As 2015 wears on, things continue to get better and better for Malia Manuel. She is beginning the European leg of the schedule with her best result of the season and will be creeping closer to the qualification line on both the Qualifying Series and the Championship Tour.
As the Galicia Pro narrowed its field down to just four wahine, Manuel first showed her ability to survive and advance, then took out a pair of tough competitors to make her way into the semifinals Thursday in Galicia. It will ultimately create her biggest points haul of the season and move her near the top six on the QS leader board.
Four Hawaii surfers — Manuel, Coco Ho, Mahina Maeda and Alessa Quizon — all managed to get into the final 16, where the head-to-head heats began. A good result was crucial for all four. Ho entered ranked fifth on the QS with Quizon and Maeda not far behind at eighth and ninth, respectively.
But it will be Manuel making the biggest leap with at least 3,550 points set to reach her account. She entered ranked 11th and hadn’t made a semifinal yet on the QS season.
After reaching round five, Manuel had to take on New Zealand’s Paige Hareb, who entered ranked just one spot ahead at No. 10. The pair are jockeying for position, adding plenty of drama to the heat. Though the waves weren’t stellar, Manuel made the most of her chances and put up the top total of the round. Getting into the final eight not only improved her own point total, but eliminated one of her key competitors.
Manuel’s star shone brightest in the quarters where she compiled the best heat total of the event. She got to work early and with the waves firing, Manuel threw a pair of excellent scores on the board, starting with a 9.57 for the top single score of the week. Australia’s Isabella Nichols was quickly in combo land and though she fought back for a solid 13.33 total, she never got within a single equalizing wave.
Both Maeda and Ho were knocked out in the fifth round, with Ho’s elimination coming in an extremely tight heat with Pauline Ado. She lost by just four one-hundredths of a point and, as a result, will not improve upon her season ranking.
Quizon made it one round further, narrowly topping Aussie Sophia Bernard. The equal fifth she’ll leave Spain with moves her ahead of Ho in the QS standings and gives her an even better chance at making the CT for the third straight year.
Of the four semifinalists, Manuel is clearly the most decorated and experienced at the highest levels. Leticia Canales Bilbao, Chelsea Tuach and Philippa Anderson were the others to reach the final four. None have CT experience and Manuel has been one of the truly elite QS performers over the past few years. She would be considered a favorite against all three, but nothing can be taken for granted with so many variables in play.
The current CT rankings list Manuel in eighth place, so hopefully her QS positioning turns out to be a moot point. But we know she’s going to be fiercely competitive any time she puts on the jersey. Viva, Malia!
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.