Moore, Wright on point in Portugal

Courtesy ASP

Carissa Moore and Tyler Wright are battling it out for the world title at the Billabong Cascais Girls Pro in Portugal.

"If you ain't first, you're last," the sage Ricky Bobby said in "Talladega Nights." World title contenders Carissa Moore and Tyler Wright took those words to heart in Round 1 of the Cascais Girls Pro in Portugal on Thursday morning. Both women staged come-from-behind wins in their respective heats to advance and keep their world championship hopes alive.

The 2013 ASP women's world championship title race so close, it's literally do-or-die at this point for Moore and Wright. As women's tour manager Jessi Miley-Dyer put it, whichever one is last standing is going to be the next world champion. So, there's a lot on the line at the eighth and final event of the 2013 season.

Moore faced Malia Manuel and Teresa Bonvalot, the 13-year-old local wildcard. (Yes, 13.) She held the lead briefly, before Moore found her rhythm. At which point, no one else could find a foothold.

"It feels really good to get that first heat out of the way," Moore said. "I had a local girl in my heat, and you never know what the wildcard can do. And Malia Manuel surfs so well. One of her home breaks is a beach break, so I just went out there and tried to have fun."

Wright also had to take the lead from her opponents, Alana Blanchard and Sofia Mulanovich. She did so halfway through the heat and only built on her score from there. While Wright and Moore navigated the heavily spot-lit coliseum, defending world champ Steph Gilmore actually had the day's highest heat total, a 15.67.

The conditions on opening day were, well, less dazzling than everyone had hoped: two-to-three-foot waves and a little messy. The event was put on hold after the first round and the next call will be at 7:30 a.m. Friday at the backup site, Guincho, which is expected to have more contestable power.

"I think there's a lot of water moving [at Guincho] so hopefully, we have skis," Wright said. "I checked it yesterday and it was probably six-foot, and there were definitely barrels."

Despite all that's at stake, Praia de Carcavelos was weirdly quiet as the contest got rolling on Thursday morning. You'd almost believe that Moore and Wright hadn't seen the massive, silver cup that they're vying for. They remained as upbeat and calm as ever, even though one of them could be hoisting it above her head as early as tomorrow.

And the other might wind up with the worst tasting Pasteis de Nata -- a Portugese egg tart -- ever.

"I don't have goals," Wright said after her heat win. "I don't like to put limits on things or have expectations. I just find that it creates pressure for me, so I just don't set them. All I want to do is go out and be me, surf the way I want to and push myself, my limits. I'm happy with that, so either way, win or lose, I'll be happy."

In an unusual admission of ambition, Moore said, "It's definitely an honor to be in the world title race with Tyler. And to have it so close just goes to show how high the performance level is this year on tour. All of the girls are pushing the limits every heat, so you really have to bring your A-game if you want to make it to the top."

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Heat 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.67, Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 14.67, Silvana Lima (BRA) 11.37
Heat 2: Courtney Courtney (USA) 14.33, Pauline Ado (FRA) 14.07, Sage Erickson (USA) 8.17
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.24, Malia Manuel (HAW) 8.80, Teresa Bonvalot (PRT) 6.56
Heat 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.53, Alana Blanchard (HAW) 9.60, Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 8.56
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.93, Laura Enever (AUS) 12.70, Rebecca Woods (AUS) 7.53
Heat 6: Lakey Peterson (USA) 13.00, Paige Hareb (NZL) 8.30, Coco Ho (HAW) 7.36

Heat 1: Alana Blanchard (HAW) vs. Silvana Lima (BRA)
Heat 2: Laura Enever (AUS) vs. Sage Erickson (USA)
Heat 3: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Teresa Bonvalot (PRT)
Heat 4: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) vs. Sofia Mulanovich (PER)
Heat 5: Pauline Ado (FRA) vs. Rebecca Woods (AUS)
Heat 6: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)

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