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Bigger Swells, Clean Lines And A Prime Example Of The Power Of Local Knowledge

by Jesse Starling

With the opening round, elimination round and round of 16 run and done there is a lot to talk about.

First lets talk about the highs.. 

Sunset is a hard wave to surf and like we hear time and time again, you really have to spend time out there to understand the lineup. And the proof was in the pudding today with the local ladies putting on a show. 

Betty Lou Sakura Johnson was the standout of the day. In the opening round she scored herself a 9.17 for a barrel to turn combo which could be some of the best female surfing we’ve ever seen out at Sunset. Surprisingly to us though  “That’s actually the first proper barrel i’ve ever had out there”… really? 

Betty’s perfect balance of power, grace and local knowledge definitely gave her an edge above the rest of the field and in my opinion is the current front runner for a win. 

Betty Lou, 2023 hurley sunset pro. credit wsl

Gabi Bryan and Brisa Hennessy… wow. Two time semi finalist Gabi Bryan was surprisingly knocked into the elimination round but opened up her heat with a 9… safe to say, she was looking extremely fired up. She then pulled an inform Brisa Hennessy in the round of 16, with Jesse Mendes saying “this is definitely the hardest match up of this round”. It was one of those heats where you really didn’t know who you wanted to get through, as a spectator it was almost a win win, for Gabi on the other hand… Not so much.  

World number one and two Caity Simmers and Molly Picklum are both still in the draw even after Caity felt “I mean a win is a win but it wasn’t a great performance”. They’re both on the same side of the draw for this event too, might we just add, we won’t have another Caity vs Molly final at this event… 

Soph McCulloch, Cred surfing Aus

Now for the lows… 

The return of 37 Sophie McCulloch didn’t go to plan for her first event back on tour. After looking incredible in the free surfs and in her instagram reels leading up to the event, it seemed she just couldn’t connect today. Soph will walk away with an elimination round knock out to Gabi Bryan and Sawyer Lindblad and look to regroup for Portugal. 

Speaking of Sawyer Lindblad, we’ve had our first interference of the season! After getting in Gabriela Bryans way on what was a pretty perfect sunset tube, Sawyer was handed a paddling interference meaning her second highest wave was halved. She managed to crawl her way out but than was eventually knocked by the lady in yellow, Caity Simmers. 

Local wildcard and darkhorse hopeful Zoe McDougall bowed out of competition way earlier than we expected. We expect to see her back on the CT level very soon. 

Gabriela Bryan was one of todays stand outs. Pic WSL

Day one in the books…

After today’s events we have the quarter final matchups set for tomorrow’s new day of competition. The top 8 left in the sunset draw looking pretty similar to pipes with 6 of the 8 quarterfinals now benign repeat offenders, we will see how Isabella Nichols and Lakey Peterson do in their first quarterfinals of the season. 

If we had to place our bets and make a call on a final from this far out in the draw, we’re calling a Molly, Betty final…  


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