South African Bianca Buitendag cut a swathe through the world’s best female surfers as she advanced to the Final of the Oi Rio Pro before finishing runner-up to Courtney Conlogue (USA) in one metre waves at Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro.
After beating Hawaii’s Alessa Quizon, Lakey Peterson (US) and Sally Fitzgibbons of Australia earlier in the event, Buitendag, 19, from Victoria Bay came into the final day facing a quarter-final rematch with Peterson. She dispatched the American to equal her event best result in Rio – third place in her Rookie season in 2013.
Buitendag then went on to outpoint two-time world champion Carissa Moore of Hawaii in their semi-final clash, leaving the current Jeep rankings leader requiring an excellent 8.03 for the heat victory, and qualifying for the second Final of her career.
Conlogue got off to a fast start in the 35-minute finale, keeping the South African in a combination situation and needing to replace both her counting scores until just four minutes remained, and eventually triumphed by 14.50 to 11.10.
‘I’m blown away by the passion that the Brazilians have,’ said Buitendag. ‘It’s such a privilege to be here and I just want to say thank you to everyone that came down. I’m not that familiar with going left so it’s been a big surprise for me how far I’ve come in this event. I’m so grateful to be here and be able to do what I love every day.’
The 8 000 points she earned moved Buitendag up two spots to No9 on the Jeep Leaderboard that is still dominated by Moore. Conlogue’s second successive victory saw her cement second spot on the rankings while Tyler Wright (Aus) is a distant third.
In the men’s competition, South African Jordy Smith, winner of the 2013 Rio event, was eliminated by New Zealand rookie Ricardo Christie in Round 2 this year. Smith’s best result in 2015 has been fifth place at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach at Easter. His 25th place finish in Rio sees him drop five places to 14th in the rankings.
Picture of Buitendag in Brazilian action courtesy of WSL/Smorigo