Malia Manuel has spent the past few years in CT limbo. Sure, she's been enjoying a successful CT career, but up until last week's US Open of Surfing, she hadn't surfed in a final since her rookie season.
July has seen a reinvigorated Malia. Her runner-up finish at the QS6,000 Supergirl Pro bumped her to the top of the QS rankings and she clawed her way back into a CT final, finishing behind Tatiana Weston-Webb in Huntington Beach. By all accounts, she's poised for a breakout, moving up from success to significance. We caught up with Manuel to get her thoughts on the matter.
WSL: You're doing well on both tours, now. Do you feel like you're making progress?
Malia Manuel: After the event in Oceanside [the Supergirl Pro] a lot of pressure has been relieved especially going into the second half of the year. Being rated No. 1 on the QS for now is nice to have as a back-up and now I can focus on my surfing and not have to worry about that pressure of surfing for points, rooting for some girls and rooting against others.
WSL: Do you see yourself as title spoiler? A contender?
MM: I'm really not even focusing on the girls in the world title race... So many things can change and the ratings are so tight with all the girls I can't really say I'm a title spoiler yet. That's something I can't say until a possible matchup at the end of the year.
WSL: You're getting better and better results. What have you been working on?
MM: This year I've been surfing decent heats, I've just had a bit of unlucky times with decisions. A lot of my heats could have gone either way and so I think I need to make it more obvious. [The other girls on tour] are so hyped up, I just need to make it more obvious in the ways I can and not let results in the past affect what I'm doing in the present.
WSL: Surfing both tours you're heading into a packed schedule of events. Is fatigue an issue?
MM: I don't mind endurance and it's nice to stay in that contest rhythm. Doing both tours is a grind but it definitely keeps you in contest shape. You're in fight shape all year long.
WSL: Last question: Can Maui get here fast enough?
MM: (Laughs) Maui can't get here fast enough. And I'd like to have one in Oahu one day. It'd be nice to kick some of those Australia events out (laughs), and have some more contests in Hawaii and America.