A standout on last year’s Hawaii leg, Molly Picklum (AUS) picked up right where she left off, easily finding the day’s best waves. Two great Backdoor barrels punctuated with powerful carves delivered the top scores. Opening with a 7.33 (out of a possible 10), Picklum built to an excellent 8.50 to collect a solid win. In her heat, Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) was on the hunt for big barrels but couldn’t quite find an exit, while rookie Alyssa Spencer (USA) focused on big backhand turns to take the second advancing spot into the Round of 16.
“There’s definitely been tough heats this morning and I was fortunate enough to get waves,” Picklum said. “This year I’m definitely focused on the World Title, the Gold Medal at the Olympics is in there, and just all in all having fun and showcasing my surfing.”
Two-time World Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) was comfortable getting barreled at Backdoor in the day’s opening heat as she put two good scores on the board for an easy stroll into the Round of 16. Behind her, the two North Shore locals, Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) and Luana Silva (BRA), had to resort to turns. The pair fought a good battle, eventually landing in favor of the Brazilian and sending Sakura Johnson into the Elimination Round.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever feel a sense of confidence out here,” Wright said. “But I really value going out there and sitting in the ocean, looking at my markers and feeling how the ocean is moving and the energy in it. It gives you a lot of feedback and when you’re in a heat you already have an established relationship with what the lineup is doing. I’ve put a lot of energy in the pre-season and I really want to focus on doing my best.”