Long journey, short contest for most Hawaii men at Aussie Open

All the success that the locals frequently enjoy during Hawaiian events seems to flip on its head when heading down under. A good crew of Hawaii’s best surf talent made the trip to Sydney for the Hurley Australian Open of Surfing this week, but the long journey hasn’t been especially fruitful for most.

The first QS6000 men’s and women’s events of the year got underway Monday in Australia, which resides 21 hours ahead of our local time zone, so determining a proper timeline is always tricky. But nothing has felt foreign to the Aussies, who always show well on their home breaks. Some hometown Championship Tour heavyweights are in the men’s field, including Mick Fanning, Kai Otton, Bede Durbidge, Ace Buchan and Adam Melling. The women’s contest is through two full rounds and will see many CT top seeds soon enter the fray, including defending event champ Carissa Moore.

Nine Hawaii wahine remain in the Round of 48, including Kauai’s Tatiana Weston-Webb, Malia Manuel, Nage Melamed and Brianna Cope. Moore, Alessa Quizon, Coco Ho, Mahina Maeda and Bailey Nagy, all from Oahu, complete the contingent. Nagy is the only one who has already been in the water. She had to come through the opening two rounds for her spot in round three. Moana Jones, Zoe McDougall and Dax McGill have been eliminated.

Weston-Webb, about to start her first full-time season on the CT, will be hoping to again put up some big results on the QS circuit. She gets her contest started against Quizon, who was the final re-qualifier for the CT this year, as well as Aussies Mikaela Greene and Jess Grimwood, who will each be looking to pull the local upset.

Manuel, coming off her best CT finish of her young career, takes on Aussie Philippa Anderson, France’s Maud Le Car and Japan’s Natsuki Suda in round three. Manuel always has a handful of big QS results each year, though she’s become more focused on moving into world title contention rather than just being satisfied with re-qualification. Her fifth-place finish in 2014 was a big step in that direction.

Melamed and Cope will be going against each other in their third-round heat. It was a reverse of fortunes for each in 2014 on the QS. Melamed got off to a tremendous start and would have been in the race for qualification without a knee injury derailing her season in California. Cope wasn’t planning on a full QS schedule but she bolted up the rankings with a second-place finish at the 6-Star Los Cabos Open of Surf and will try to chase a qualification spot this year. The Kauai pair has a tough task taking on perhaps the contest favorite in Tyler Wright, as well as Great Britain’s Keshia Seelow Eyre.

Defending world champ Steph Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Laura Enever, Dimity Stoyle, Johanne Defay and the rest of the top seeds will all get going in round three as they try to avoid the early upsets.

For the men, a total of 17 Hawaii surfers entered the contest, but just three have moved on to round three. Mason Ho, Tanner Hendrickson and Freddy Patacchia survived the early brutality for spots in the Round of 48, but their good fortune was certainly spread rather thin. Ho, coming off a second place at the Volcom Pipe Pro, will have his work cut out for him against top seed Fanning, New Zealand’s Billy Stairmand and Argentina’s Santiago Muniz. Maui’s Hendrickson goes against the Aussie pair of Otton and Mitch Coleborn, as well as Brazil’s Jean Da Silva. Patacchia was still waiting for his opponents to be determined as of press time.

Kauai’s Gavin Gillette and Koa Smith each survived their round one heats but were not so lucky in round two. Alex Smith and Kaimana Jaquias were knocked out in their first-round heats. The rest of the Hawaii crew to make the trip included Kalani David, Ian Gentil, Josh Moniz, Isaiah Moniz, Ezekiel Lau, Kaito Kino, Seth Moniz, Kiron Jabour and Kevin Sullivan.

Wednesday’s conditions provided mostly small one-to-two footers but the men were still able to show their creativity without taking a beating – a stark difference to what we saw at Pipeline in the previous event. But being able to adapt to the conditions is what successful contest surfing is all about. We’ll see what the women have to show when the contest resumes Thursday – or today – whatever day you want it to be.

Visit australianopenofsurfing.com for more contest information.


David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.


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