The Hurley Australian Open of Surfing commenced in clean two-to-three foot (1m) surf at Manly Beach today with an international field contesting both the Men's and Women's World Surf League (WSL) Junior Tour (JT) divisions.
Chris Zaffis (Angourie, NSW/AUS) was among the early standouts, winning, an intensely anticipated heat that included top seeds Kai Hing (Sunshine Coast, QLD/AUS) and Ethan Ewing (North Stradbroke, QLD/AUS).
Ewing received a penalty interference that virtually guaranteed his elimination, while Zaffis avoided any hassles and let his surfing do the talking. His sharp turns and inverted aerials saw him finish ahead of Hing in second, with Ewing eliminated in third along with local Northern Beaches surfer Luca Elder (Bungan, NSW) bowing out in fourth.
"It felt good to get a few early waves and pull a few moves off," said Zaffis. "There was a lot of hassling going on, the surf was small and there wasn't a lot of waves. I just tried to focus on what I wanted to do and not get caught up in it all."
Hing was usurped by Ewing in a final during their most recent match up and was was relieved to advance behind Zaffis.
"There was a lot of paddling and hassling going on - everyone surfs so well and everyone wants to win so it can get intense. I was a little nervous at the end, Ethan had an interference, but still only needed a small score to get through and he's more than capable, so I'm stoked to get through," said Hing.
International stand-out, Kanoa Igarashi from Huntington Beach, CA, USA felt right at home in Manly's small but fun waves today. Igarashi linked multiple big backhand turns together to notch an easy Round 1 win.
"There's only a limited amount of waves and everyone wants to be on the best ones - it comes down to who's in the right spot when they come through," Igarashi said. "I like these waves a lot, it feels a lot like home. I also have the best possible board for these conditions so I'm feeling really good and looking forward to the rest of the event."
Jordy Lawler (Narrabeen, NSW, AUS) was looking down the barrel of a first round loss at his local event with just poor throwaway scores by the halfway mark of his heat. The Narrabeen local was able to shift gears however, posting an excellent 8.90 and an 8.50 in quick succession to claim a heat win and the highest two-wave total of the Round.
"I fell on my first couple waves and I was stressing out!" Lawler said. "Then I found this long left that hit the bank really nice and I started to feel confident again and by the end of the heat I wasn't event thinking about the event I was just trying to surf and find more of those fun lefts - I love surfing waves like that."
Mahina Maeda (HAW), reigning World Junior Champion and Tahitian Mihimana Braye (PYF) were also among the day's standout surfers, posting excellent scores for fast and powerful surfing, impressing the hundreds of onlookers on Sydney's iconic Manly Beach.
The Qualifying Series (QS) Men's and Women's QS6000 divisions will start on Monday and see a week of non-stop action at Manly Beach. The action won't be confined to the water with skateboarding demos and competitions, music concerts, art displays and more.
More info www.AustralianOpenofSurfing.com