Bethany heading to Fiji for season’s CT debut

Hopefully all the good waves aren’t in the rear view mirror when the Women’s Fiji Pro gets underway on Sunday. Many of the best surfers in the world have been showing why they’re in that category over the past few days during free surfs at Restaurants and Cloudbreak.

That has included Bethany Hamilton, who was named the event wild card and will make her first Championship Tour appearance of 2016.

Hamilton has been among the notable faces taking advantage of the early swell, which hopefully lasts through the contest window.

Hamilton will begin the contest in round one against current points leader Tyler Wright and Nikki Van Dijk. It’s never easy for wild cards since they usually get matched up against the top seeds, but I’m sure Wright knows that gliding directly into round three is no certainty with Hamilton in the mix.

Hamilton has been impressive throughout all her endeavors and any time she’s shown up in a jersey has felt like a special occasion. She’ll be a tough out this week.

Kauai’s two full-time CT members, Tatiana Weston-Webb and Malia Manuel, will once again find themselves in the same heat. The pair faced off in in Rio’s opening round. They get the contest going in the first matchup in Fiji, along with Alessa Quizon.

Two years ago, Manuel began her move into the world’s top five in Fiji. She reached the semifinals here for the first time that season and went on to make the semis twice more to continue ascending up the rankings.

Weston-Webb was a quarterfinalist last year in Fiji during a run that included a 17-point heat and an 18-point heat. She has now reached at least the quarters in her past seven CT contests and, amazingly, she’s the only wahine on tour who can make that claim.

MEN TACKLE QS CONTEST IN JAPAN: The men don’t get started in Fiji until June 5, but the Qualifying Series did see some action on Tuesday with the QS 6,000 Chiba Open in Ichinomiya, Japan. There were 11 Hawaii surfers at the start of the event, but only Granger Larsen and Tanner Hendrickson remain heading into round four.

Koa Smith made the trip but found himself at the bottom of his second-round heat, behind winners Flavio Nakagima and Michael February.

Mason Ho progressed a round further by finishing second in round two, but he couldn’t overcome Larsen and Dion Atkinson in round three. Ezekiel Lau has had a good start to his 2016 QS campaign, but he also fell in round three to Timothee Bisso and Andy Criere.

Larsen will have Frederico Morais, Mateia Hiquily and Nomme Mignot in round four. Hendrickson will take on Nathan Hedge, Billy Stairmand and Nic von Rupp.

Remaining favorites include Aritz Aranburu, Bino Lopes, Wade Carmichael and Tanner Gudauskas. It’s just the third QS 6,000 so far this season, so the points a deep run would provide are very meaningful. We won’t have the year’s first QS 10,000 until next month’s Ballito Pro.

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

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