The 2017 Australian Open of Surfing Finalists Johanne Defay (FRA) Jesse Mendes (BRA), Malia Manuel (HAW) and Julian Wilson (AUS).
Credit: © WSL / Tom Bennett

Manly, Sydney NSW/AUS (Sunday, March 5, 2017) –  Jesse Mendes and Malia Manuel have taken out the 2017 Australian Open of Surfing at Manly in some of the best conditions the event has seen in its history. Manly tuned it on for the second WSL Qualifying Series (QS) 6,000 event of the year with clean 2-to-3 foot waves for finals day.

The Final of the Girls Make Your Move Women’s Pro was a familiar situation as Manuel found herself up against French natural-footer Johanne Defay. Defay took an early lead and looked to have one hand on the winners trophy for the first half of the heat. Manuel kept plugging away on lefts and rights up and down the beach but couldn’t find a score of consequence. Eventually, Manuel found a long-running right-hander and the young Hawaiian got to work, slicing on her rail all the way to the beach to score an excellent 8.57 and hit the lead. She then backed it up with a near perfect 9.30 leaving Defay chasing a near perfect single wave score, a feat she was unable to achieve.

“I’m so happy I’m not the bridesmaid today,” Manuel said. “I think when you return to an event that you have finished runner-up at you can really put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform. I didn’t want to do that and took a relaxed approach, which seemed to work. It was awesome to surf heats with all of the CT women and has got me super pumped for Snapper.”

Malia Manuel matching Manly’s power pound for pound.
Credit: © WSL / Ethan Smith

Two weeks ago, Johanne Defay had never made a QS final. The current World No. 5 has now surfed two in as many weeks. Although she was unable to get the back-to-back victories, Defay takes a lot out of her experiences on the Australian QS leg.

“This has been a crazy two weeks,” Defay said. “There has been a lot of surfing and staying focused which is new to me. I made a few priority mistakes in the final, which was disappointing. I was waiting for a set wave that never seemed to come, but making another final is great. It has me so excited to get to Snapper and see how I perform there. I feel like this was good training for me so I hope it pays off on the CT.”

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