Malia Manuel is no stranger to Huntington Beach. In the past three years the 16-year-old from Hawaii has found grace among the shifting peaks of the California landmark more often than not–winning the US Open two years ago and the Pro Junior last year. Keeping in stride with her fruitful relationship with Huntington, this year Malia found herself in the 6.0 Pro Junior final once again. Can she pull off another win at the venue? The numbers don’t lie, and if we were betting men, we’d put it all on Malia in the Pro Junior final.
This is your third final at the US Open. What is it about Huntington and you? You seem like you can do no wrong out there. Can you talk about that a bit?
I’ve always loved to surf Huntington, ever since I started doing contests in California. I won my first National title there at the age of 10, and also the US Open at 14. I’ve visited Huntington every Summer since I was a baby because my grandpa lived on 9th street. Having family that lives here definitely helps as far as always being calm and comfortable goes.
The US Open is known for drawing huge crowds of people and I can only imagine that a crowd like that would only make it more difficult to compete. Is that something you’ve found to be true, and if so, how do you deal with the stress of surfing in big events?
It’s a kick to see all the different people and personalities during US Open week. To tell you the truth, I never realize how big or little the crowd is when I surf. I’m usually just worried about which peak I’m going to surf, since Huntington is known for changing during my heats.
If you do happen to win another event at the Pro Junior, what effect will that have on your career?
Well I only made the Jr Pro final this year, but I’d sure love to win another ‘QS event here some year. Wish I had a chance this year–it’s a $50,000 prize for first! Hahaha, I blew it.
How long until we can see you make a full-time push towards the World Tour?
In 2011 I plan on doing the WQS and trying to qualify for the World Tour.
So you’ve got the Pro Junior final coming up. Who do you see as your greatest competition at the event and why?
The three girls I’ll be surfing with in the Pro Junior final are: Coco Ho who’s on the WT, reigning World Jr. Champ, Laura Enever, and also Sage (Erickson) who is a top WQS surfer–they’re all gonna be tough.