WORLD champion Stephanie Gilmore was bundled out in Surfest’s second round on Wednesday after barely firing a shot.
‘‘You’ve got to be real assertive to hassle with the girls to really make your position in the line-up,’’ she said. ‘‘It was really a warm-up event, but of course I go into every event wanting to win, and it’s a good wake-up call to come here as all the girls have been surfing so well.’’
The contrast between Gilmore and her main rival, world No.2 Sally Fitzgibbons, was striking.
While Gilmore looked disinterested and uncomfortable scrapping for waves in the one-metre swell, Fitzgibbons surfed like a terrier, snapping at the heels of her rivals.
For the past three years Fitzgibbons has been runner-up in the world title race, and the Gerroa natural-footer views the street-fight nature of Surfest as the ideal starting point in her campaign to reach the top of the mountain.
‘‘I don’t mind the [four-woman] format as it really puts a firecracker up you and you’ve got to get going, and you don’t have time to sit around in your world tour heats,’’ Fitzgibbons said.
‘‘It’s just channelling what we did as groms and juniors and really upping the energy level and the rating.’’
With the threat of stormy seas on the horizon, organisers opted to run the third and fourth rounds of the women’s pro on Wednesday.
Merewether’s Philippa Anderson made a third-round exit after she struggled with wave selection.
Along with Fitzgibbons, American best friends Lakey Petersen and Sage Erickson were the stars of the women’s division, as they breezed into the quarter-finals on Thursday
No.1 men’s seed Joel Parkinson made a triumphant return to competition after his breakthrough world title last year.
Organisers considered postponing the second round of the men’s event due to the inconsistent one-metre swell, but despite the conditions Parkinson recorded the second-best score of the round with rides of eight and nine and appeared untroubled by the weight of expectation.
‘‘There’s waves coming over the weekend so I didn’t want to lose it and watch good waves roll on to the beach all weekend,’’ Parkinson said. ‘‘This was just about making sure I made the heat and got a chance.’’
Former world champion and two-time Surfest winner Mark Occhilupo will miss the predicted big swell after disappointing rides of 2.93 and 4.77 to bomb out in the second round.
Merewether’s Jesse Adam (11.77) eliminated junior world champion Jack Freestone (11.67) with a last-minute wave to finish second in their round-two heat to Argentina’s Santiago Muniz.
Adam faces American Damien Hobgood in a four-man third-round heat on Thursday.
Australian junior star Nikki Van Dijk became the third world champion eliminated on Wednesday when she finished last in her round-of-12 heat.