Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 |
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Just three days of action remain at the US Open of Surfing and the 11 Kauai surfers who hit the waves in Huntington Beach, California have been whittled down to three. Malia Manuel, Tatiana Weston-Webb and Brianna Cope still have their eyes on a possible US Open title.
Manuel has reached the quarterfinals of the women’s World Championship Tour event, making it five times in this year’s six events she has made the final eight. There was some friendly fire along the way as she had to defeat Kilauea’s Leila Hurst in the head-to-head second round to do so. The tour veteran took control early and never looked back, picking up an 8.00 ride just a few minutes into the heat. Hurst was active on a few small waves and needed just a 5.51 to move ahead with 13 minutes remaining, but Manuel backed up her early score with a 7.17 to put Hurst in a combo situation. That was too much to overcome and Manuel moved on with a 15.17 to 6.67 win.
The third round was another win for Manuel, who put up the best heat of the event with an 18.13 total. After blasting a 9.63 wave at the midway point, Manuel had both Weston-Webb and Tyler Wright in combination territory. She advanced directly into the quarters where she will take on Australia’s Nikki Van Dijk. A win would put Manuel into the semifinals for the second straight contest.
Competing again for the injured Courtney Conlogue, Weston-Webb won her second-round heat over South African powerhouse Bianca Buitendag. It was a tight contest for all 30 minutes, but Tati never lost the lead. She picked up a 7.67 and then backed it up with a 7.00 at the 11-minute mark. Buitendag needed a 6.67 for the rest of the heat and almost nabbed it with two minutes left, receiving a 5.97. After dropping her third-round heat to Manuel, Tati was then on the wrong side of another close elimination matchup, this time with Van Dijk. She needed a 6.41 in the closing moments, but fell just shy with a 6.00, losing 12.90 to 12.50. The result is another Equal Ninth place, her third such outcome in all three of her WCT events this season.
Alana Blanchard was hoping for her first third-round appearance of the season in a matchup with Australia’s Laura Enever. It was a fairly even heat and Blanchard took the lead with 20 minutes left but Enever jumped back ahead with a 6.50 at the 13-minute mark. She added a 6.17 and Blanchard was looking for a 7.07 to advance. She took her chances and had a pair of late waves in the five-point range, but ultimately not enough to move on.
Other than Manuel taking on Van Dijk, the additional quarterfinal matchups pit last year’s top two surfers – Carissa Moore and Wright – against each other, as well as current No. 2 Sally Fitzgibbons against Johanne Defay and Stephanie Gilmore taking on Lakey Peterson.
With Manuel the sole survivor of Kauai’s four wahine in the WCT event, Weston-Webb and Cope are each into the semifinals of the Women’s Junior Pro event. One second place and one heat win have put Tati in that position. Cope started in the quarterfinals and earned a second place to advance.
The pair will avoid each other in the semis, so they’ll be hoping to paddle out together in the four-surfer final heat. Cope will see Barbados’ Chelsea Tuach, Oahu’s Bailey Nagy and Japan’s Reika Noro in the quarters. Tati takes on Oahu’s Mahina Maeda and Americans Tia Blanco and Meah Collins.
Gavin Gillette and Sebastian Zietz were both eliminated in the second round of the Men’s Prime contest. Gillette had a heartbreaking third place after leading the heat in the final minutes. Zietz had trouble getting going in his foursome, but a 6.13 with five minutes left moved him up into second place. Brazil’s Hizunome Bettero quickly changed that with his next wave, bumping Seabass back to third. He needed a 6.51 and had a look at a pair of late bumps, but neither manifested.
Gillette finishes with an Equal 25th place and Zietz takes an Equal 37th.
Dylan Goodale also competed in the Men’s Prime trials, hoping to get into the main draw. He advanced through his first two heats before falling in the semifinals.
Kilauea’s Koa Smith reached the quarters of the Men’s Junior Pro event, earning a pair of seconds to reach the final 16. He was again in second place at the 10-minute mark after picking up a 6.33 ride. After falling back to fourth, he still needed just a 4.81 with three minutes left. That was until Australia’s Matt Banting blasted a 9.60 and Brazil’s Luan Wood picked up a 7.00 within 30 seconds of each other. Smith was quickly in search of an 8.17 and couldn’t find it with so little left on the clock. He takes an Equal 13th place.
Visit www.vansusopenofsurfing.com for more information.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.
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