After two huge Qualifying Series (QS) contests in Australia, here are some takeaways as the season starts to warm up.
Mendes Is Halfway There
In terms of fast starts, Jesse Mendes is the Usain Bolt of the Qualifying Series. The explosive Brazilian just rolled through the second half of the Australian leg with back-to-back Finals appearances that earned him 10,980 points.
The goofyfooter was right to point out that nothing is done. After all, he won the QS10,000 Cascais Pro last year and still failed to qualify for the elite Championship Tour (CT). However, with only five results counting toward each surfer's qualifying total, something fairly drastic would need to happen for Mendes not to make the cut.
His victory over the on-fire Julian Wilson in the Final of the Australian Open of Surfing was proof that Mendes belongs at surfing's top level.
Manuel and Defay in Top Form
Malia Manuel and Johanne Defay have been the class surfers over the entire Australian leg, so it was fitting that they met in the Final of the Girls Make Your Move Pro. It was no surprise that the Final was both a high-scoring and incredibly close affair, as both girls had been averaging 14 plus points in their heats over the two events. But it was Manuel who prevailed this time, going one better than her runner-up finish last year and giving her a huge boost in confidence heading to the Roxy Pro Gold Coast.
Apart from Jesse Mendes, Jorgann Couzinet might be 2017's most consistent QS performer. The lanky naturalfooter secured a podium at the SEAT Pro in Israel, before making successive quarterfinals in Manly and Newcastle. The Hossegor-based, Reunion Island native started the year ranked No. 112, but over the last two weeks has taken down a stack of more fancied rivals to move up to third on the QS rankings. It's early days, but the 23-year-old has shown he has the competitive chops and rail game to back his aerial skills.
The Luckiest Surfer at Manly
Torrey Meister has claim to be the most fortunate surfer in the event after narrowly missing a spinal injury in his Round Two heat. The Hawaiian is known for charging hard at Pipeline and Pe'ahi, but it was on a 2-foot wave that he later described as "by far the hardest I've ever hit my head surfing in my life." Such was the ferocity, he initially thought he had been paralyzed. But, after a check by the event doctor, he decided to finish the heat. Later, hospital tests revealed no breaks, and apart from wearing a cautionary neck brace, he'll be back in the water soon.
Manly, the Perfect Host
Given that it was just over the headland at Freshwater Beach where Duke Kahanamoku introduced surfing to Australia, it is no surprise that Manly beach has hosted some pivotal moments in surfing. It was here in 1964 that Midget Farrelly became Australia's first World Champion, witnessed by a crowd estimated at 65,000. In 1978 The Coke Contest featured winner Larry Blair scoring seven-second tubes. In 1987 the World Title-deciding Semifinal between Gary Elkerton and Damien Hardman was easily the most exciting held outside Hawaii.
Much of this drama is down to pure geography -- the crescent of the beach adjacent to Sydney Harbor takes in all swells and tames all winds. This year on Finals Day we saw Manly at its best, with a fresh, powerful swell and clean offshore breezes. The crowds came in their thousands and the surfers reveled in the great waves. Manly showed that it continues to provide an incredible and iconic host for professional surfing.