Manly has continued to dish up pristine conditions for surfers at the 2017 Australian Open of Surfing. The elite seven-day Qualifying Series (QS) 6,000 events are edging closer to the final day as some of surfing's biggest names tear through the draw at one of competitive surfing's most iconic locations.
In 2014, Julian Wilson finished runner-up at the Australian Open of Surfing to Brazilian Adriano De Souza. It was a one sided affair in the final as Wilson put in a combination situation (needing two scores) by the 2015 World Champion. After that event, Wilson had a couple of years away from the AOS but is back this year and looking lethal as the No. 1 seed. Wilson continued his solid run of performances in Round Three posting a solid 15.84 heat total (out of a possible 20) with an incredible display of aerial surfing.
"It's a pretty small playing field out there with the tide like it is," Wilson said. "I saw Dion (Atkinson) head up the beach and when I heard he was getting scores up there I though I should go and join him. It was good to get a few backhand turns and a few forehand ramps out there, it's good to mux things up."
On paper, Heat Two of Round Three looked like an easy run for the inform Mitch Coleborn and Championship Tour (CT) Competitor Jack Freestone. The two Australians controlled the heat for the majority of it 25 minutes however Noe Mar McGonagle and Marco Fernandez had different plans as to how it would end. McGonagle edged his way to the second progressing spot while Fernandez rocketed into first with an incredible full rotation backside air-reverse which he was rewarded a near perfect 9.43 for (out of a possible 10).
"That was definitely the best air of my life," Sanchez said. "It couldn't have come at a better time as I was pretty lost in that heat and couldn't find a score. I never think too much about who I have in a heat because if anyone gets the right waves they will get scores. I was lucky because I had to go big and I did and somehow stuck the landing - I'm stoked to win."
Just over a month ago, Cam Richards would have told you that he isn't one for competition surfing. After a win at the Carve Pro Maroubra and a runner-up finish at the Tweed Coast Pro, this whole competition caper is beginning to take the stylish goofy-footers fancy. With the waves at Manly on Day 5 resembling a good day in his native South Carolina, Richards went to town once again combing flowing power hacks with inverted airs. Richards took the heat with a total of 15.30 and guarantees himself a career best finish at Manly.
"Winning the QS at Maroubra has definitely given me hunger to compete," Richards said. "I think I just leaned a lot about competing and that if you get two good waves in a heat you can get a couple of decent scores and generally progress. I'm definitely not training and stretching and that sort of stuff I just try and catch two good waves and that's all I can do. The waves remind me of back home today which also helps I think."
After a third place finish at the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro in Newcastle last week Alejo Muniz is competing with confidence and is keen to repeat the result or better in Manly. After scoring a 5.17 (out of possible 10) early, Muniz was struggling to find a backup. With a bit of advice from his bother Santiago, Muniz headed down the beach to find a long left and post an excellent 8.43 and move into first for the heat win.
"The conditions changed a lot during that heat," Muniz said that. "I was pretty lost during that heat and couldn't find a wave to better my situation. My brother told me to go down to where the lefts were so I did and I got the 8.43. I feel like I owe that heat win to my brother for sure."
After just scraping through her first heat for 2017 in second spot Women's World Champion Tyler Wright clicked into the next gear in Round Four of the Girls Make Your Move Women's Pro. The powerful natural footer posted the second highest heat total of the event so far, a 17.43. Wright threw buckets of water all over Manly Beach with her trademark power hacks and put her rivals in a combination situation, winning the het with ease.
"This is really the start of my competitive season," Wright said. "It's good to start getting all of the competitive juices flowing and turning on everything that has been off since Maui. I like this contest, it fits in the schedule nicely with Snapper and it always attracts a good field so can really get you prepared for the CT season."
Another CT star that put on a solid performance on Day Five at the Girls Make Your Move Women's Pro was Sally Fitzgibbons. Fitzgibbons drew energy from heats that ran prior to hers to comfortably win with a 14.23 heat total and progress to Round Five where she will meet Claire Bevilacqua.
"It's so good to compete just a stone's throw from home," Fitzgibbons said. "It's been an amazing start to the round, there were some massive scores and it seemed to follow on nicely from the Men's - it just shows that there is plenty of opportunities out there for everyone. It looks like we will have no shortage of waves throughout the weekend so I hope we can keep putting on a great show for everyone."