South Coast surfer Tyler Wright is firmly back into the world surfing championship battle after a breakthrough win in California.
The 20-year-old secured her first tour win of the year at Huntington Beach, California, in her third final of 2014, defeating compatriot Stephanie Gilmore in an all-Australian decider.
Five-time world champion Gilmore, chasing her second title of the year, made a strong start in the final but couldn’t match Wright’s impressive two-wave total of 14.77 out of 20.
The US Open of Surfing victory lifts Wright - from Culburra - up to third in the rankings after six of 10 events in this year’s tour.
‘‘It feels great,’’ the 2013 championship runner-up said.
‘‘I’ve been feeling confident throughout the year and focused on my performance rather than my results, but it still feels great to win here at Huntington Beach.’’
Wright, who had earlier eliminated defending world and event champion Carissa Moore in the quarter-finals, overcame American Malia Manuel to reach the decider.
Gilmore, who now has three runner-up finishes to go with her sole event win at the season-opening Roxy Pro on the Gold Coast, beat in-form Gerroa surfer Sally Fitzgibbons in the other semi-final.
The 26-year-old scored a near-perfect 9.93 wave during her clash with Fitzgibbons, which ended the NSW surfer’s hopes of winning three tour events in a row after victories in Rio and Fiji.
Gilmore has dropped below Wright to fourth in the rankings but said she was happy with her consistency.
‘‘When you do your throwaways I guess I’m in a good spot,’’ Gilmore said.
‘‘You can’t really calculate too much right now.’’
Fitzgibbons remains No 2 on the rankings behind Moore going into September’s Trestles Pro in California.