It’s been about five full months since her promising season was derailed, but Kauai’s Malia Manuel will be making her return today at the Swatch Pro in San Clemente, California.
After tearing her MCL at the Margaret River Pro in Australia — just the second contest of the season — Manuel has been out of action rehabbing her injury and preparing for a comeback. That date has arrived as she joins the rest of her Championship Tour competitors at Lower Trestles in San Clemente, Calif. With just four events remaining and the extended time away from competition, it’s hard to predict where Manuel will find herself in the pecking order.
The disappointment of her injury originally seemed to be simply momentary. She gutted through the pain and won the heat in which she got hurt, but then had to withdraw after already reaching the quarterfinals. The true severity of the situation arrived later when it was learned that Manuel would be out for an indefinite period of time.
Having now missed four full CT contests, Manuel is in a tie for 13th on the season. She has a lot of ground to make up in order to climb back into the top 10. The silver lining is that she will almost certainly get the injury wild card for next season if her re-qualification bid falls short. Manuel has proven to be a perennial force on the tour and an injury that has kept her out this long should be good enough reason for her to earn that spot from the WSL.
But just being back in action feels like a victory for the Wailua native. Her current ranking slots her into the lower half of the draw, and she’ll open up in the final heat of round one. Manuel takes on Nikki Van Dijk and Sage Erickson, each of whom are having their best years to date. Erickson is coming off a win at the US Open of Surfing to move into sixth place and Van Dijk has made finals day four times to sit in seventh for the year.
Manuel had early exits in her first two Swatch Pro contests, losing in the second round each time. She had a better showing last season with a quarterfinal appearance. Making it that far feels like a tall order given the rust from the layoff and the potential uneasiness of putting pressure on that knee. But Manuel has shown many times that her competitive fire should never be questioned. If she has her confidence, the rust may be shaken off rather quickly.
Fellow Kauaian Tatiana Weston-Webb, coming off back-to-back runner-up results, gets going in heat one against the French pair of Johanne Defay and Pauline Ado.
Carissa Moore hopes to finally get her season going in the right direction, but she has to take on Stephanie Gilmore and Silvana Lima in round one. Points leader Tyler Wright takes on Keely Andrew and Macy Callaghan in an all-Aussie matchup. Coming off a win at the QS 6,000 Galicia Pro, Coco Ho faces Sally Fitzgibbons and Bronte Macaulay. Courtney Conlogue, Lakey Peterson and Laura Enever also square off in an intriguing opener.
The men’s draw for the Hurley Pro Trestles lines up Sebastian Zietz in his opening heat against Connor O’Leary and Kanoa Igarashi. Seabass comes into the event ranked 15th on the men’s CT leaderboard. Just 1,750 points currently separate 15th and 20th place, so each heat is of the utmost importance.
The waiting period begins today in California. Surfline’s latest report indicates a lingering swell will probably allow for action immediately before it tapers off towards the end of the week.