Women's surfing current and future stars tore apart Manly beach on Day Four of the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro, a WSL QS 6,000. In clean two-to-three foot waves, the performance bar was continuously lifted with a steady flow of excellent scores posted in every heat.
A highly successful surfer on the East Coast of Australia in recent years, former event runner-up Johanne Defay has a close affinity with this area. The elite Championship Tour (CT) competitor kicked off her 2018 Sydney Women's Surf Pro campaign in devastating form, posting an event-high heat total of 18.10 on her first two waves for a number of epic backhand hacks.
"That felt really good to post a couple of solid scores," she said. "I was disappointed with how Newcastle finished up so to come back and win a heat like that feels really good. The waves were fun out there and really suited my surfing so I'm hoping it stays like this for the coming days. It's always good to come and compete at Manly, it is a great place."
Brazilian dynamo Silvana Lima was another big name standout on Day 4 at Manly with her committed display of backhand surfing. Although Silvana was in control of the heat in its entirety, she still wasn't content with her total and went upside down on a critical lefthander and rode out clean to post a near perfect 9.50 and take the heat win with 16.07 points.
"When I took off on that wave I knew it would have some great sections on it," she said. "I hit the first one and wanted to go hard again and thought why not? Then when I rode out it felt amazing and I knew it would be a big score. The competition here is fierce and that is the sort of surfing we are expected to do to get the big scores."
Sage Erickson finished her 2017 CT season in a career-best 8th position and the Santa Barbara local felt she missed opportunities at the end of the year to solidify a spot in the top 5. In 2018 she returns with a more focused outlook and a renewed confidence in her surfing. That winning feeling was ever present after Sage took her first heat win of the season at Manly today with an excellent two-wave total of 16.46.
"I had such a big opportunity last year to lock into the top 5," she said. "The last two events got away from me and I was kicking myself, even though it was my best season, I feel like I could have been even stronger. Having goals and expectations is really important and my goal here is to surf more so during that heat I kept super busy. I'm stoked to get a heat win under my belt and I'm really happy to be here in Manly for the Australian summer, it's beautiful."
Another Championship Tour standout starting strong was Hawaiian Malia Manuel. The silky smooth natural-footer found a solid rhythm in the running lefts to earn a 16.16 total and a spot in Round Four. Malia is now one step closer to winning a second QS 6,000 event at the iconic Manly Beach, a place where her fellow Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku introduced surfing to Australia just over 100 years ago.
"I love it here in Manly," she said. "It's awesome to represent Hawaii in a spot where ‘The Duke' introduced surfing too all that time ago, and I'm so happy that WSL, Surfing NSW and Vissla have put this event together so we can come back to beautiful Manly. These QS events are a really good way to warm up ahead of the CT season and work on anything I have planned over the off-season. There is a bit of pressure coming in as a past event winner but pressure is a good way to test yourself so I'm excited to see how the event unfolds".
The future of women's American surfing looks to be in great hands with 15-year-old Kirra Pinkerton and 14-year-old Alyssa Spencer continuing their epic run in 2018. Kirra topped her heat to progress over event top seed Nikki Van Dijk while Alyssa dominated her match-up posting the highest single wave score of the event so far with a 9.50 to win with a total of 17.10.
"I was super lucky to find that 9.50," Alyssa said. I was actually halfway through moving from one bank to the next and that wave popped up so I was really fortunate to snag that wave. It definitely helps to build my confidence coming up against the older, more experienced competitors and winning but I don't want to get too far ahead of myself."
Australian surfers Reef Heazlewood and Mikey Wright dominated the first heats of the men's Round Four, posting impressive heat totals made up of high scoring waves. However, the international contingent proceeded to make up for lost ground as the round went on with Jadson Andre, Keanu Asing, Griffin Colapinto, Alex Ribeiro and Bino Lopes all claiming victory in the following heats. All surfers will make their next appearance in the fourth round.
As part of the event, Vissla will be bringing a celebration of the creators and innovators of surfing to the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro. More than 21 of the world's best surfboard shapers will take part in a live shaping demonstration for the masses right on Manly Beach, the heartland of Australian surfing.
You can visit the craftsmen in their custom pop-up glassed-in shaping bay. Watch, listen and learn from each shaper as they turn a blank of foam into a slick new craft.