Bells pumps as women shred Round 3

Hard-driving Manuel is proving a force to be reckoned with in her first year on tour. Joli

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

Thursday was another late day for the ladies, who kicked off Round 3 at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach after two complete rounds of men's competition. Round 3 (aka the Telstra Power Round) is a tricky one: there are three surfers in the water. No elimination, no ski assist, and no priority. There's motivation to skip to the quarters, but on the other hand, surfers really have nothing to lose.

Sally Fitzgibbons, Courtney Conlogue and Lakey Peterson finished the last heat of the day within one point of each other--and about five tiny points shy of perfection. Malia Manuel upped her salary an extra $5,000 with a check from Telstra for the round's highest-heat total of 18.30. Carissa Moore, Steph Gilmore and Tyler Wright also posted totals in the excellent range. Round 3 can really go big or bust, and in this case, thankfully, it tended toward the former.

In the fourth heat, Fitzgibbons dropped in deep, threw heaps of spray, and combo'ed her opponents early. Peterson stylishly threw her entire body into her turns and Conlogue cranked up the volume with a huge array of maneuvers as the swell continued pulsing during the second 15 minutes. The pair of Californians made an epic push to rip the win from Fitzgibbons's grasp in the final moments: Peterson posted a 6.33 and Conlogue scored a 7.83, but last year's winner had just enough of a lead to slip not-so-quietly into the quarters.

Fitzgibbons said waiting all day helped get her psyched up.

"The waves were pumping and I wanted to get out there, but it was worth the wait," she said. "It was a hard-fought battle in the last few minutes. It was really close -- an exciting heat. Gets the heart pumping! And it's cool to have the crowd hang around for the last heat of the day, you know, it's nearly dark and they're still here cheering, so that means a lot."

Steph Gilmore took off on a lot of waves during the second heat, but only a few of them were keepers. A bunch of liquid-smooth cutties and energetic fin wafts earned her a 17.50 total, but Malia Manuel was utterly shredding. The Hawaiian rookie shines in "go-for-broke rounds," as she calls them, and she looked super light, agile, and in-control. Manuel took the heat (and the $5,000 bonus) with an enormous 18.30 total.

"A lot of it has to do with good waves," Manuel said. "It's always helped me knowing that there's waves to be ridden out there, and obviously, coming up against Steph, you don't want to hold back. But yeah, it's just a memorable day. I've got my M.P. band on and I think he gave me some good waves out there."

The word on the street is that Bells is meant to be power surfed and Carissa Moore heard it loud at clear. The world champ was flawlessly sync'ed with The Bowl in heat three as she utilized its wide-open faces (and her 6.0 "gun") to complete grand, commanding turns. Her final 17.64 smashed Peru's Sofia Mulanovich and fellow Hawaiian Coco Ho, despite Ho's opening 9.27.

"I love being able to push a big board on a bigger wave, so I had a lot of fun out there," Moore said. "I definitely think there's a beauty to somebody doing really beautiful rail surfing."

Tyler Wright began the first heat with a 7.67, but Laura Enever batted back with a 6.0 and an 8.0, leaving yesterday's standout Sarah Mason in a combo situation. Tyler made her way back to the lead with lots of dynamic snaps and cutbacks, reeling in a 16.74 and a pass to the quarters with the rest of today's victors.

"I kept choosing the sets, which don't seem to be the ones to catch out there," Wright said. "You want to pick the right waves [without the jet ski assist] because it takes you two to four minutes to paddle back out, which doesn't seem that long, but in a heat of 30 minutes, it is quite long. But it's fun. It's pumping out there."

We're looking at possibly crowning a winner in tomorrow's clean 6 to 8-foot conditions.

Heat 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) 16.74, , Sarah Mason (NZL) 14.50, Laura Enever (AUS) 14.00
Heat 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) 18.30, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 17.50, Paige Hareb (NZL) 10.34
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 17.94, , Coco Ho (HAW) 12.60, Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 5.86
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.90, Lakey Peterson (USA) 15.20, Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.93

Heat 1: Sarah Mason (NZL) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Laura Enever (AUS)
Heat 3: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA)
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Sofia Mulanovich (PER)

QF 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. TBD
QF 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. TBD
QF 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. TBD
QF 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. TBD