For a second day in a row, Kelly Slater has drawn massive crowds down to Manly Beach for the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro WSL QS6,000 event. The 11-time WSL World Champion struggled to find a rhythm in the low-tide small conditions and was eliminated from competition but was thrilled to be back surfing in Sydney.
"I couldn't really find a decent wave out there," Slater said. "There were some good ones out there because Jesse (Mendes) and Alex (Ribiero) got a few but I just struggled to be in the spot. It has been great to be back here and I'm looking forward to surfing down here at Manly over the weekend but a shame it won't be in the competition. It's been a little bit overwhelming having such massive crowds on the beach but definitely cool to have that support. I just wish I could thank everyone personally but there are too many people to get around to."
Although Slater has been eliminated from competition, he will be at the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro over the weekend, surfing in an expression session with 2-time World Champion Tom Carrol along with surfboard shaping demonstrations and other interactive activations.
2018 Championship Tour Rookie Jesse Mendes continued his love affair with Manly today, as he took down the greatest surfer of all time, Kelly Slater. Mendes, who won here at Manly only 2 years ago was happy to make another milestone at the Iconic stretch of sand.
"I won here a few years ago when the waves were amazing so always love to come back," Mendes said. "There is always people up early, swimming, surfing and enjoying this location so it's a great healthy vibe here, plus there are a lot of surf fans -- I like it a lot. It was pretty crazy to arrive before my heat and see such a massive crowd because I've always known how big Kelly is, but that was something else. I've been on the CT for a while and I've surfed with him before so the crowds didn't worry me too much and neither did he, I just did my thing and it worked so I'm stoked."
2019 WSL Championship Tour Rookie Brisa Hennessy shot a warning shot across the bow of her rivals today at the Sydney Women's Pro pres. by Sisstrevolution, posting an excellent heat total of 17.26 in her opening heat of the event. The young Costa Rican bounced back well from a poor result in Newcastle as she sets herself up for her maiden season at the elite level which will commence on the Gold Coast in less than two weeks.
"It definitely felt good to post some solid scores for the first time this year," Hennessy said. "I'm only a few weeks away from the start of the CT season so it's a big confidence boost to be standing out in such a big talented field like the one here in Manly. I can't wait for the Gold Coast event to get underway and to surf Snapper with only a couple of other surfers out there."
Sophie McCulloch is a surfer that flies under the radar in comparison to compatriots Macy Callaghan and Isabella Nichols. While McCullough's surfing has been impressive for a while now, she hasn't had the CT qualification status of Macy or the World Junior Championship to her name like Nichols. Today at Manly, the young Sunshine Coast local showed that she can mix it with the best better than the rest overcoming Nichols and Callaghan with a dominating display in the small but clean waves.
"I have another heat against the same surfers and I won that one so I knew it was definitely something I could do," McCullough said. "Last year I finished 27th on the QS but this year I'm feeling really good and feel like I could definitely have a good push towards qualification. I grew up surfing with Isabella (Nichols) a lot and competing with one and other and now we are good friends and travel together so I'm really happy that we both made it through."
Keala Tomoda-Bannert and India Robinson were another couple of young guns who took down big names with Tomoda-Bannert eliminating reigning event winner and CT competitor Nikki Van Dijk while Robinson progressed in the top spot over Malia Manuel. Keala Tomoda-Bannert has been in flying form over the week at Manly having already won the Key Sun Zinke Sydney Pro Junior on the Weekend.
The hard times didn't stop for the big names as CT competitors Coco Ho , Paige Hareb, Johanne Defay along with surf star Sage Erickson all going down in their opening heats of competition. One CT surfer who did survive the QS onslaught was 2018 Rookie of The Year Caroline Marks who has enjoyed watching the crowds her fellow Floridian has been drawing to Manly. Marks utilised her powerful backhand attack to take her first heat win in Australia for 2019.
"It was pretty nerve-racking before that heat as we were moving banks and all I could see was big names getting beaten," Marks said. "It was a similar scenario in Newcastle so I'm stoked to get a heat win. Seeing the crowds that came down yesterday to see Kelly was really eye-opening as it really shows what he has done for surfing. I grew up 20 minutes away from his hometown and have always looked up to him so surfing in events with him is pretty surreal."