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Manuel, Weston-Webb set to square off in Snapper Rocks quarters

It’s going to be a pair of good results to start the 2015 season, no matter what happens when Malia Manuel and Tatiana Weston-Webb square off in the Roxy Pro Gold Coast quarterfinals. Action was halted after round four Friday and a Saturday lay day led to the addition of two dates to the waiting period. So whenever the women get back in action, the pair from the Garden Isle will determine the year’s first semifinalist.

Despite the weakening conditions, the wahine made the most of some perfect opportunities in round four, specifically Weston-Webb. Needing a 7.33 to overtake Aussie Dimity Stoyle in the closing minute, Tati took off on a right and tagged the lip on her first turn. She showed a couple of wraps as the wave fattened a bit, but she stayed with it and hoped for a reform on the inside section. It cooperated nicely and she again tagged a pair of committed turns before her final carve ended with her coming unstuck on the finish. Had she landed safely, it would have been a no-doubter to move her into first. But the judges had a difficult decision on their hands.

The score wasn’t revealed until the pair was far up the beach taking photos with spectators, but when it was announced as a 7.43 it moved Tati into her first-ever Championship Tour quarterfinal. I was actually surprised at the decision — not because it wasn’t deserved, but because it would have been easy for the judges to give Stoyle the benefit of the doubt on her home soil with a large group of supporters looking on. But they rewarded Tati’s ferocity, which now sets up what we would hope is the first of many late-round encounters between she and Manuel.

Each is guaranteed to pick up at least an Equal Fifth result, a good start to the season. For Manuel, it’s the continuation of last year’s consistency that saw her reach the quarters in seven of 10 contests. For Weston-Webb, it’s her first time in the quarterfinals. She was a fourth-round casualty in all three of her 2014 CT events, taking Equal Ninth each time. This already gives each a keeper result to get 2015 going and the winner gets a top-three finish.

Manuel put herself into the quarters by topping both Weston-Webb and Sally Fitzgibbons in their third-round non-elimination heat. She’s been perfect so far, which has limited her vulnerability. She had previously won her opening heat against Johanne Defay and Sage Erickson to skip round two. This matchup with Tati is the first elimination heat of her event, while Tati has had to survive a pair against Bianca Buitendag and Stoyle.

The only other surfer to win both their first and third-round heats is Oahu’s Carissa Moore. The two-time world champ will take on Lakey Peterson in the quarters.

Defending world champ Stephanie Gilmore will face Silvana Lima. It’s already the third time at this contest the pair will paddle out together, with each having won once. The tiebreaker will be the most important and though Gilmore comes in with the No. 1 ranking, Lima has lit up Snapper Rocks so far. She earned the only perfect 10 of the contest and looks ready to take down anyone in an opposing jersey. Her victory over Fitzgibbons in the fourth round ended a streak of 43 straight quarterfinal appearances. The fourth quarterfinal will consist of Tyler Wright and Courtney Conlogue.

The addition of two days to the waiting period gives the commissioners a bit more breathing room to put on a good show and give the competitors an opportunity to earn their results in the most optimal conditions. While the women have completed four rounds, the men in the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast are only through one round. They have a lot of heats to get in the water, but the lack of upcoming swell should mean they won’t see action for a couple more days.

Kauai’s Sebastian Zietz, who is kicking off his third consecutive year on the CT, won his first-round heat and will jump ahead to round three.

The Queensland, Australia, beach break is 20 hours ahead of Hawaiian Standard Time. The call each day will made at 11:30 a.m. HT (7:30 a.m. local) and action can be seen live on Oceanic Surf Channels 250 and 1250.

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

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