A Rookie Who Barely Knows Sunset Just Knocked Out Carissa Moore - Stab Mag

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Molly Picklum just gave Carissa Moore her first loss before a semi final since Bali in 2019. (Photo: Brent Bielmann)

A Rookie Who Barely Knows Sunset Just Knocked Out Carissa Moore

Is this the beginning of the end for the Old Guard?

news // Feb 18, 2022
Words by August Howell
Reading Time: 5 minutes

If three days of pumping Sunset has shown us anything, it’s that you cannot predict elite-level competitive surfing.

A day after a Southern Californian rookie edged out John John Florence, qualifier-by-default Molly Picklum got the hint — even the best can be beaten. The Central Coast native surfed her way to a huge win over Carissa Moore, removing the most complete female surfer in the world from the draw. This is from a teenager who hadn’t surfed Sunset before this winter. Wild. 

The women kicked off their event by sprinting from Round 1 through the quarterfinals in one day. Remarkably, not a single world champ made is still alive in the draw. Fantasy teams worldwide are in shambles, and you have to go back to 2015 for the last time Steph, Tyler and Carissa were all no-shows in the quarters.

Chalk it up to inspired performances from the fresh faces on tour and Sunset being Sunset. It was a gauntlet of a day for the women. Let’s recap below.

Highlights: Hawaiian water patrol. Hawaiian rookies. Lulls. 

Lowlights: Moana’s early exit. A past Sunset winner putting up 11 total points in two heats. Anyone who bet money on this.

Anything can happen at Sunset Beach. Photo: WSL

It was the kind of day that had sensible bettors burning holes in their pockets. All of the odds-on favorites are gone, save for Malia Manuel. 

Carissa was an overwhelming favorite coming into the event, but she appeared vulnerable in her heats. Earlier in the day, she lost to 16-year-old Bettylou Sakura Johnson (again), never quite finding her feet on Sunset’s lumpy walls.

Despite switching boards midway through her Round of 16 heat with Molly Picklum, Riss still appeared bouncy on the face. After Molly nabbed a pair of sixes, Carissa required a 7.2 to advance. Nothing materialized for the reigning champ, and the rookie, who has barely learned lineups at Sunset, handed Carissa her first loss before the semis since Keramas in 2019.

Feel free to re-read that stat again. 

“I haven’t really been to Hawaii all too much,” Molly said later. “I was like, ‘Wow I better get out there and figure this bumpy ol’ lineup out.’ I’m super excited that I feel confident out there.”

We’d put Bettylou up there with the most powerful 16-year-old surfers in the world, period. Photo: Bielmann/WSL

Moana Jones was unlucky today. She surfed well in both her heats, but lost narrowly to 5 and 7-time World Champs respectively. Despite being on her backhand and not having much competitive experience, the Pipe champ has proven that she’s worthy of a spot on tour, even outside of her preferred venue.  

Moana likely needed a quarterfinal at Sunset to secure a spot on the back half of the tour. Now her chances of qualifying depend solely on wildcards. In her defense, they do call Supertubos the Portuguese Pipeline…

The Round of 16 was wild. The underdogs (by seed) won seven of eight heats. Malia took out Tyler, Luana dispatched Tati, Gabriela eliminated Steph, Molly over Riss, Brisa over Is, India over Sally, and Bettylou over Lakey. Johanne Defay was the sole redshirt to get a win over her white-backed counterpart, Courtney Conlogue.

We’d be remiss not to dive a bit deeper into Gabriela Bryan. The 19-year-old won back-to-back Pro Junior events here in 2018 and 2019. Now she’s in the big leagues. After a rough start in Round 1 (and the first half of Round 2), Gabi found her groove and never fell out of it. Carrying confident and smooth rail work that only got better after her duel with Steph, Gabi linked an 8.27 in the quarters that brought Barton to his knees. She and Luana went blow for blow in the most entertaining quarters heat, and the Kauai girl came out victorious.

Gabriela Bryan is onto the semis, and we may or may not have a substantial windfall coming if she wins. Photo: WSL

The Micro (Glen Hall) matchup feat. Brissa and Molly: both did well, but with less than three minutes left, Molly missed a bomb needing a 7.45. In doing this, the Australian not only handed priority back to Brisa, but she took the rest of the set on the head. Costa Rica/Hawaii/Fiji rejoices. 

The second all-rookie quarter with BLSJ and India Robinson was surprisingly slow and uninteresting. Bettylou did enough to advance but still looks like a big threat to go all the way. JJF may be out of the men’s draw, but coach Ross looks like he’s working overtime with the new prodigy. 

Malia Manuel charged all day and carried her momentum into the Round 3 heat against Tyler Wright. Tyler got Malia in the quarters at Pipeline, but there were no sympathy points from the judges here. Malia’s gouges deserved every bit of that win. The Kauaian kept on swinging in the quarters, knocking down an in-form Johanne Defay to reach the semifinals. 

That’s a wrap for a long day. The semis showcase three-and-a-half Hawaiians, two of which are rookies. The swell is still holding to end the week, and both the men’s and women’s comps could both wrap up as soon as tomorrow.

Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Women’s Opening Round 1 Results:

Heat 1: Molly Picklum (AUS) 12.50, DEF. Johanne Defay (FRA) 11.67, Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 9.27

Heat 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) 14.00 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 9.40, Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 9.20

Heat 3: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 14.84 DEF. Carissa Moore (HAW) 11.43, Moana Jones Wong (HAW) 11.34

Heat 4: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 13.04 DEF. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.00, Luana Silva (HAW) 7.84

Heat 5: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 16.27 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 10.00, Isabella Nichols (AUS) 6.00

Heat 6: Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.43 DEF. India Robinson (AUS) 9.50 Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)

Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Women’s Elimination Round Results:

HEAT 1: Luana Silva (HAW) 12.30 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.33, Moana Jones Wong (HAW) 10.74

HEAT 2: Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 14.93 DEF. Isabella Nichols (AUS) 10.77, Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 2.17

Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Women’s Round of 16 Results:

HEAT 1: Johanne Defay (FRA) 15.73 DEF. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 7.83

HEAT 2: Malia Manuel (USA) 14.33 DEF. Tyler Wright (AUS) 11.77

HEAT 3: Luana Silva (HAW) 12.50 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 10.34

HEAT 4: Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 13.16 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.44

HEAT 5: Molly Picklum (AUS) 13.03 DEF. Carissa Moore (HAW) 11.20

HEAT 6: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 12.34 DEF. Isabella Nichols (AUS) 10.27

HEAT 7: India Robinson (AUS) 14.77 DEF. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 6.86

HEAT 8: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 12.10 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 10.23

Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Women’s Quarterfinals Results:

HEAT 1:  Malia Manuel (HAW) 11.67 DEF. Johanne Defay (FRA) 10.06

HEAT 2: Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 15.27 DEF. Luana Silva (HAW) 14.33 

HEAT 3: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 14.77 DEF. Molly Picklum (AUS) 13.16

HEAT 4: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 9.16 DEF. India Robinson (AUS) 5.40

Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Women’s Semifinal Matchups:

HEAT 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Gabriela Bryan (HAW)

HEAT 2: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) vs. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW)


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