Simmers successfully defended her 2023 VIVO Rio Pro title, leaving the Californian undefeated in Brazil. It is the fifth CT win, the third of the season, for the 2023 Rookie of the Year, who is competing in just her second year on Tour and sees her with a significant ranking lead over World No. 2 Caroline Marks (USA). Her backhand in beach breaks over the past two seasons has proven to be near unstoppable, earning her the trophy in the 2023 MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, along with the two victories in Brazil.

Caitlin Simmers. Daniel Smorigo/WSL

“I’m feeling really good right now,” Simmers said. “I surfed with my good friend that I have been surfing with since I was young. We live 20 minutes away from each other and it was kind of a surreal moment for us both. I’ve been feeling good during this event. My whole family is here, and I’ve just been enjoying it.”

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Once again the deep bottom-turns and impeccable timing of Simmers delivered an exciting and dynamic performance as she came up against Sawyer Lindblad (USA), a fellow 18-year-old from Southern California, whom she has been competing against since her pre-teen days.

Applying pressure right from the start of the Final, Simmers sold her friend on a lemon, then immediately picked up two high 7-point rides, requiring a combination of two scores from Lindblad before the CT Rookie could even find a single score of note. The Final finished similarly to how it started, with Simmers’ 15.50 heat total standing and Lindblad closing with just a 3.26 two-wave total.

Sawyer Lindblad. Daniel Smorigo/WSL

“Honestly everything kind of went my way that heat,” Simmers said. “Me and Sawyer were kind of joking about it at the end, like everywhere I sat there was a wave, which is just crazy. Good job to Sawyer, she’s one of the greatest surfers and she got me last time in Tahiti and that was probably the most painful loss I’ve ever had, so I’m glad I got her, but we’ll have a dance-off later, so that’ll settle it.”

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Second Runner-Up Placing Sees Rookie in Striking Distance of Final 5

The first goofy-footer to make the Final in Brazil since Bianca Buitendag(RSA) in 2015, Lindblad had an impressive run through the event before coming up short at the end. Defeating crowd favorite Tatiana Weston-Webb(BRA) in the Semifinals, as well as 2023 WSL Champion Caroline Marks (USA) in the Quarterfinals, the 2024 Western Australia Margaret River Pro runner-up showed herself a force to be reckoned with as she made her way to her second Final of the season. She leaves Brazil in No. 8 on the rankings, with a chance of making the Final 5.

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“That was pretty incredible to share a final with Caity [Simmers],” Lindblad said. “We’ve been surfing against each other since we were 8, so that was really special. I’m so happy I made another Final this year.”

Thiago Diz

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