Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 |
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This must be like Michael Jordan leaving his three-peat Chicago Bulls and getting on the bus with the Birmingham Barons.
Not to be disparaging to one of the biggest Qualifying Series contests of the early surf season, but The Eddie just went Thursday. Surfest in Newcastle, Australia, has a tough task in comparison.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some great performances Down Under, some of them by Kauai’s own.
Malia Manuel has been one of the best QS competitors this decade and she got her 2016 ledger off to another great start by reaching the semifinals for a third-place finish. Manuel won four straight heats, capping it with a victory over Tatiana Weston-Webb in the quarters.
The Garden Isle duo find themselves in the same heat quite often and paddled out in consecutive heats, with Manuel getting the victory each time. Tati will pick up 2,650 points for her quarterfinal equal fifth and is off to a nice start on the early Aussie leg.
Manuel pulled a tough draw in the semis, but it’s hard not to in the late stages of elite contests. Six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore surfed an almost perfect heat with a 19.50 total. The pair traded excellent jabs early and Manuel scored two early excellent waves, but her 16.50 total, though huge, was not good enough. Gilmore’s win on her home turf set up an all-Aussie final between she and Sally Fitzgibbons. The 3,550 points for Manuel send her back toward the familiar territory near the top of the rankings.
For Alana Blanchard, this has been by far the best week she’s had on tour in years. Starting in round one and having to survive two or three heats before she even reached the same portion of the draw as many of the wahine she’s used to surfing with, Blanchard made it all the way to round six. She lost head-to-head to eventual finalist Fitzgibbons.
Making five heats indicates that Blanchard, who seemed to lose her interest in competitive surfing after 2014, could be back on a path towards the Championship Tour. If she wants to get back to that level, this was certainly a step in the right direction. She bested Sofia Mulanovich, Keely Andrew and Dimity Stoyle, among others.
On the men’s side, things were not quite as kind to Hawaii’s surfers. Sebastian Zietz looked fantastic in his second-round victory, but he was barely beaten a round later when his 12.90 total left him less than a point out of second place.
Josh Moniz enjoyed the best performance, reaching the quarterfinals for an equal fifth. Ezekiel Lau made it to round five for ninth place.
Coming up next are the Australian Open of Surfing and the Aussie Bodies Women’s Pro, which begin Monday in New South Wales, Australia. Bailey Nagy and Mainei Kinimaka skip ahead to round three, while Manuel, Weston-Webb, Blanchard and Brianna Cope all start in round four. The men’s draw will likely be released today.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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