Today marks Day 1 of the 2016 Manly Australian Open of Surfing. The event is a World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 6000 event, the second for the year meaning there is a huge field of the world's best surfers vying for valuable qualifying points and prize money.
Championship Tour surfer and Northern Beaches local Laura Enever will return to the Australian Open at Manly to defend her 2015 event win at the Aussie Bodies Women's Pro. Enever struggled to find form in the back half of the CT season and almost fell off the elite tour. She thanks her win at Manly for giving her the points she needed to requalify in 2016.
"The start of last year was a good one for me. I'd just been on a cool surf trip to P-Pass (a challenging reef break near Guam) the week before the Australian Open started so I think I was still buzzing from that. After not thinking I was going to qualify and actually getting the last spot back on tour for 2016 I've completely changed my whole outlook and approach to competitive surfing. I've been surfing and training lots since the start of the year and I'm really excited for the year ahead."
For a competitive surfer who travels to exotic locations all over the globe, being able to compete at a massive event like the Australian Open at Manly in your own backyard is pretty special.
"I think being able to stay at home and just hang with friends and do my own thing between heats just made it all so much more fun for me. I just felt good and everything seemed to go my way. Winning in front of the home crowd was super special."
After finishing runner-up at the Newcastle Surfest, which wrapped up yesterday, young Italian sensation Leonard Fioravanti is hoping to continue his good form as he returns to Manly for the Australian Open.
"The Australian leg of QS events is super important and I've already had a good start so I'm excited to try and back that up in Manly," Fioravanti said. "It feels good to be making heats and surfing well. I can't wait for the Australian Open to start."