- WSL / Ethan Smith
- WSL / Ethan Smith

Competitors have continued to impress crowds in tough conditions at Manly for Day 5 of the Sydney Surf Pro Challenger Series event. Surfers in Men's and Women's Round 4 made light work of the two-foot waves, posting impressive scores in close matchups for the opening event of the Challenger Series.

Ethan Ewing's (AUS) amazing run through the event continued today with the North Stradbroke Island native posting a solid win in his Round 4 heat. Ewing smashed apart the tiny conditions on offer in the heat throwing plumes of spray and posting a decent 14.17 two-wave heat total to cement himself a spot into Round 5 where he is set to face fellow natural-footer Imaikalani deVault (HAW).

"I feel like I'm gaining a lot of momentum with every heat I surf and that a lot of my work is paying off," said Ewing. "I found that it was super important to stay on my toes when the conditions are like this as it was kinda slow. My tactic is always to get a quick start in the heat which I think is pretty vital when the waves are small and can potentially go flat for 20 minutes."

Former World Junior Champion Kirra Pinkerton (USA) took an epic win over Sunshine Coast hopeful Sophie McCullouch (AUS) in their high scoring opening heat of Round 4. McCullouch looked like taking the win until Pinkerton turned on a medium set and bashed two huge frontside turns to post 8.17 and hit the lead to book herself a spot into the Quarterfinals.

"This is definitely going to be my best result in a non-junior event so I'm so stoked," Pinkerton said. "I just wanted to get two good waves and go as hard as I could, then when she posted some big scores I changed my gameplan and it worked out. I feel like making it this far really takes the pressure off and I can just relax and hopefully make it to the Finals."

After a self-confessed "shakey heat" yesterday, Gold Coast competitor Liam O'Brien (AUS) reset his strategy and gameplan for his Round 4 heat today. In peaks that resembled his local Gold Coast beach breaks, the natural-footer and former US Open runner-up got off to an early start nailing an 8.00 for a variety of searing snaps and carves that gave him an early advantage against former Championship Tour surfer Nat Young (USA), who was unable to find the score required to take away O'Brien's lead in the heat.

"I had a shakey heat yesterday, so it was nice to have a solid start in that heat then and not be chasing everyone else's tail," said O'Brien. "I'm just surfing every day for what it is and trying to adapt to the different conditions we're seeing. The waves we have at home in spring and early summer definitely feel a lot like this, so it's fair to say I've had my share of sessions in conditions like this. Moving forward to the next heat there are a few things I'll work on. I know I let Nat get a few waves under my priority, so there's a few things I'll look at and try to fix going into the next round."

The third heat of Round 3 looked like a Championship Tour matchup with Macy Callaghan (AUS) taking on two-time World Champion Tyler Wright (AUS). Callaghan started strong, posting a 7.33 on her first wave of the 30-minute heat. Wright then answered back with a number of strong frontside hacks to take the lead in the final minutes leaving Callaghan only needing a small score. Unfortunately for Callaghan, no waves of substance arrived and she was eliminated from the event.

"It's definitely good for the confidence making it to the Quarterfinals here at Manly," Wright said. "That was a tricky heat with the tide bottoming out it was even hard to find a 4.00 let alone a decent score so I'm glad to make it. I'm really happy to be here getting a lot of work done and working on strategy and heats. Coming up against CT surfers is why I'm here so I was glad to come up against Macy and am happy to be through into the Quarterfinals."

The last heat of Men's Round 4 was one to catch with an in-form Ryan Callinan (AUS) coming up against former winner at Manly Deivid Silva (BRA) and Brasilian Thiago Camarao (BRA). The heat didn't disappoint with Callinan and Camarao posting solid totals early leaving Silva to chase down the second progressing spot. With only minutes left on the clock, Silva found back-to-back waves and got busy, posting a near excellent score on his first but fell short on the second, leaving Callinan and Thiago Camarao to progress in first and second position.

"The last few minutes definitely got a bit stressful," Camarao said. "Deivid is such an amazing surfer and I knew he could get the score at any time on any wave so it was definitely a bit stressful waiting to hear scores at the end of the heat. I have had a lot of heats with Deivid and a few with Ryan before so I knew that was going to be a really tough heat. I have beaten both of them before so I knew I could do it and am really happy to progress." Other Men's heat victors included: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), Shun Murakami (JPN), Jacob Willcox (AUS), Jorgann Couzinet (FRA) and Matt Banting (AUS). All surfers will make their next appearance in Round 5 tomorrow.

The final heats of the day saw Gabriela Bryan (HAW) take a victory ahead of Alyssa Spencer (USA). Bryan notched up an excellent 8.00 for a multiple turn combo that gave her the upper hand against her goofy foot opponent.

Reigning World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) continued to tear through the field at Manly, posting another near excellent heat total to take down fellow Hawaiian Coco Ho (HAW) in Heat 7 or Round 4.

Leticia Canales Bilbao (ESP) eliminated WSL Championship Tour surfer Johanne Defay (FRA) from the event taking an impressive victory against the former event champion.

Central Coast dynamo Molly Picklum (AUS) continued to build on her 2020 momentum, taking down Meah Collins (USA). Picklum posted two scores in excess of 6.00 points that left Collins requiring a near-perfect score to take away Picklum's lead.

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