The iconic Manly Beach has turned on pristine three-to-four foot waves for the second day of competition at the 2020 Sydney Surf Pro WSL Challenger Series event. Some of the world's best surfers hit the lineup for Men's Round 1 and half of Men's Round 2 at the opening event of this year's Challenger Series.
After spending nearly the better part of 2019 on the couch recovering from injury, 2015 WSL World Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA) returned to Manly Beach today to get a jump on his 2020 Challenger Series campaign. De Souza surfed to his strengths in the Round 2 heat, hammering the shallow beach break peaks and was duly rewarded with a respectable 13.07 two-wave heat total to get a win ahead of former CT surfer Mitch Crews (AUS) who progressed through the heat in the runner-up position. De Souza has been competing on Sydney's northern beaches since he was 16 years old and has won huge Qualifying Series events and a World Junior Title in the region.
"It's a different time here for me at Manly this year. I'm a bit older now and I'm competing against a lot younger guys," de Souza said. "I first came to Australia on January 3rd this year, so I've been focussing a lot on this Australian leg and I hope I can get a few good results and start 2020 well. I feel at home every time I'm in Australia, especially in Sydney and the northern beaches have been really good for me in my career."
2019 was a breakthrough year for Liam O'Brien (AUS) on the Qualifying Series with the Gold Coast youngster narrowly missing out on qualifying for the elite Championship Tour. Although he missed out on making the Dream Tour, O'Brien gained experience and built confidence ahead of the 2020 Challenger Series. This was exemplified by his surfing today as O'Brien posted the highest two-wave combination of the event so far. Liam's 16.10 two-wave combination came from a series of explosive and sharp backhand turns in the grinding mid-tide lefthanders at Manly.
"I'm really hoping to continue building on last year," O'Brien said. "I'm keen to carry some momentum on from my 2019 season. It was really cool to get so close last year and although it was agonisingly close I wasn't really expecting it so I look at it as an opportunity to take what I learned from last year and use it to improve this year. It definitely feels good to get a good start this year and kick off the Challenger Series with some decent scores."
Italian sensation Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) is set for a massive 2020 after an injury-interrupted season last year saw him miss a number of crucial events. Fioravanti commenced his competitive season today at Manly and looked on track for a big year, taking his Round 2 match-up with a mid-range total of 12.07 which was an impressive score in the tough low tide conditions.
"It's pretty challenging out there," Fioravanti said. "The whole day has been classic Manly, just constantly changing. I was watching it earlier and seeing guys getting solid scores and even just before my heat it looked like it was kind of pumping then as soon as I paddled out the wind came up and the tide got super low. It was all good though I changed to a different board and just made the most out of it. It's awesome to have the Challenger Series happening and offering more points for people hoping to Qualify. It makes so much sense for this event to be this size. It's a great location in the biggest city in Australia."
Charly Martin (FRA) performed the first big upset of the Sydney Surf Pro so far, taking down WSL Championship Tour (CT) surfer Jack Freestone (AUS) on the strength of his power carves and wild aerial antics. Martin shone in the heat, surfing with precision timing and flow which saw the Frenchman rewarded with a decent 14.17 two-wave heat total to get the win ahead of Vasco Ribeiro (Portugal), Freestone and fellow Frenchman Charly Quivront (FRA) who claimed second, third and fourth respectively.
"I was a little stressed prior to my heat this morning. I had new boards and I didn't know which one to ride," said Martin. "I spotted a few lefts in the corner of the competition area that looked like a good option for me, and it thankfully paid off. I think that every heat is stacked in this event, but to get a win over Jack who is such a good surfer definitely feels good. Hopefully, I can keep this rhythm going in Round 3."
After a first-round knock-out at Surfest Newcastle, Hiroto Ohhara (JPN) made his presence felt at Manly alongside fellow coaching partner and WSL CT surfer Griffin Colapinto (USA) with both surfers taking out the top two spots in their Round 2 heat. Despite Colapinto posting an excellent 8.17 wave score, Ohhara was able to claim the win on the back of two rides in the six-point range that gave him the upper hand.
"I lost in the first round in Newcastle so I was pretty angry with myself, so I shaved my head before this event to get ready for this competition," said Ohhara. "It's awesome to get through alongside Griffin as we're both coached by Jake Paterson and we both had the same strategy in that heat so we said that if we were in first and second and had priority that we would block the other guys to make sure we make the heat together."
The Sydney Surf Pro WSL Challenger Series event will run from March 8 through 14, 2020.