THE men's quarter-finalists and women's semi-finalists were decided on Wednesday at the Corona Open J-Bay, the sixth stop on the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) - leading to mixed results for the two South Coast surfers competing at the event.
The dramatic eliminations in the men's round of 16 and women's quarter-finals said goodbye to previous event winners Stephanie Gilmore (Australia), Kelly Slater (United States), and Jordy Smith (South Africa), as well as Gerroa's world number one Sally Fitzgibbons in three-to-five foot (0.9-1.5 metre) waves.
As such, only four women and eight men remain in the draw heading into sizeable conditions forecast for the coming days.
In a disappointing start for the local fans, event favourite Jordy Smith fell to Culburra Beach's Owen Wright in the opening heat of the round of 16.
It was a showcase of regular versus goofy-foot surfing with both surfers in tune with the perfect sets at J-Bay.
Smith started with the first seven-point ride of the morning, but Wright raised the bar with a beautiful combination of backhand maneuvers for a 7.93 (out of a possible 10).
Sitting with priority, Smith allowed Wright to go on a set wave and the Australian committed to the end, finishing on dry reef for an excellent 8.30.
The win marks Wright's first head-to-head win against Smith.
"You always look forward to those match-ups, especially on home court," Wright said.
"Jordy [Smith] being so good out here, having won a couple of times, I was looking forward to that one.
"There are some really good waves out there, probably as perfect as it gets.
"With the 8.30, I don't know what was going on there but he just kind of let it go and it caught me by surprise so I took off late.
"I went all the way and dry docked-it.
"I think the end section is key for points on the wave and you're just dealing with the bricks, I was standing on my board not knowing where to go and just jumped off on dry rock."
Wright will now face Brazil's Gabriel Medina in quarter-final one when surfing resumes at J-Bay.
Unfortunately, Wednesday marked the end of Fitzgibbons' assault on the J-Bay crown, losing her quarter-final match-up with Hawaii's Malia Manuel 14.03 to 13.05 - with Manuel going all-out on her last wave for a buzzer-beater 7.03, needing a 6.51.
"Battles like that, that's what we suit up for," Fitzgibbons said.
"Malia [Manuel] and I, we've had some great battles before.
"There was a lot going on at the end, looking back at the heat I learned a lot of lessons from it.
"Now we just move forward and enjoy whoever is in the final."
Although Fitzgibbons looked comfortable in the leaders jersey and surfed with confidence in her heat against Manuel, she will exit the Corona Open J-Bay in equal fifth place.