The top seeds have hit the water for Round Three of the Girls Make Your Move Women's Pro at Manly Beach. It was an exciting day of competition with the world's best surfers tackling stormy, three-foot peaks for the second Qualifying Series (QS) 6000-level event for the year.
The high quality of surfers competing at Manly this week was no more evident than in Heat 1 of Round Three when current women's World Champion Tyler Wright paddled out to compete. In Wright's first heat of 2017, she looked calm and composed as she cruised through to Round Four in second place. However, it was an on-fire Dimity Stoyle who won the heat, with her fearless approach to attacking the lip. The former Championship Tour (CT) surfer looked comfortable against the champ and posted an excellent 8.50 single-wave score (out of a possible 10) on her way to victory.
"I love having heats like that," Stoyle said. "It was a real challenge for me but I think that is what I need to succeed -- to be challenged. I've been on the CT before so I know what it takes to beat those big names. It's all about being on the best waves and that is what I have been working on, staying patient and taking the best waves."
After suffering a disappointing early-round loss at her home event in Newcastle last week, Philippa Anderson has re-set and adjusted her focus towards the Girls Make Your Move Women's Pro. Seeking redemption, Anderson reveled in the tricky beachbreak peaks of Manly to post a solid heat total of 15.43 (out of a possible 20) and win the heat.
"I was super bummed with my performance at Newcastle," she said. "I was feeling good before that event, it just didn't go my way. As an athlete, these things happen and you have to just move on and re-focus. I've put it behind me and come into this event feeling really relaxed. The free-surfs have been super busy, so surfing a heat was nice to be able get out there and have some space and get the waves I wanted. It was really fun."
Having won the Australian Open of Surfing in 2012, Sally Fitzgibbons is no stranger to competing at Manly. Having worked on heat strategy and fitness over the off-season, Fitzgibbons loves these early QS 6,000 events, as they allow a CT-style atmosphere without the pressure of locking down valuable CT ratings points.
"These events are so important in the lead up to Snapper and the Roxy Pro," Fitzgibbons said. "There are a lot of things that we work on in the off-season that can't be tested unless you are surfing a real heat. Having a lower stress environment to run through heats is really beneficial. Real time heat surfing is the most important practice and I feel like I'm building and building towards Snapper."
Sage Erickson was a clear standout in Newcastle last week, finishing the event in equal-third place. Erickson's solid run of performances continued in Round Two at Manly as the silky-smooth Californian ripped the A-frame wedges to pieces. Erickson's performance didn't go unnoticed, as she posted the highest single-wave score and heat total of the event so far, a 9.33 and a 17.50.
"That was really fun out there," Erickson said. "In the past I haven't done the best here, especially when it's been really small. Today there were some decent sized waves coming through and a lot of options. Having plenty of opportunity is important especially with the caliber of girls in this contest -- no heat is an easy one."
Once women's Round Three was complete, the top seeds of the Men's Australian Open of Surfing hit the water. The opening heat of the Round Two featured No. 1 seed Julian Wilson, and he didn't disappoint. After the current World No. 8 was eliminated early at Newcastle, he came to Manly with his A-game. Wilson scored an excellent 8.00-point ride for a massive floater on his backhand then backed it up with a perfect 10.00 for an insane alley-oop-to-air-reverse combination, showing the judges he meant business.
"The waves are really fun today and it looks as if it's going to keep coming all week," Wilson said. "It feels good to make my first heat of the year -- I'm taking this event as seriously as a CT event. It's important to get a good start to the season here. Once we get deeper into the draw it goes to man-on-man heats so it's a great warmup for the CT season."
Similarly to Wilson, North Narrabeen's Davey Cathels didn't have great success at Newcastle. The former CT competitor comes into the Australian Open of Surfing unlike any other event on the calendar, because he is surfing 15 minutes from his own home. Cathels' comfort was obvious on his way to posting an excellent heat total of 15.87 including a massive forehand straight air.
"I don't surf at Manly often, but I definitely feel most comfortable at this event," he said. "I didn't do very well at Newcastle so to get an excellent score and solid heat total is awesome and helps build my confidence. It's so good sleeping in your own bed, cooking at home and being in familiar surroundings while surfing a big event like this."