|Hawaii Surfers Dominate Opening Rounds of Billabong Pro Pipeline
Local charger and event wildcard Moana Jones Wong (HAW) was one of the few surfers to keep her focus on the lefts of Banzai Pipeline and her strategy paid off as she put together a combination of two scores to narrowly beat five-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) and Brisa Hennessy (CRI).
“I started surfing Pipe when I was 12, and I’ve been coming here consistently since I was 18,” said Wong. “Surfing against Carissa pushes me to be better because she’s the best in the world. I look up to her and I want to surf as good as she can.”
Hawaiian rookie Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) dominated the final heat of Opening Round 1 with commitment at Backdoor as she took down Lakey Peterson (USA) in second place and sent World No. 6 Caroline Marks (USA) into the treacherous Elimination Round.
Heat 2 was stacked with local talent featuring Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Malia Manuel (HAW), and Gabriela Bryan (HAW), all hailing from the island of Kauai. Manuel opted to go right and was searching for a wave at Backdoor, while Weston-Webb and Bryan looked for opportunities at Pipeline. Manuel’s patience finally paid off with five minutes left on the clock when she scored an excellent 8.17 (out of a possible 10) for a deep Backdoor barrel and secured her spot in the Round of 16.
“To be honest I was super stressed, I wanted to alleviate that by catching a few waves and kind just getting the ball rolling,” said Manuel. “I’ve spent a lot of time out there this winter, it’s my first real winter here at Pipeline and I had such a good crew and great support. It’s really hard to get waves out there to practice so it doesn’t matter how much time you spend out there, sometimes it all comes down to being in the right spot.”