There wasn’t a whole lot of time to recuperate or replenish after Lower Trestles. Stephanie Gilmore, who won that event last week in California, alluded to the quick turnaround during her first day of action at the Roxy Pro France on Thursday in Landes. This first of two upcoming European contests is the eighth event of the women’s World Championship Tour and saw the wahine go to work on the tricky beach break along France’s southwestern coast.
While Gilmore may have been happier with a little more time to enjoy her recent victory, Wailua’s Malia Manuel was clearly itching to get back in the water. After her first early exit of the season at Trestles – where she felt the judging may have been less than ideal – Manuel re-announced her presence in strong fashion and cleared through her first three heats into the quarterfinals. She had to get past Kauai’s Alana Blanchard in the second round to do so, but Manuel has now reached the quarters in six of the year’s eight contests. She had been coming off back-to-back semifinal appearances before coming up short at Trestles for a 13th place throwaway score.
Also already into the quarters are current world No. 1 Sally Fitzgibbons, defending world champ Carissa Moore and the now healthy Courtney Conlogue, who is hoping to finish her frustrating season strong and remain on the WCT.
The first round was a tough one for most of the women. Manuel was in the opening heat along with Aussie rookie Dimity Stoyle and France’s Pauline Ado. All three appeared to be a bit lost in the conditions as the rights and lefts came through. Manuel managed to get off to the quickest start but it was Ado coming from behind in her home country to pick up the heat win and move directly into the third round.
Though she has had her best season ever on the CT and currently sits in fifth place for the year, Manuel has had to surf a lot of heats for those stellar results. She has only won her first-round heat twice all year, but she has gone 4-1 in her elimination second-round battles.
Her latest opponent was Blanchard, who also had a tough time identifying the proper waves in her opening heat against Gilmore and France’s Johanne Defay. The ocean had picked up a bit by then, but Gilmore and Defay pushed themselves well ahead with Gilmore ultimately gaining the heat win on a 16.17 total.
In the second-round Kauai battle, Malia set the tone with a pair of five-point waves before Alana got back in the mix with a right that netted her a 4.33. She needed a 7.17 or a pair of medium waves to take the lead, but Malia extended her advantage at the 12-minute mark, hopping on a fast-moving right and pulling off two snapping carves. It was short work but still got her the heat’s best score at a 6.67.
With under 10 minutes to go, Blanchard needed an 8.17 but had trouble outworking Manuel. The score lines never changed and Malia came away with a 12.50 to 7.16 victory and a spot in the third round. Alana will still be looking for her first heat win of the year when the women reconvene at the next event in Cascais, Portugal.
Malia probably thought her main competition in round three would come from Tyler Wright, but it was Ado who had the better read on the waves and gave Manuel plenty of trouble in their three-surfer heat. Yet a pair of waves in the seven-point range moved Manuel into the lead and she remained the most active of the three, holding off the others with a 14.93 total that propelled her directly into the quarterfinals.
Alessa Quizon and Coco Ho were eliminated in the second round along with Blanchard, meaning Manuel is the only Hawaii wahine remaining in the field. Eight women will compete in round four elimination heats, half of them joining Manuel in the quarters. Ado and Defay will face off, which will halve the French contingent. Aussie compatriots Stoyle and Wright will also face one another, as will South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag and Australia’s Nikki Van Dijk. All eyes will then certainly be on the final fourth round heat that pits Lakey Peterson against Gilmore.
As for the men’s side, the Quiksilver Pro France has not yet started but should be underway soon. Organizers are seeing plenty of consecutive swell in the coming days for both the women’s and men’s events. Kilauea’s Sebastian Zietz will be hoping to continue his run at re-qualification when the men get going. He’ll be in the second heat against Tahitian Michel Bourez and American Brett Simpson. Oahu’s John John Florence, coming off a runner-up performance at Trestles, will take on Aussie Julian Wilson and Brazil’s Jadson Andre. Freddy Patacchia gets going in the very first heat against Australia’s Taj Burrow and South Africa’s Travis Logie.
Both the men’s and women’s contests can be seen on Oceanic Surf channels 250 and 1250.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.