The Western Australia Margaret River Pro, Stop No. 5 on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), saw Mid-Season Cut scenarios playing out in all five of the women’s Round of 16 heats today. The competition moved to its neighboring backup site, Southside, with three-to-four-foot waves to decide the women’s Quarterfinalists.

The Mid-Season Cut relegated injury replacement Sophie McCulloch (AUS) to the Challenger Series, while wins by veteran Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) and rookie Sawyer Lindblad (USA) keep themselves in the running to make the Cut.

Tyler Wright (AUS) and Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) officially made the Cut following the scenarios in the Round of 16, and their entries are guaranteed for the next stops on the 2024 CT season.

Dramatic Heat Finishes for Australians Tyler Wright and Sally Fitzgibbons

Tyler Wright (AUS), two-time WSL Champion, was sitting dangerously close to the Mid-Season Cut coming into this event at World No. 10. In a matchup against Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), who sat a position ahead of her, the win would be crucial to both competitors’ standings as lower-ranked surfers have moved through the Quarterfinals. With the heat not looking to go Wright’s way, it was her last-minute heroics that secured both the heat win and her spot on the back half of the 2024 CT. Wright pulled off three big turns in the dying minutes of the heat for a solid 7.83 (out of a possible 10) and the narrow 0.03-point difference to win.

“The last few days, it’s felt like every heat matters for me,” said Wright. “It was all thanks to the ocean on that one. I was just asking her, ‘Hey, I’m going to need your help here.’ I needed the score. I love my job, and I love doing this. So massive thanks to the ocean for producing that one for me. I am pretty realistic, and I know I am fighting for my job right now. This is the first year that I am actually really enjoying it. It’s different as you get older, but it’s one of those ones that you can’t lose your trust in yourself.”

Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) defeated 2023 World Champion Caroline Marks (USA) in Heat 7 today with a clutch, last-ditch effort in the last five minutes of the heat, earning a 7.50 for the win. Despite the key victory, Fitzgibbons is not yet safe from the Cut and now needs to win the entire competition to secure her position on the CT and avoid relegation to the Challenger Series. All eyes will be on her next Quarterfinal heat against rookie Sawyer Lindblad (USA).

“No matter what happens this week, I just want to fight to the end,” said Fitzgibbons. “To keep fighting and to give myself the opportunity to show my surfing. It doesn’t matter what track you take after this event; I just want to keep bringing more surfing to the table and keep evolving. I heard that Tyler won too, so it was inspiring to hear that.”

American Caitlin Simmers Advances to Quarterfinals with 9.10 at Southside

World No. 1 Caitlin Simmers (USA) stamped her authority on the event’s backup break with a commanding win over injury replacement Sophie McCulloch (AUS) in Heat 5. Simmers, 18, put the Australian in a combination situation (meaning McCulloch would need to turn in two new scores) with a near-perfect 9.10 (out of a possible 10). Once again this season, Simmers continues to showcase her progression, this time with a big backside tail release. She furthered her lead with a 7.33.

The loss for McCulloch means relegation to the Challenger Series. The young Australian has had a tough break on the CT in her first two seasons. Her rookie year in 2023 started with an injury and, thus, missing the first two events. She then received the call-up as the season injury replacement following Carissa Moore’s withdrawal from the CT. Having started one event behind the pack, it was going to be a challenge to make the Cut here in Margaret River, but now she will shift paths to requalify on the 2024 Challenger Series, which starts later this month.

Rookie Sawyer Lindblad Continues Fight to Stay on 2024 CT with Big Win Against Bettylou Sakura Johnson

Sawyer Lindblad (USA) is fighting hard to secure her future on the 2024 CT, booking guaranteeing her equal best finish for the year after taking down 2024 form surfer Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) in the last heat of the day. Sakura Johnson took the early advantage, but eventually, Lindblad found good touch with the Southside lefts, posting an excellent 8.10 for a huge frontside carve to vertical snap combination. Lindblad will now face Fitzgibbons in a must-win Quarterfinal matchup for both surfers.

“I was just sitting out there with 20 minutes left on the clock feeling pretty relaxed, and then all of a sudden, there was like four minutes left,” Lindblad said. “I was like, ‘Please send a three-wave set’, and then it came. I had a feeling they were going to move the contest there, so I went out there to warm up, and it was fun. It felt like Lowers.”

Peterson Remains on the Bubble and Will Await Cut Scenarios After R/16 Elimination

Lakey Peterson (USA) came into Heat 4 of the Round of 16 knowing that the win would secure her position about the Mid-Season Cut. With her opponent, Costa Rica’s Brisa Hennessy already qualified and in the sixth position on the World Rankings, this was a crucial 35-minute exchange for the Californian. Peterson got on the scoreboard first and took an early lead with a 5.17 (out of a possible 10), but Hennessy came back stronger with two 6-point rides. Peterson was unable to score a stronger two-wave total out of her nine attempts and exited in 9th place. The loss does not necessarily mean Peterson misses the Mid-Season Cut, but her fate will now be determined by the other competitors still in the draw and their upcoming results.

“There was a lot of wave catching in that heat, which I feel we haven’t done for a little bit, so it was good to get the body moving and go left,” said Hennessy. “I feel like we’re constantly adapting. I think that’s what all the best surfers are able to do, and to be able to open up your mind and see new sections and make a new game plan. It’s not just all about surfing, it’s such a chess game and learning to try to be patient. I think the end goal is making heats no matter what it looks like sometimes.”

For highlights from today’s competition at the Western Australia Margaret River Pro, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.

Western Australia Margaret River Pro Women’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: India Robinson (AUS) 14.00 DEF. Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.00
HEAT 2: Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 12.67 DEF. Isabella Nichols (AUS) 7.33
HEAT 3: Molly Picklum (AUS) 13.43 DEF. Alyssa Spencer (USA) 11.10
HEAT 4: Brisa Hennessy (CRC) 12.93 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 9.84
HEAT 5: Caitlin Simmers (USA) 16.43 DEF. Sophie McCulloch (AUS) 12.33
HEAT 6: Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.70 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 13.67
HEAT 7: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.10 DEF. Caroline Marks (USA) 11.57
HEAT 8: Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 14.87 DEF. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 13.90

Western Australia Margaret River Pro Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: India Robinson (AUS) vs. Gabriela Bryan (HAW)
HEAT 2: Molly Picklum (AUS) vs. Brisa Hennessy (CRC)
HEAT 3: Caitlin Simmers (USA) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)
HEAT 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Sawyer Lindblad (USA)

Western Australia Margaret River Pro Men’s Round of 16 Matchups:
HEAT 1: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
HEAT 2: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Samuel Pupo (BRA)
HEAT 3: Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR)
HEAT 4: George Pittar (AUS) vs. Liam O’Brien (AUS)
HEAT 5: Ethan Ewing (AUS) vs. Seth Moniz (HAW)
HEAT 6: Jordy Smith (RSA) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
HEAT 7: Jake Marshall (USA) vs. Imaikalani deVault (HAW)
HEAT 8: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Jack Robinson (AUS)

For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com


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