Reigning World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) and Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) have claimed victory at the Sydney Surf Pro, the first event of the 2020 WSL Challenger Series. The pair were standouts all event overcoming a world-class field in testing two-foot conditions at Manly Beach.
Reigning four-time WSL World Champion Carissa Moore came to Manly to keep her competitive mind sharp in a year when she had announced she would not be surfing at the Championship Tour level. It was obvious from Moore's first heat that she would be the one to beat as she continuously posted the highest totals of the event. In the Final, Moore came up against two-time World Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) with both competitors looking for their second win at Manly. In the small wind affected conditions Moore found rhythm, locking in the lead and never relinquishing it, claiming victory for the second time at Manly, with a heat total of 11.00.
"I'm super excited to have won this event as I really came here with zero expectations," said Moore. "I really wanted to use this to get better at just surfing in beach break conditions. I thought this was great practice and a really amazing week here in Manly. I think there were some things I did really well and there are a few things I want to go back to the drawing board and work on. This event wasn't a high-pressure situation for me and I felt I wasn't too concerned about anyone else and I just wanted to go out there and surf. Tyler is an incredible competitor and to be honest, I thought she was going to get the score on that last wave in the final as she's someone you can never count out."
With his back against the wall, right up until the dying moments of the final Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) looked destined to finish in the runner-up position. With ten minutes remaining in the heat, Fioravanti was left requiring a perfect ten-point ride to take the win, however thanks to some high flying aerial antics, the Italian natural-footer was able to claw his way into the lead thanks to two-scores in seven-point range and jump into the lead. The win at the Sydney Surf Pro is Fioravanti's first win at Manly after finishing second to Dion Atkinson back in 2016 and the biggest of his young career.
"This feels incredible to win a Challenger Series event here in Manly," Fioravanti said. "This is definitely the biggest victory of my career so I'm over the moon. When that wave came I just told myself that this is it, this is what I practice for, for moments like this. And when I got the score I was so stoked. This win is definitely for Italy -- my country. My home has been going through so much right now and I know that they are watching so this is for them."
In 2008, a fourteen-year-old Tyler Wright (AUS) made history at Manly Beach, becoming the youngest competitor ever to win an elite Championship Tour event when she claimed victory at the Beachley Classic. Over a decade later, Wright returned to Manly to commence her 2020 competitive season and got it off to an almost perfect start finishing runner-up to Moore. Although she fell just 0.03 points short of claiming victory, Wright was over the moon with her start to the 2020 season.
"This is a great start to the year," Wright said. "When you get that close to winning an event you can't walk away feeling too disappointed -- I'm happy. Today was perfect -- it was tricky waves, opponents were tough, it was everything a competitor could want. I really love today because you had to work really hard for your wins and that's what I wanted from this event. I'm really happy for Carissa and I'm happy with my result. Today was perfect."
After a stellar beginning to 2020, that has seen Matt Banting (AUS) take out the Vissla Central Coast Pro and finish in the Quarterfinals of the Surfest Newcastle Pro, the Port Macquarie natural-footer hit his stride in Manly, claiming the runner-up position. Banting, shone in the small and windy conditions, leading right up until the dying seconds of the final, however, fell into second position thanks to the aerial prowess of Fioravanti. Banting's Championship Tour requalification campaign is off to an epic start with this result rocketing him the top of the Qualifying Series rankings.
"It's been a great start to the year," Banting said. "It is pretty devastating to get that close and not win the final, I'm keen to watch it back and see how it all unfolded. It was tough out there for us in those windy little waves but it was a bit of fun. It was a good week and a good start to the year -- coming up against some of those big names and testing myself has been good and I'm glad to have made it through some big heats. I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year will bring."