The U.S. Open's Youngest winner Malia Manuel prepares to defend her title
By Travis Ferré
Last year, underneath the concrete pilings of Huntington Beach's infamous pier, Malia Manuel made her mainstream debut with a win at the U.S. Open Surfing. Joining her in the final was fellow Hawaiian Coco Ho. The two are part of a brigade of young girls who are willing and very able to bring women's surfing to a place it's never been: in front of a crowd — and just in time too. With only seven events and a lack of sponsor support this year, the ASP Women's World Tour is in the middle of a break that lasts from April 14th until September 30th. We caught up with Malia the day she returned from a trip to Indo and interrupted her jet lag nap to make her talk to us.
SURFING MAGAZINE: HEY MALIA, HOW ARE YOU?
Malia Manuel: I'm good, just got here yesterday from Indo. I'm really hoping the waves will pick up for the US Open though. It's flat right now.
WELL BEFORE WE TALK ABOUT FLAT HB, TELL US ABOUT INDO — THAT SOUNDS A BIT MORE INTERESTING
Malia: Just be prepared for me to think for a minute or two…I'm slow today.
WE'RE IN NO HURRY
Indo was long lines, decades of flights, hours in layover, nights in hotels, all you can eat buffets, Belgium chocolate coffee…All experienced in route to a wonderful trip to the Mentawais. It was a Nike 6.0 trip with- Kai Barger, Koa Smith, Riley Metcalf, Ian Gentil, Monyca Bryne-Wickey, Alex Smith and myself on the Pelagic. We got some really fun waves everyday. I'm pretty sure we all got some shots.
THAT SOUNDS DELIGHTFUL. ARE YOU COPING WITH THE RETURN TO CALIFORNIA?
Yeah, I actually love SoCal. Just a little homesick after being away for like two months.
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO DEFENDING YOUR TITLE IN HUNTINGTON THIS YEAR?
Yeah! I love coming to Huntington every year. It may not be the best wave in the world, but I love it.
THERE IS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT THE WOMENS TOUR AND HOW IT'S GETTING BETTER, ARE YOU READY TO MAKE YOUR PUSH TO JOIN THE BIG LEAGUES?
I’m in no rush to join the big leagues. It’s about time to put my foot in the door and do a few WQS' this year though.
WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE SURFER RIGHT NOW?
I always love to watch all the Kauai boys, but I’m really happy Joel is leading the ‘CT now. And for women, Steph will always be one of my favorites.
YES, JOEL AND STEPH ARE QUITE THE STYLISH TWOSOME AT THE TOP RIGHT NOW. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEW LOOK OF THE WOMENS ASP?
I did see the new media kit on the girls. I guess its the new trend to be really feminine. I think girls need to be feminine — but dignified at the same time.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AFTER THE EVENT HERE?
I get to go home! And I’ll be sixteen on August 9th, so I get to drive myself to go surfing everyday. I’m so excited. I have a couple months off, until this winter when I might do a couple contests.
DO YOU HAVE A SET OF WHEELS PICKED OUT YET?
Yep! I have my Honda Civic all tinted, new stereo and rims waiting to be driven around Kauai. [Laughs]