The Australian Open of Surfing has continued today at Manly with Round 2 of men’s being completed in two foot surf on a mechanical right-hand bank as the strong swell of Tropical Cyclone Winston continues to dissipate. A group of surfers on the cusp of qualifying for the 2016 WSL Championship Tour (CT) were the standouts on Day 3.
Kanoa Igarashi (USA) took to the water in the first heat of the morning while the wind was still relatively light. Igarashi looked focused as he continues to build towards his debut Championship Tour (CT) event at Snapper next week. Igarashi’s methodical approach saw him post two solid scores for a heat total of 15.20 (out of a possible 20) to progress to Round 3.
“The Snapper event is always in the back of my mind,” Igarashi said. “It’s difficult to focus on a heat at this event when I know I’ll be paddling out in my first CT event next week but this is a great way to warm up and get my head into contest mode. This event is massively important for me though, I do want to get the points and have a great start to the year.“
Northern Beaches local Cooper Chapman (Narrabeen/NSW) is enjoying surfing at an elite level contest in his own backyard. Chapman surfed with a huge variation in the manoeuvres, looking sharp and comfortable on his equipment. His comfort with his board was almost jeopardised when he snapped the nose off yesterday but luckily he had it repaired ready for this morning.
“It’s nice competing close to home – it’s the only time of the year I can do it,” Chapman said. “I do feel more pressure competing in front of a home crowd, but still feel lucky to do be able to do it. I was a bit nervous before that heat so glad to get it out the way. This board is my favourite; I got it at the start of the year and have loved it. Yesterday I snapped the nose off surfing at home but got it fixed and it seemed to hold up.”
Connor O’Leary’s (Cronulla/NSW) big frame was not a problem in the small soft waves he had to work with today. The powerful goofy-footer hammered the right-handers all the way to the shoreline. O’Leary went vertical on a number of turns to earn a near perfect 9.13 (out of a possible 10) as he continues to set his sites on the CT.
“Coming from Cronulla I’m used to getting smaller beach break waves in summer so home is a pretty good training ground for me,” O’Leary said. “After coming so close to making the CT at the end of last year I realised you can’t take these early events for granted, you have to stay focused and keen to win for the entire year. I got a Quarters finish at Newcastle so I’m keen to continue that form here and set myself up for a great competitive season.”
American Michael Dunphy was given the daunting task of competing against CT powerhouse Michel Bourez (Tahiti). The veteran Bourez had moments of brilliance, but it was Dunphy who was able to string his heat together surfing well too the conditions to post a modest heat total of 12.87 to win the heat and continue into Round 3.
“Michel is obviously such an amazing surfer – really powerful,” Dunphy said. “I really love his surfing and look up to him but I feel like in waves like this I can overcome him or anyone really. I feel like the last year I have been surfing really well but it just hasn’t transitioned into results, so I’m glad to make that heat.”
Carlos Munoz (CRI) took a huge gamble in his Round 2 heat opting to sit on a completely different peak to everyone else in his heat. This paid off as Munoz found a number of right-handers that offered a great end section for the young man from Costa Rica to take to the air or layback on. He will surf again in Round 3.
“I really want to make it to the CT,” Munoz said. “I’ve been aiming to make it for almost four years now so this year I’m feeling really good and more knowledgeable than ever. I feel like I could go all the way at this contest.”
Former CT competitor Dion Atkinson is generally known for his powerful surfing in big powerful waves, not the sort of waves on offer at Manly today. Atkinson was not phased as he still managed to throw his big frame around with buckets of spray with some impressive forehand hacks. Atkinson posted a heat total of 13.83 to win his heat.
“The waves are pretty hard out there but coming from Seaford on the mid-coast of SA has helped me to handle these conditions,” Atkinson said. “When you come to this event your never expecting incredible waves so you just take what you get given. Manly is a pretty special place for me, I’ve been coming here since I was doing Junior contests and even got my only 10-point-ride here which is funny as I’m a bigger guy. Every year I make my main goal is to re-qualify so hopefully I can keep this momentum through this event and into the next ones.”