After the sharks wanted a piece of the lineup at Jeffreys Bay, it seemed like we may get back to normal this week with some women’s surfing in California. But the ocean started firing in Tahiti and “normal” isn’t a word that usually gets tossed around when referring to Teahupoo or those who surf it – even if those regulars do get tossed around a bit.
Nothing about the way Kauai’s Keala Kennelly surfs would be considered “normal.” She’s the woman most associated with Teahupoo and added to that reputation with a monster wave on Wednesday. In a gushing Instagram post, Kelly Slater heaped praise upon Kennelly and called it one of the heaviest waves he’s ever seen. Just getting back into that lineup after her 2011 wipeout left Kennelly with post traumatic stress disorder is an achievement, but she hasn’t shied away from Chopes’ teeth, notching numerous huge waves since. It’s a testament to her courage, which we’ll probably take note of in similar fashion the next time Mick Fanning heads out at J-Bay – or anywhere, really.
The waves aren’t going to be quite that heavy today back in the States, but there will be heavy repercussions depending on the outcome at the Supergirl Pro in Oceanside, California. As a QS 6,000 contest, everyone hoping to pick up big points towards 2016 world tour qualification has signed up to compete, making this a very consequential week for the wahine.
Among the top seeds are three of Kauai’s best – Malia Manuel, Tatiana Weston-Webb and Alana Blanchard. Weston-Webb and Manuel currently sit in seventh and ninth place, respectively, on the uber competitive Championship Tour. Each will be hoping to earn re-qualification with a top-10 finish to the season but grabbing these crucial Qualifying Series results is the best way to assuage that necessity.
Blanchard has taken most of the year off from competitive surfing, diving into other interests and travel. She made her return at Los Cabos and is again scheduled to appear in Oceanside. Thanks to her previous world tour status, she will start in the Round of 48 in a heat that will include the likely event favorite, Courtney Conlogue. Other top seeds include Lakey Peterson, Johanne Defay, Silvana Lima, Laura Enever and the Oahu trio of Coco Ho, Alessa Quizon and Mahina Maeda. Current QS leader Nikki Van Dijk will be on hand to try to maintain that spot, which she narrowly holds over Weston-Webb.
Starting one round earlier in the Round of 72 will be Brianna Cope, who sits at 24th on the QS amongst a very crowded group of hopefuls. We saw what she’s capable of in these elite fields at last year’s Los Cabos Open and making a deep run to the quarterfinals at Oceanside would put her right back in the mix near the top 10. But the current top 15 are all competing this week, so anyone looking to leap frog up the leaderboard will have to not only knock off some higher ranked opponents, but hope some others can pull upsets along the way.
Anahola’s Mainei Kinimaka gets going in the Round of 96 with many of the other fresh faces hoping to make an impression. Kinimaka has gotten her feet wet this season and comes in ranked 54th on the QS. She’s a part of what could be the next wave of Hawaii wahine who will begin in the second round, joining the likes of Dax McGill and Honolua Blomfield.
As the first of three remaining QS 6,000 events this season, the Supergirl Pro begins the make or break portion of the year. Nothing can be determined this week, but the clock is beginning to wind down just a bit. It’s also a good contest for the CT women to regain their rhythm before the US Open, which begins Monday just an hour down the road in Huntington Beach.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.