Malia Manuel Wins Azores 6*

Malia Manuel (HAW) and Felicity Palmateer (AUS). Photo: Aquashot

Malia Manuel (HAW) and Felicity Palmateer (AUS). Photo: Aquashot

Manuel Wins Billabong Girls Azores Islands Pro. PRIME Begins in Epic Waves

Sao Miguel, Azores Islands (Wednesday, September 28, 2011) – Malia Manuel (Kauai, HAW) 16, has won the ASP 6-Star Billabong Girls Azores Islands Pro defeating Felicity Palmateer (Perth, AUS) 19, is a low scoring final which saw the lead change several times, 11.90 to 10.40 in excellent 3-4ft peaks at Praia de Santa Barbara. The ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro held six heats of Round One in perfect conditions with the stacked international field enjoying some high performance, rippable peaks and deep barrels to cap off a marathon day of competition.

Manuel made it back-to-back Star event victories following her win in Pantin, Spain last week to finish off her European campaign in the best possible fashion. In the tactical final where positioning and wave selection proved crucial, it was the young Hawaiian, whose grandfather originated from the Azores islands, gaining the edge with a solid 6.67 (out of 10) with a series of backhand snaps to take victory.

"It feels surreal right now. I had struggled at the beginning of the year and then come to Europe and wind two events in-a-row is just extraordinary. I don't know what to say. I am so happy we had waves and it was a great final. To win back-to-back feels really good. (laughs)"

With both finalists looking for the advantage, tactics and positioning became crucial with many position changes made by both girls. Manuel gave little importance to priority as the sets continued to pulse during the lowering tide.

"There were a few different peaks you could surf and a couple of different options so I wasn't worried about priority and was just trying to put on a show and get some waves. I was waiting for a right to come through but it didn't happen. It was a low scoring final and I am so lucky and happy to come away with a win."

Palmateer claimed her best result of the season with her first final appearance in the 2011 season. The powerhouse goofy footer ripped apart the jacking peaks in her semi-final matchup to enter the final in great form. Unlucky not to latch onto a decent scoring ride, Palmateer has jumped up the Star rankings.

"I am really excited and every heat I kept getting through and I am so happy. I haven't had any good results this year so just to make the final has given me a massive confidence boost. I am happy for Malia for winning and qualifying for the tour and happy for myself for getting second. I was sitting out there this morning and I heard the girls were on and it was pumping. It usually doesn't happen like that so I am stoked."

Justine Dupont (Lacanau, FRA) 20, who finished equal 5th, today claimed her maiden ASP Europe Women's Open title after a fantastic season through the European events in 2011 which was capped off with another stunning performance in the ASP 6-Star Billabong Girls Azores Islands Pro. The friendly natural-footer who has amazing ability on a longboard as well, surfed the powerful Santa Barbara peaks with style and power showing her potential as one of the world's best female surfers.

"I feel really great at the moment and it is an honour to win this title. It was one of my goals because I missed out on the Pro Junior title this year so to win this is fantastic. All the French girls were competing this season. Even Pauline (Ado) has done all the contests and really wanted to win this title. I want to thank apart from Pauline, to Alizee (Arnaud) and Cannelle (Bulard) who have pushed me higher and higher in each event. The level of surfing was really high and it was difficult in every contest. I also want to thank my new coach, Richard Marsh, who was with me in Pantin and also here in the Azores and his help has been very important to me."

The ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro saw some of the best waves of the season pump into Praia de Santa Barbara as the swell increased and the wind swung back off-shore. Gabe Kling (Florida,USA) 31, lead the charge with a massive two-wave combined total of 18.47 (out of 20) while Adam Melling (Lennox Head, AUS) 26, claimed the first perfect 10-point wave of the event.

Kling, who failed to miss the mid-year cut on the elite ASP World tour, opened his account with an excellent 8.60 (out of 10) then found another 8-point ride to eventually paddle into a bomb left which he destroyed with two huge hacks to claim a near perfect 9.87 (out of 10) the highest single score of the event.

"It was some of the funnest waves I have had all year. It was looking a little suspect but the wind turned and the tide dropped and it was fun. I got two good ones and then that left came in. It is not often you get three really good waves in a heat. With 30-minute heats you can kink of sit back and wait for them to come to you. It seemed like there were a lot of scores and a lot of waves all round. It is going off so you want those kind of heats. This is what you want for a contest, overhead, off-shore and just really fun."

Melling won a high scoring, emotional heat as he came back from a slow start to claw his way back into the clash with a deep clean forehand barrel to claim the first perfect 10-point ride of the event.

"It was awesome the way it came to me like that. I was behind the 8-ball for a bit and then that right came through. I just scraped into it and just got out of it so I was happy with that. A couple of hours ago it was a different picture but now it has picked up and the tide has dropped and there are some good barrels out there."

Miguel Pupo (BRA) 19, fresh from his World Tour opening event at Trestles, had a slow start to his ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro campaign to eventually find his rhythm and gain control of the clash.

"At the beginning of the heat I was nervous as I didn't catch any waves and I was sitting out there hoping to catch something. Then a nice set came to me and got into the barrel with a late drop. I almost fell but I got the score and a couple more waves so I enjoyed it a lot."

"I made it onto the Tour and I am happy about that," continued Pupo. "I am surfing with the big boys now and I lost my first two heats on the World Tour. All the guys came up to me and congratulated me and welcomed me to the tour. Mick and Taj came up to me so it made me feel good and to be a part of it all."

A first call will be made tomorrow, Thursday September 29, 2011, with Round One of the ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro to continue conditions permitting.

Billabong Azores Islands Pro
Billabong Girls Azores Islands Pro
Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) Men’s PRIME Event
Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) 6-Star Women’s Event
Final stop on the 2011 ASP European Men’s and Women's Series
Sao Miguel, Azores Islands
September 26 to October 2, 2011