Peruvian surfs to OP Pro victory
Mulanovich takes the early women's Triple Crown lead
Conditions don't appear to matter, nor what's on the line.
Sofia Mulanovich enjoys surfing at Haleiwa -- and performs extremely well there.
The 23-year-old Peruvian professional came through with yet another big result at the famed break on Oahu's North Shore, winning the women's Op Pro Hawaii yesterday.
The Op Pro was the opening event of the women's Vans Triple Crown of Surfing -- a prestigious series of three big contests at premier Hawaii venues -- as well as the season finale for the World Qualifying Series.
"I'm super stoked to win this event; it's such a good event here in Hawaii," said Mulanovich, currently the fourth-ranked surfer in the world and $4,500 richer with the victory. The size of the waves "doesn't matter. I had fun."
Mulanovich also won the Triple Crown opener at Haleiwa in 2003 in medium-sized waves.
In fairly big surf at the same contest the following year, she became the first South American world champion -- male or female -- after finishing in second place to seal the title.
In small, but fairly consistent and clean 2- to 5-foot face waves yesterday, Mulanovich delivered her second Haleiwa win. Her top two waves in the four-woman final scored 15.84 (out of 20) total points.
And, she not only has another victory, but also the early lead in the Triple Crown standings. The series awards its own championship title and a $10,000 bonus to the top overall performer in the three events.
Mulanovich has yet to win a Triple Crown, and she can now focus more on that championship since she has already been mathematically eliminated from contention for this year's World Championship Tour title.
"I would love to win the Triple Crown," said the Punta Hermosa native. "It's a really prestigious thing to win, and Hawaii is the (most important) place to win everything."
Winning every heat she surfed in the two-day event but the final, teenage standout Stephanie Gilmore of Australia placed second with 13.60 total points.
It was just the latest of many big results this year for the 18-year-old, who had already secured a spot on the elite WCT, generally reserved for the world's top 17 women's surfers next year through earlier results on the WQS.
Just last month, the 2006 WQS runner-up won the most recent WCT contest in Australia after gaining entry with a wild card.
The final two contests of the women's Triple Crown are the last of the 2006 WCT, and Gilmore will have the opportunity to again secure a wild card into at least the first if she can place in the top two in a 12-surfer trials heat.
"I don't think I ran out of steam, just ran out of waves," Gilmore said of her performance yesterday. "I was hoping luck would go my way and that I would get a couple of those bumps Sofia was getting, but it just wasn't my day. Still, I came here to have fun and make a final, and to make a final in my first Hawaii event, I'm stoked."
Also in her first contest in Hawaii, Brazil's Tais Almeida placed third with 12.46 total points. Her countrywoman, Jacqueline Silva, took fourth with 10.00, but positioned herself well to re-qualify for the WCT with the result.
Aussie Jessi Miley-Dyer went down in the semifinals, but won the WQS and earned a spot on next year's WCT. Hawaii's Melanie Bartels lost in the quarters, but finished No. 3 on the WQS to also ensure her spot on the elite tour.
Among the other big names to go down before the final, current world No. 1 Layne Beachley and No. 2 Melanie Redman-Carr were eliminated in the semis, while defending world and Triple Crown champion Chelsea Georgeson lost in the quarters. All three are from Australia.
First-day standout Carissa Moore, a 14-year-old freshman at Punahou School, also was eliminated in the quarterfinals, as was 13-year-old Malia Manuel and world No. 13 Rochelle Ballard. Along with Bartels, they were the highest Hawaii finishers at the Op Pro.