It’s been more than a month since the women’s World Championship Tour hosted an event, but there was little rust on the wahine who entered the water in San Clemente, California, for the Swatch Women’s Pro Trestles on Tuesday. The first day of the contest’s waiting period was a prime example of the depth and skill among the women’s field, but it was an unlucky and disappointing session for Kauai’s Alana Blanchard and Malia Manuel.
This was perhaps Blanchard’s sharpest showing of the season, but she found herself in the wrong heats and with a few more questionable wave selections, though even a perfect heat may not have been enough to overtake her round two opponent.
In the opening round, she battled with Coco Ho and Sally Fitzgibbons as all three women traded carves on the Lower Trestles rights. Ho was actually in third place and in a combination situation with under seven minutes remaining when she took off on a right that yielded six sharp turns. Her flawless execution resulted in a 9.43 from the judges, putting her right back in the mix. Once she backed it up with a 6.93, Ho had leapt all the way into the heat lead.
They were shorter rides, but Blanchard was throwing her fins around and looking much more at ease than she has for much of the season. Despite that precision, her 13.56 total was good for only third place and sent her to an elimination matchup with five-time champion Stephanie Gilmore in round two. That heat provided a similar story. Gilmore was on fire and though Blanchard showed off her capabilities, the result was never really in doubt. Back-to-back big waves sent Gilmore to a 17.83 total and put Blanchard into a combination. She fought back and put up some strong scores by totaling a 14.06, but it still resulted in an Equal 13th place for the seventh time in seven events this season.
Entering the contest ranked fifth in the WCT standings, Manuel was in position to possibly make a run towards world title contention with some more big results down the stretch. However, Trestles will not be a keeper. In fact, Tuesday was the first time all season that Manuel was eliminated in the second round. She had reached the quarterfinals in five of this year’s six events and was coming off of back-to-back semifinal appearances, but Manuel saw her event end much earlier than she is accustomed.
Her first round showcased one of the day’s many upsets as rookie Dimity Stoyle took the heat win over the Hawaii duo of Manuel and Alessa Quizon. Stoyle was ripping from the start and only got better, receiving an 8.50 and an 8.00 on her final two waves to make things nearly impossible for her opponents. Another upset was in the works for round two as Manuel took on 16th ranked Pauline Ado. The French charger had only moved beyond the second round twice all season, but she showed some grit and determination against Manuel. Though Malia took an early lead, Ado got back in contention with a 7.70. That wasn’t enough to move in front, but Ado now needed a 7.03 in the closing minutes to take first place. She hopped on a set wave and did all she could, slamming three big carves across the face and making a claim at the end to give the judges something to think about. It all worked for her and the score came in at an 8.23 with only seconds remaining. Manuel tried to better her score on one final wave but it didn’t have enough juice and Ado advanced to round three by a 15.93 to 14.73 margin.
Oahu’s Quizon also pulled an upset in round two by knocking off Courtney Conlogue, who had missed the previous three events due to an ankle injury. Always a contender, especially at the California breaks, Conlogue has still not reached a semifinal this season.
Round three featured four non-elimination heats, which were won by Gilmore, Ho, Fitzgibbons and Tyler Wright, who all advance directly to the quarterfinals. It was a great day for Ho, who is trying to move up off of the qualification bubble and had been a second-round casualty in the past two contests.
The fourth round will feature four elimination heats pitting Ado against Laura Enever, Carissa Moore going against Lakey Peterson, Stoyle facing Bianca Buitendag and Quizon taking on Johanne Defay. The Moore-Peterson battle will certainly be the most intriguing. Moore is the defending world champ and sits first in the standings, but Lakey never backs down and thinks she can always beat anyone.
The Hurley Pro, which is the men’s WCT event at Trestles, will get its first round in the water when action resumes. Kilauea’s Sebastian Zietz is set to face Brazil’s Adriano De Souza and Spain’s Aritz Aranburu in the seventh heat of round one.
Men’s and women’s action will be televised live on Oceanic Surf channels 250 and 1250.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.