Chelsea Tuach found her way back the the top of the podium after falling off the CT last season. The Bajan came into the Shoe City Pro QS1,000 looking to find her form again and did just that -- posting the highest single-wave score of the women's event with a 9.00 in the Quarterfinals. Tuach now preps for a massive year ahead of her with this nice win to build from.
"It feels so good to start off the year with a win after feeling a lot of nerves at the end of last year so this is amazing," Tuach said. "It was great to surf my way through some rounds and I had a lot of confidence going into that final already having a few heats under my belt. I felt like I was in a good rhythm with a good game plan and it all fell into place, just like old times."
"I'll stay in California for awhile and get some training in while working on some boards with Matt Barron before heading over to Australia for those QS6,000's," Tuach continued. "I'll be working on my technique more than anything -- no heat strategy, nothing like that, just get my form really dialed in. I'm feeling fresh again for those events which feels great and can't wait to get the year really off and running."
Event wildcard Samantha Sibley took full advantage of the opportunity given to her all the way to the Final and finished runner-up. The 14-year-old kept her dream run alive with a massive performance in the Semifinals, topping Tuach, and then getting off to an early lead before the Bajan responded. Still just a Junior Tour competitor, Sibley will keep her main ambition there with plenty of time to grow.
"I'm so stoked and had no expectations coming into this event -- my goal was just to make it through my first heat, but to get runner-up is awesome," Sibley said. "I was totally not expecting any of this to happen and can't believe it right now. This event got such good waves with yesterday being perfect and today it was a bit more tricky, but still so fun."
Last year's runner-up, Tia Blanco, found herself in another Shoe City Pro Final but couldn't keep pace with her early performances during the last heat of the event. Blanco's aiming much higher than her Top 20 finish on the QS Rankings last year and knows this is just a step in the right direction.
"I think being selective throughout this event got me into that final, but I could've been more selective in that last heat. I'm really looking forward to Australia now and this was great practice for the upcoming bigger events."
Kaliegh Gilchrist has transitioned from being a 2016 Gold Medalist at the Rio Games for Water Polo to a full-time QS competitor and started the year off right where she wanted to be -- competing for a Shoe City Pro title. Despite falling shy of the win, Gilchrist's ambitions are nothing short of what you would expect from an Olympian and prepares for a big 2017 after nearly six years away from competitive surfing.
"It was grindy out there but couldn't be more stoked with my first QS final -- it's exactly how I wanted to start the year even though the competitor in me is frustrated with a fourth-place finish. It lights a fire under me to just train harder and I've got a great crew around me with Simmo [Ryan Simmons] and DSC Training so this is the best opportunity I've been given."