Malia Manuel wins the Girls'
After a week of competition in conditions ranging all the way from tiny to testing, Brazilian up-and-comer Jesse Mendes has emerged as the winner of the Australian Open of Surfing in Manly.
Following a runner-up finish at the QS6000 in Newcastle last Sunday, the lean and lightning-fast goofy-footer went one better against number one seed Julian Wilson in a hard-fought final to take a commanding lead atop the World Qualifying Series’ ratings.
With the finals’ day dawning to clean and punchy offshore peaks along Manly’s famed shoreline, both guys had to survive a number of tight match-ups to reach the finals, with Jules scraping past Alex Ribeiro in Semi One while Mendes stomped a sizey full-rotation air-reverse in Semi Two to put an end to inform Japanese surfer Hiroto Ohhara’s run.
Jules opened strongly in the thirty-minute final, combining a crisp backhand belt with a tricky blow-tail reverse off the close-out to post an 8.67 on his first wave. Mendes then answered back with a couple of zippy forehand carve combinations to take an early lead. With the high tide slowing things down and Jules falling on a couple of comeback attempts, the young Brazilian looked to have made a fatal mistake late in the game when he let last year’s world number eight take a clean left under priority and belt it to the tune of a 9.33. The decision turned out to be a stroke of genius, however, as he picked off an even better-looking left less than a minute later and ripped it all the way to the sand for a 9.40 and a chairing up the beach.
‘I'm so happy to get that win,’ Mendes told the WSL afterwards. ‘Coming up against Julian in the final was crazy. I knew I was going to have to surf my best, so that's what I did.’
On the women’s side of the draw, Reunion Island’s Johanne Defay mirrored Mendes in making her second final in as many weeks but unfortunately fell short of back-to-back wins when she was beaten by Hawaii’s Malia Manuel in a hotly-contested affair. Both girls caught a flurry of waves and posted scores in the excellent range, but in the end an 8.57 and a 9.30 from Manuel in the latter stages of the final was enough to allow her to go one better from her runner-up finish at the same event last year.
The Aussie leg of the WQS will now move on to the Komunity Project Central Coast Pro which kicks off on Wednesday.