Malia Manuel (Wailua, HI), 14, has claimed the GO211 LIVE featuring the Women's Honda U.S. Open of Surfing presented by O'Neill over fellow finalist Coco Ho. Both young Hawaiians are making ASP history as the youngest finalists ever at the Huntington Beach Pier for the U.S. 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 (Ho) 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 right-handers 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 to get some scores under my belt."
Manuel issued huge upsets today, defeating former ASP Women's World Champion and 2006 U.S. Open Champion Sofia Mulanovich (Lima, PER) in her Quarterfinals heat before posting a dominating heat win over current ASP WQS rankings leader Sally Fitzgibbons (Gerroa, 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 (Makaha, HI) and reigning ASP Women's World Champion and defending U.S. Open Champion Stephanie Gilmore (Tweed Heads, AUS) on her way to the final.
Ho's potential sweep of both the women's events was stopped by Manuel's Honda U.S. 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 finished equal third as well, 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 U.S. 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, 2008, 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, 2008
In addition to the finale of the U.S. Open Women's event, the ASP Grade-2 S3 Supergirl Pro Junior came to a close today with Honda U.S. Open Finalist Ho claiming victory over fellow finalists Nikita Robb (East London, ZAF), Sage Erickson (Ventura, CA) and Courtney Conlogue (Santa Ana, CA) with a come-from-behind victory over Robb, edging out prodigious South African by seven-tenths of a point.
"To be here standing on the beach with the crowd with the Pro Junior Title and the runner-up finish in the WQS, I'm really happy," Ho said.
"It's been a long week of surfing, and I'm going to Indo tomorrow with all of the girls that surfed in women's Quarterfinals and just going to relax after the week."
Robb jumped out into a commanding lead to open the ASP Grade-2 Women's Pro Junior but was unable to stave off the young Hawaiian.
"I started off really well, and after I got those first two good waves, I couldn't find anything else," Robb said.
"All the girls that were surfing out there were such amazing surfers, so you can't really take it away from anyone. Coco is surfing well, and she's on fire, and it's just one of those things."
Erickson and Conlogue had solid showings throughout the entire event but were unable to capitalize in the final.
Men's Round of 24
The Men's U.S. Open of Surfing moved through the Round of 24 today, narrowing it down to the sweet 16 for tomorrow's culmination.
Today's action saw local standout Timmy Reyes (Huntington Beach, CA) and fellow Californian Nathaniel Curran (Oxnard, CA) dominate the Round of 24, both putting in impressive performances as they moved one step closer to clinching the 2008 Honda U.S. Open title.
Reyes, current No. 14 on the ASP World Tour, finished in first over event standouts Damien Fahrenfort (Durban, ZAF), who advanced in second, and Basque native Hodei Collazo (Basque Country, ESP), by posting a solid heat total of 16.67 out of a possible 20 point score.
"I was going to miss this event because the World Tour events are so close together," Reyes said.
"It's home, and you've got to make time for home. Obviously, it brings a little bit of stress because you want to perform well in front of your family. I'm stoked with how things went today. I was in rhythm, and that's what you have to do."
Curran posted the day's highest Round of 5 heat total of 17.00 out of 20 points in an action-packed heat against Chris Waring (Seal Beach, CA) and Tahitian Michael Bourez (PYF).
"I knew I had two okay waves, and I was just trying to back it up with a bigger score," Curran said.
"I made it through my heat, so I'm stoked. I'm rated fourth on the WQS right now, and this will be a good score for me, so I'm super excited."
2008 US Women's Open of Surfing | Final
1. Malia Manuel (HAW) 14.34
2. Coco Ho (HAW) 7.90