By Stacie Perry
If you think the toughest thing about Huntington Beach are guys with tribal tattoos, wearing wife-beaters, and walking pit bulls with spiked collars, then you obviously weren’t watching the Havianas Women’s Pro take place this week’ the field was strong, and the competition was fierce. The overwhelming topic-of-discussion when the women’s heats were on was how much the women?s competition has improved, and all you had to do was watch a couple of waves come through to realize that these girls can surf better than you. Yes, better than you.
The women battled it out in the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon. The surf increased throughout the heats, which combined with the strong rip current running through the contest area, making the paddle back out to the lineup tough.
Quarterfinal one saw strong surfing by Rochelle Ballard with several good scoring waves, one of which she managed to weave through the pier in classic Huntington Beach style. Also advancing out of the first heat was Jacqueline Silva from Brazil, who narrowly beat out Hawaiiian Melanie Bartels. In quarterfinal two, Megan Abubo took the lead early on with two great waves but fell to second when nineteen-year-old phenom Sofia Mulanovich scored a 7.1 in the later part of the heat.
Quarterfinal three got the best surf of the round, with booming sets rolling in. Pauline Menczer took advantage of the good conditions by throwing up several huge off-the-lips and whitewash re-entries, making it to the next round. Lynette MacKenzie also earned a spot in the semifinals with a bunch of fantastic wave combinations and working the inside reform on almost ever wave.
The “Thunder From Down Under” took over during Quarterfinal Four with an all-Australian contingent. Prue Jeffries, Trudy Todd, and Serena Brooke all surfed well during the heat, but Serena was narrowly eliminated.
The semifinals and final took place Saturday afternoon in two- to three- foot surf with mushy conditions prevailing. In semifinal one, Jacqueline Silva surfed herself into the final with a solid 7.83 ride, taking it vertical on her snaps. Sofia Mulanovich once again proved why she?s rated number one on the WQS tour by taking out Megan Abubo by less than five-tenths of a point. The second semifinal was once again full of Australian contestants. Trudy Todd cruised through the heat in the positions with a high scoring wave, which solidified her spot in the final. Last year?s Women’s US Open Of Surfing Winner Pauline Menczer came from behind with a high scoring set wave late in the heat, moving her from fourth place into second place and advancing into the finals.
The onshore flow increased during the final, making it tough for the ladies to find much open face to work with. The finalist included Jacqueline Silva, Sofia Mulanovich of Peru, and Aussies Trudy Todd and Pauline Menczer. Trudy Todd, led the heat in the beginning with two five-point rides in the first few minutes and was the first to catch a third wave. But after a long flat spell during the early part of the heat, the sets began to slowly push through, and Pauline Menczer began on her road to domination. Twenty-three minutes into the final, she received the highest wave score of the final with a 7.1, putting her into the lead and moving Trudy into second. Sofia Mulanovich and Jacqueline Silva surfed a strong heat, but couldn?t come up with the right wave combinations and placed third and fourth respectively.
When asked what she thought of the competition at Huntington this year, the 2002 Havianas Women’s Pro winner Pauline Menczer replied, “I just really enjoy surfing out here?and the shopping.” The womens? tour is now on their way to Anglet, France, where heats will begin Monday, August 5th. On the podium with trophy in hand, Rockin? Fig asked Pauline if she was ready to party. She quickly replied, “What do you think?” Which is also what your humble reporter plans to do?right now.