What: Honda U.S. Open of Surfing Presented by O’Neill – Women’s 6 Star WQS Event #22
Where: Huntington Beach California
When: 18 – 27 July 2008
Malia Manuel (HAW), 14, has claimed the Women’s Honda US Open of Surfing presented by O’Neill over fellow finalist Coco Ho (HAW), 17 – helping both ladies to make ASP history as the youngest finalists ever at the US Open of Surfing.
The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) 6-Star event saw some incredible performances today, but none as impressive as the young Hawaiians taking down some of the biggest names in professional surfing.
“I’m so stoked right now,” Manuel said. “My sponsors gave me the wildcard into this event and I was just happy to be here. To get to surf against some of my heroes and to be in the Final with my friend Coco is just something I would have never dreamed of.”
Sticking to her game plan throughout the event, Manuel started strong in the opening moments of the Final, securing two lengthy righthanders to post solid scores while her opponent struggled to find her footing in the challenging afternoon conditions. “There weren’t many waves out there this afternoon which was too bad,” Manuel said. “I just got lucky that a couple linked up for me and I was able get some scores under my belt.”
Manuel issued huge upsets over the course of the event, defeating former ASP Women’s World Champion and 2006 US Open Champion Sofia Mulanovich (PER) in her Quarterfinals heat before posting a dominating heat win over current ASP WQS ratings leader Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) as well as an impressive win over Ho en route to becoming the youngest US Open Winner ever.
Ho issued her share of shocking upsets as well, defeating ASP Women’s World Tour veteran Melanie Bartels (HAW) and reigning ASP Women’s World Champion and defending US Open Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) on her way to the final. Ho’s potential sweep of both the women’s events was stopped by Manuel’s Honda US Open Final victory.
“The conditions really came down to the one who got the wave with the wall,” Ho said. “I couldn’t find my feet and I had to watch her catch a really good right. It was just cool being in the Final, because it was my goal to just make the Quarters, so I’m over the moon.”
Fitzgibbons, who has already qualified for the 2009 ASP Women’s World Tour, finished in equal third-place behind Manuel, increasing her ASP WQS ratings lead over the field. “Malia was surfing really well and got off to a great start and just kept going from there,” Fitzgibbons said. “It was hard to play catch-up with the waves that were coming through and she’s the deserving heat winner.”
Fitzgibbons will take a break and miss the ASP WQS 6-Star event in Portugal to recharge, but will be back and ready for when competition resumes in Hawaii.
Gilmore, who also finished equal third, was defeated in her Semifinals heat by event standout Ho. Gilmore put in a hard-fought battle against the young North Shore native, but could not find the score she needed to advance over her opponent. “I’ve been watching Coco (Ho) the whole event and she’s probably my favorite up-and-coming surfer,” Gilmore said. “It was cool to have a heat with her and see what her strategies are. These are some really valuable points on my WQS seeding. I’m bummed I didn’t get the win, but that’s competition.”
Gilmore will travel from the Honda US Open in Huntington to France for the next ASP Women’s World Tour event, where the Rip Curl Pro Mademoiselle will take place from August 28 – September 1 in Hossegor, France. The ASP WQS women’s competitors will head from Huntington to Portugal for another ASP WQS 6-Star event, the Billabong Girls Cascais Festival, which will be held in Guincho, Portugal from July 31 – August 3.
1 – Malia Manuel (HAW) 14.34
2 – Coco Ho (HAW) 7.90
Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) 13.10 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 12.67
Heat 2: Coco Ho (HAW) 10.83 def Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 6.83
Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) 15.83 def. Sofia Mulanovich (USA) 13.10
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.00 def. Samantha Cornish (AUS) 1.60
Heat 3: Coco Ho (HAW) 12.00 def. Melanie Bartels (HAW) 8.23
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.67 def. Bethany Hamilton (HAW) 9.17