Blanchard, Manuel into Round 4 at Roxy Pro France

The seventh event of the 2013 world tour season kicked off Tuesday in the Seignosse commune of the French southwest. With only one additional event upon its completion, the Roxy Pro France will go a long way in determining not only a world champion, but who will be among the Top 17 for 2014.

Oahu’s Carissa Moore entered the Roxy Pro with the No. 1 World Championship Tour ranking and will clinch her second Association of Surfing Professionals Women’s World Championship if she can win this event. Moore has won three of the six events this season, including the most recent contest at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Australia’s Tyler Wright held the top spot for much of the season, but dropped to second after Huntington. Wright has a pair of event titles this season and still has the most realistic chance to take the championship away from Moore.

California’s Courtney Conlogue and Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons sit in third and fourth place, respectively, and are still within striking distance with the right results. Five-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore is in fifth place and would likely need a pair of wins in the final two events, along with some early exits from Moore and Wright to have a chance at her sixth world title.

The rest of the field is fighting to stay on the 2014 world tour, including Kauai’s Alana Blanchard, who needs to move up from her current standing at No. 11 into the top 10 by season’s end. Blanchard reached a pair of quarterfinals in the year’s first two events, but has not made it back since.

Kauai’s Malia Manuel sits one spot behind Blanchard in the World Championship Tour rankings, but she has her spot next year already assured, thanks to her No. 1 world ranking. But her final two results will be of great importance to Kauai’s Tatiana Weston-Webb, who would gain a spot on the 2014 world tour if Manuel is able to finish the year in the WCT top 10.

So there was plenty at stake when the women hit the waves Tuesday at the backup site of Le Penon. The seedings all held to form in the opening, non-elimination round. Moore, Wright, Conlogue, Fitzgibbons, Gilmore and Lakey Peterson – the top six women in the world – won each of their heats. The 12 second and third-place finishers had to enter the head-to-head elimination heats of Round 2.

Blanchard was the first to advance out of Round 2, scoring a victory over Brazil’s Silvana Lima. After some back-and-forth between the two, Blanchard rode her fifth wave to a 7.50 score. That was the highest score of the heat and combined with a 5.23 to give Blanchard a 12.73 total, besting Lima’s 10.66.

Manuel was in the sixth and final pairing of Round 2 and the Wailua native certainly saved the best for last. Ten minutes into the heat, Manuel blasted a 9.10 ride to secure a combination lead over New Zealand’s Paige Hareb. An early 5.33 was her backup score, but with three minutes before the horn, Manuel removed all doubt with a 9.50 to further combo the Kiwi. The 18.60 total is the highest of the event through three rounds.

Oahu’s Coco Ho survived her second-round matchup with France’s Lee Ann Curren. France’s Pauline Ado, American Sage Erickson and Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich also advanced to Round 3, while Aussies Rebecca Woods and Laura Enever and South Africa’s Bianca Biutendag were eliminated.

All Round 2 eliminations earned Equal 13th points and prize money.

With 12 surfers heading to the non-elimination heats of Round 3, the four heat winners moved directly into the quarterfinals. Again, the seedings held true as Moore, Wright, Fitzgibbons and Conlogue all earned heat victories.

When action resumes today, the other eight will battle it out to see who gets those four additional quarterfinal berths. Blanchard will be looking to pull off the upset in Round 4’s opening heat, matched up with Gilmore. Manuel will hope to keep her head-to-head hot streak going against Erickson. Ado will face off with Mulanovich and Peterson will be taking on Ho.

For more information and event details, visit roxylive.com/roxyprobiarritz/2013/

• ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to dsimon@thegardenisland.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI

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