Day four of the Australian Open of Surfing saw an exciting day of men's and women's action, in punchy three-foot Manly peaks, as competition edged closer to finals day.
Current World Championship Tour surfer Matt Wilkinson (AUS) put on a similar display that saw him take out the prestigious Surfest event in Newcastle last week. The goofyfooter found a handful of lengthy right-handers in the wave-starved heat, which allowed him to bash out a variety of different snaps and post a respectable 13.43 heat total.
"That heat was really tricky," said Wilkinson. "I got one half decent wave and one good solid wave, but I didn't feel like I surfed the solid one very well. I'm still feeling really good after the win in Newcastle, so with any luck I can carry a bit of momentum as we get closer to the finals."
Fellow Central Coast surfer Wade Carmichael (AUS) also put on a dominant performance, notching up a 16.27 heat total. Carmichael is still firing on all cylinders after taking a victory at the Komunity Project Great Lakes Pro a fortnight ago at Boomerang Beach and is feeling comfortable in the punchy beachbreak conditions. Carmichael eliminated event standout Joan Duru (France), who posted the only perfect 10-point ride of the event thus far, yesterday.
"Conditions are definitely tricky, but there's some room for big clean turns if you get the right wall," said Carmichael. "I've found that you need to get those clean double up waves and time the sections properly. If the waves stay the same, I'll be sticking to the same plan tomorrow."
Mateia Hiquily (PYF) showed why he was the 2015 Australian Open of Surfing runner-up performing a barrage of mammoth backside hooks on the punchy righthanders. The light-weight goofyfooter flew over a series of tricky and flat sections in the heat and as a result, posted a 13.67 heat total and booked his spot into the fourth round. He will next face Kalani Ball (Stanwell Park, NSW) and Deivid Silva (Brazil).
"I'm treating every heat like it's a final," said Hiquily. "I have a really good board under my feet and the confidence is building with every heat I surf. The waves are massively different to last year, so my game-plan has changed a little, but if you find the right waves there's still some decent opportunities to get some decent scores."
Local standout Cooper Chapman (AUS) continued to eliminate top-seeds from the event, taking down 2016 Championship Tour rookie Kanoa Igarashi (USA). Chapman took a progressive approach into the round three battle performing a range of giant aerial maneuvers and was rewarded with a 16.83 heat total.
"I'm feeling pretty comfortable out there in the Manly lineup," said Chapman. "Over the last few heats, I've found there's a fair few opportunities to put decent scores on the board for combinations of turns and it seems to be working so far. At this stage though, there's no easy heats, so I'm just trying to remain focused and get through one heat at a time."
Defending women's champion Laura Enever (AUS) took out one of the most stacked heats of the event, claiming victory over former World Champion Sofia Mulanovich (PER) and current World Junior Champion Isabella Nichols (AUS). Enever dropped an excellent 9.40 wave score and edged ahead of Nichols to win the seesaw battle. Both surfers are advancing through to tomorrow's fifth round.
"Coming back to an event as defending champion is foreign ground for me," said Enever. "I have just been trying to enjoy the ride in this event and not give up until the end. Being at home for an event is definitely a good feeling."
Tyler Wright (AUS) stormed into the next round of the Australian Open of Surfing, posting a massive 15.40 heat total. Wright attributed her current form to the work she's been doing with former World Championship Tour surfer and coach Glenn "Micro" Hall.
"It's always good to get the first heat out of the way," said Wright. "Having Glenn on board as a coach has helped me a lot and I've learned so much from him already. I think he's helped me keep my competitive life balanced and he's helped me improve in so many aspects of my career."
Macy Callaghan (AUS) caused one of the early upsets of the event, eliminating Championship Tour surfer Sage Erickson (USA) in Round 4. The young Central Coast surfer put on an exciting performance in the heat posting an excellent 16.54 heat total, which left all her fellow surfers chasing two-wave combinations to steal the lead.
"I couldn't be more stoked to win that heat," said Callaghan. "I knew there was an incoming tide, so I thought I'd be best to hang inside a little and wait for those waves that hugged the bank."