become a reality. My biggest dream is to get an Olympic medal, so to get an opportunity to compete for one is amazing.”
“It’s a big relief to know that my qualification is now hundred percent guaranteed, and I’ll be representing France once again at the biggest event in sport,” Defay said. “France is a small country in terms of surfing, so it means a lot to represent my country, particularly at the French Olympics; it will be a really special occasion.”
“It’s pretty surreal,” Hennessy said. “Last time I qualified, it felt like a dream I’d never dreamed before, but now that I’ve lived that dream, it has more meaning to it and it’s really special. Teahupo’o is so raw, beautiful and scary. It makes you feel alive and makes you feel like a surfer, and I know I’m going to have to dig deep. Costa Rica hasn’t won a medal in the Olympics since the late 1900s, so to bring one back would be incredible.”
The 2023 CT is the Tier 1 pathway to Olympic qualification for the world’s best surfers. Of the 48 athletes competing in the games, the first 18 (10 men and 8 women) will qualify via the 2023 WSL CT final rankings.
Margaret River to Determine Who Makes the Mid-season Cut
The Western Australia Margaret River Pro is the last event of the Championship Tour season that will feature the entire CT class of 2023. Following this event, the field will be cut to 22 men and 10 women. The top 3 women and top 11 men on the rankings can rest easy as they have already been confirmed to have made the Cut.
World No. 1s Molly Picklum (AUS) and Joao Chianca (BRA) are in the opposite position they were in at this time last year, as they both fell off Tour following Margaret River. They are now the ones to beat going into the back half of the season.
“I’m really enjoying everything,” said Chianca. “I remember walking up the stairs here last year was the saddest day in my surfing career. So many things have happened since then. I’ve overcome some difficult moments. I’m just enjoying my time in WA. I try to avoid everything from the outside and just try to be better day by day and find my balance. The Tour is crazy, and expectations just get bigger. I try to have fun in the water and during the heats. Looks like we have pumping conditions for this event, so I just want to do my best.”
Defending event winner Isabella Nichols (AUS) just barely made the Cut last year by winning here at Margaret River. She now finds herself in a similar situation, needing a solid finish to maintain or better her current position just above the Cut line.
“This is one of my favorite places in the world, if not my favorite,” said Nichols. “I’m coming in on the verge of the Cut, but I’m feeling comfortable and confident. Obviously, last year’s result gives me confidence, but it also gives me anxiety being the defending champ; there’s a lot of pressure. But, the forecast looks great and I’m trying to lean in and enjoy myself. Being here it just can’t get better than this, I’m excited.”
After a surprisingly slow start to the year, 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) is sitting at 26th on the rankings and is in danger of falling off Tour. He will need to improve on his 17th-place finish last year at Margaret River if he is going to make the Mid-season Cut. Slater will first come up against Connor O’Leary (AUS) and Matthew McGillivray (RSA) in the men’s Opening Round.
“Whatever it is, I’ve been in a slump for a year, and you’re not going to stay on Tour if you keep doing that,” said Slater. “I got injured here [at Bells Beach] last year in the heat I lost in, and I’ve been fighting that injury ever since. I find I’m not surfing enough and not feeling good. When you don’t surf a lot, you don’t get in sync, and that’s what’s been happening in my heats.”
Bronte Macaulay, Jerome Forrest Earn Wildcards Through Trials, Jack Robinson To Be Replaced by Jack ThomasWestern Australia Margaret River Pro Trials winners Jerome Forrest (AUS) and Bronte Macaulay (AUS) have been given wildcards for this special event. Jacob Willcox (AUS), the third-highest Australian surfer on the Challenger Series and the highest-rated from Western Australia, has also been given an event wildcard.
“The trials felt pretty nerve-wracking; there were a lot of girls who are surfing really well who came to compete,” said Macaulay. “I’m happy to get a spot and excited for the week ahead. I don’t have expectations at all, which is a good mind space to be in. I just want to surf and give it a crack and see what happens.” Defending event winner and current World No. 2, Jack Robinson (AUS), is recovering from a knee injury he sustained at Bells Beach and has decided to withdraw from the event. He will be replaced by Trials runner-up Jack Thomas (AUS).Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR), Jadson Andre (BRA), and Miguel Pupo (BRA) have also pulled out of the event due to their ongoing injuries. Carlos Munoz(CRC) will once again replace Boukhiam. Reef Heazlewood (AUS), the No. 1 ranked Australian surfer on the Qualifying Series, will take the spot of Andre, and current World Junior Champion Jarvis Earle (AUS) will replace Pupo.
Western Australia Margaret River Pro Women’s Opening Round Matchups:
Heat 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Isabella Nichols (AUS) vs. Sophie McCulloch (AUS)
Heat 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Macy Callaghan (AUS) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
Heat 3: Molly Picklum (AUS) vs. Brisa Hennessy (AUS) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 4: Caitlin Simmers (USA) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Lakey Peterson (USA)
Heat 5: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA)
Heat 6: Caroline Marks (USA) vs. Gabriela Bryan (HAW) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
Western Australia Margaret River Pro Men’s Opening Round Matchups:
HEAT 1: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Ian Gentil (HAW) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
HEAT 2: Ryan Callinan (AUS) vs. Samuel Pupo (BRA) vs. Jacob Willcox (AUS)
HEAT 3: Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Nat Young (USA) vs. Reef Heazlewood (AUS)
HEAT 4: Ethan Ewing (AUS) vs. Jackson Baker (AUS) vs. Jarvis Earle (AUS)
HEAT 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Liam O’Brien (AUS) vs. Jerome Forrest (AUS)
HEAT 6: Joao Chianca (BRA) vs. Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Jack Thomas (AUS)
HEAT 7: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Seth Moniz (HAW) vs. Carlos Munoz (CRC)
HEAT 8: Yago Dora (BRA) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
HEAT 9: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Jake Marshall (USA)
HEAT 10: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Rio Waida (INA) vs. Maxime Huscenot (FRA)
HEAT 11: Connor O’Leary (AUS) vs. Jordy Smith (RSA) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
HEAT 12: Matthew McGillivray (RSA) vs. Callum Robson (AUS) vs. Barron Mamiya (HAW)
The Western Australia Margaret River Pro holds a competition window from Thursday, April 20 through Sunday, April 30, 2023. Once called ON, the competition will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL’s YouTube channel, and the free WSL app. Check out more ways to watch from the WSL’s broadcast partners. For fans watching in Brazil, coverage of the competition’s Quarterfinals and beyond will continue exclusively on WorldSurfLeague.com and SporTV.
The Western Australia Margaret River Pro is presented by Tourism WA, Shiseido, YETI, Red Bull, True Surf, Surfline, Augusta Shire, Boost Mobile, Bonsoy, Harvey Norman, Bond University, Oakberry, Coopers, Rusty, GWM, Healthway, Bailey Ladders, Hydralyte and Bioglan.