Aussie Molly Picklum scraps into Margaret River Pro quarters as conditions halt action early

Rourke Walsh in Margaret River
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Australian world title contender Molly Picklum has scrapped her way into the quarterfinals.
Australian world title contender Molly Picklum has scrapped her way into the quarterfinals. Credit: Aaron Hughes/World Surf League

Australian world title contender Molly Picklum has scrapped her way into the quarterfinals at the Margaret River Pro but other surfers fighting to avoid the mid-season cut face more nervous waiting after competition was called off just three heats into the day due to a lack of swell.

Picklum, the current No.3 in the rankings, had to endure one of the slower heats of her career at Main Break on Thursday as dropping swell led to long lulls between sets and leading to her round of 16 match-up against American Alyssa Spencer being forced into a double restart after no scoring in the opening 30 minutes.

“It’s a funny one when the conditions aren’t playing,” Picklum said after defeating Spencer with a 13.43 combination that included a 7.33 inside the final three minutes on the back of two sweeping carves.

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“You are kind of like, ‘Oh, do we want them to call it off’ but we are already out here and you are stoked if you get the heat win so obviously I’m really happy to be through to the quarters and break that little round of 16 curse.”

Spencer, 21 , came in ranked 16th and needing to win the event overall to give herself a chance of making the cut.

But she will now have to requalify for the championship tour via the challenger series.

Picklum, who admitted she was looking to bounce back herself from a mini-slump after being knocked out in the round of 16 her previous two starts, said it was challenging to keep focussed out in the water for so long.

“At the start it’s just, ‘Come on, keep focussed, keep your eyes on the horizon and keep sharp’ because it’s hard to keep watching the horizon when you lose hope that there’s waves coming,” she said.

“It’s a lot of self-talk to keep yourself going.”

Earlier, fellow Australian India Robinson kept her hopes of making the cut alive after upsetting world No.2 and former Margaret River champion Johanne Defay. But compatriot Isabella Nichols was eliminated after falling to Hawaiian Gabriela Bryan in a rematch of the 2022 final.

Robison, who still needs to win the event to stay on tour, made the most of the slow conditions, finishing with a 14.00 two-wave score to top Defay’s 12.00.

“Yeah, that one was a slow one but I feel like I held my nerve pretty well there,” she said. “Honestly I feel good on the wave so I feel like if I keep giving myself an opportunity I feel comfortable.”

But Nichols will be forced to requalify for a second straight year after only finding one scoring wave in a heat that was also extended with a restart.

Bryan, who herself needs a deep run to maintain her position on tour, admitted it was a tough heat with both women caught out of position and missing at least one good opportunity for a high-scoring wave.

“The beginning of that heat was pretty gnarly and Isabella is such a fierce competitor,” she said. “It’s all or nothing right now. I know where I am and know that my career is on the line right now.”

Australians Tyler Wright, Sally Fitzgibbons and Sophie McCulloch, who are all at risk of missing the cut, will have to wait until the next call at 9am on Thursday for their chance.

World Surf League commissioner Jessi Mylie-Dyer said before the start of competition on Wednesday that Sunday loomed as a potential finals day with the swell forecast to spike over the weekend.

She also flagged the possibility of competition at nearby slab wave The Box.

Women’s round of 16

HEAT 1: India Robinson (AUS) 14.00 (7.67, 6.33) def. Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.00 (6.50, 5.50)

HEAT 2: Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 12.67 (8.00, 4.67) def. Isabella Nichols (AUS) 7.33 (7.33, -)

HEAT 3: Molly Picklum (AUS) 13.43 (7.33, 6.10), Alyssa Spencer (USA) 11.10 (5.83, 5.27)

HEAT 4: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) v Lakey Peterson (USA)

HEAT 5: Caitlin Simmers (USA) v Sophie McCulloch (AUS)

HEAT 6: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) v Tyler Wright (AUS)

HEAT 7: Caroline Marks (USA) v Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)

HEAT 8: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) v Sawyer Lindblad (USA)

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