WILD cards are gold nuggets for those who get them, but they're also the hardest way to progress through a Championship Tour event.
For Philippa Anderson, the Hunter's big hope in the women's side of the Newcastle Cup, this meant surfing twice in a row against a very motivated world champion in Hawaii's Carissa Moore.
The first time was last Thursday, when Anderson finished second with 10.70 points in her opening day seeding heat, edging out world #5 Sage Erikson of the US, who posted 10.13 points.
Moore blitzed them both that time with 13.73 points. Erickson bowed out yesterday with a loss in her elimination round.
Each heat is a new contest and with much bigger conditions yesterday, and waves breaking on the outer Merewether reefs, Anderson had local knowledge on her side, plus a bigger canvas than the small waves of last week.
At the same time, Moore's Hawaiian heritage brings a lifelong experience of big waves, and so if size helped Philippa, it also helped her opponent.
Moore dominated from the outset, and as the crowd, the beach commentators and the crew calling the heat for the World Surf League online urged the Novocastrian to get into the contest, the result was never in doubt.
Anderson surfed gamely but never really got on the board until her final pair of 4.17s. Her total of 8.43 trailed Moore's solid 14.93.
"Tough heat, surfing against the world champion but I was up for the challenge!," Anderson said afterwards.
"I didn't get to perform at my best but I wasn't nervous at all. I was stoked I didn't let her title get to me. I felt I just wasn't in rhythm today.
"I had a great coach in my corner Crispy [Michael Crisp] and I was happy with my performance in round one.
"I'm so grateful for the opportunity, and hopefully the women in the water inspired some more girls, out there today."
In the post-show wrap, commentators raved over the surfing of Moore and Australian Stephanie Gilmore.
Ronnie Blakey said "Moore just blew minds" with her power turns, while Richie Lovett said Gilmore was "slicing and dicing all day long".
They also spoke of the difference they saw between the established Championship Tour (CT) elders and some of the younger up-and-comers who they felt might have an advantage in the beach-break conditions at Merewether, which is more typical of the waves surfed on the second-tier Qualifying Series than the elite CT.
But the quality of the CT surfers shone through, Blakey said, with often a clear one to two-point gap in wave average, as the top tier put their greater experience on display.
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