Competitors made the most of a challenging two-foot swell today at the Australian Open of Surfing as competitors across the men's and women's division fought to seal themselves a spot into tomorrow's Quarterfinals. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) kept the ball rolling on his 2016 qualification campaign, eliminating Shun Murakami (JPN) from the event in the fifth round. The lightening fast natural-footer showed impeccable timing through a series of powerful frontside turns to post a heat total of 12.80.
"I was just trying to survive today to make it through to tomorrow, when there's hopefully a bit more swell," said Fioravanti. "When it's this small, it's important to not do anything wrong; one little mistake can cost you the whole heat and with it being this small, you need to maximize every opportunity as you don't know when you'll get another one."
Deivid Silva (BRA) managed to perform a multitude of giant backside snaps to book himself a position in the Quarterfinals. In the all goofyfooter heat, Silva was able to post an excellent 8.17 wave score (out of a possible 10 points), which put fellow competitor and countryman Robson Santos (BRA) on the back foot, needing a near-perfect 9.74 to take Silva's lead.
"I'm so happy to have won that heat, even though I had surf against my friend [Robson]," said Silva. "To get this far in a QS6000 feels great and will help me with my seed going into the rest of the year."
South Australian Dion Atkinson (AUS) continued to defy his big wave rep. The Seaford local was in divine rhythm, lucking into every decent head-high wave to outpoint Gonzalez 15.17 to 8.0. The win sets up an anticipated Quarterfinal for Atkinson with Heitor Alves of Brazil.
"What was a bad heat for Jon turned out to be the perfect heat for me," said Atkinson. "I didn't really have to hunt around for waves, which is a nice feeling because in these kind of conditions anything can happen really. You can go out with the best intentions and then it all goes out the window. A win's a win, I've got a great board and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Kalani Ball (AUS) took a narrow win over Joshua Moniz (HAW) to move into tomorrow's Quarterfinals, the furthest he's ever progressed in a QS6000 event. Ball opted to rely on rail-to-rail surfing in lieu of his renowned aerial repertoire, which resulted in him taking the victory over Moniz by a slim 0.34 margin.
"I had a bad start to that heat, but thankfully I was able to turn it around later and just sneak into the lead," said Ball. "I decided to focus on my rail surfing a lot more this event as I was seeing a lot of guys not getting big scores for small airs and so far it's been paying off."
Mihimana Braye (PYF) kept the hope alive for the Tahitian surfing contingent taking out a tight battle. Braye executed a chain of mammoth, backside snaps to take the victory with a 12.27 heat total.
"I got off to a good start in 2016, getting a fifth in the World Juniors and I have a good seed going into the prime rated events," said Braye. "I might change my gameplan going into the Quarterfinals to being more selective with the man-on-man priority, but I'll just remain relaxed and stay as focused as possible."
Tomas Hermes (BRA) caused one of the biggest upsets of the event so far eliminating current World Championship Tour surfer Matt Wilkinson (AUS). Hermes kicked off the heat with a massive bang, posting a near-perfect 9.17 wave score, followed by a 9.00, giving him an excellent 18.17 heat total.
"I'm so stoked to have got to the final day," said Hermes. "I'm pretty focused at the moment and I know there's no easy heats, I'm really trying to remain this way as I go into the Quarters tomorrow."
Defending Australian Open of Surfing champion and local Laura Enever (AUS) mirrored a similar performance that saw her take victory at last year's event, notching up a 17.23 heat total. Enever put on a near-flawless clinic in the exchange bashing out a series of critical backside snaps to take the victory.
"I keep getting a bit stressed about getting to my heats on time and when I get here I need to refocus," said Enever. "I've been working a lot with Glenn Hall [former World Championship Tour surfer and coach] and he's really been keeping my head on and ensuring I stay on top of my gameplan."
Pauline Ado (FRA) earned her place in the Quarterfinals, taking out Keely Andrew (AUS) with a 14.67 heat total. Ado joined Justine Dupont as one of the two remaining French surfers left in the women's heat draw. Ado will face off with Enever in tomorrow's Quarterfinals.
"I didn't do too well in Newcastle so there was a bit of pressure to do well in this event," said Ado. "It's a relief to get the win as the waves are super tricky. You could get good waves, but often they would not really eventuate into much and you could miss the opportunity to get good scores. I've been surfing against Laura for a long time and I know she can be really dangerous, I'm just going to try my best really."
Tyler Wright (AUS) had another brilliant day in Manly, smashing her way to tomorrow's Quarterfinals. The World Championship Tour surfer scored a 9.17 wave score to take the win ahead of event standout Maud Le Car (FRA) in their woman-on-woman battle.
"I actually can't really remember that 9.17 (laughs), but I'm stoked to have locked it in," said Wright. "I'm really just trying to remain as calm as humanly possible as I get closer to Snapper because I know how hectic things become once the tour begins in a weeks time."