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The 22-year old Brisa Hennessy earned her first CT victory after besting Manuel in the Final and rookie Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) in the Semifinals today at Sunset Beach. 

A Final with hefty implications unfolded as Hennesy and local charger Manuel battled to see who would take the No. 1 spot on the World Rankings. Hennessy started off her first-ever CT Final with an early lead but Manuel’s opening 6.33 put her right back in the heat and quick in-and-out to take the lead before making a priority error halfway through the affair. 

Hennessy’s 5.23 put her back into the lead and required a 4.73 of Manuel heading into the final six minutes as the Kauian went for it all on a major maneuver and fell from the top to the bottom. The Costa Rica representative found one last opportunity and turned in a 7.00 to secure her a massive victory, the country’s first on the CT. 

Brisa Hennessy © Brent Bielmann/World Surf League

“I’ve just dreamed about this moment and never thought it was possible,” said Hennessy. “It was an honor to surf against Malia. I feel like she has such an amazing connection out here and just all the people in my life, thank you. This is the reason I was able to do this today.” 

Malia Manuel ©Brent Bielmann/World Surf League)

“You definitely reflect and think about all those moments that brought you here and made you who you are,” added Hennessy. “I barely made it back into the CT. I had to go to the Challenger Series and that was an emotional rollercoaster. I think it’s the people that are behind you and in your village that make you who you are and are your light. My family, my friends, my mom and dad, my grandparents, Glen Hall who was with me since the beginning of my rookie year and has seen me grow and has seen me at my lowest. Costa Rica’s given me so much, it’s given me the gift of surfing. The gift of the ocean and the gift of connection to so many people around the world. I hope I can carry the love of Pura Vida around the world and hopefully inspire people.” 

An immaculate run through the competition for eventual runner-up Manuel ended in dismay after taking down event threat and in-form rookie Gabriela Bryan (HAW) for their Semifinal duel. Manuel’s final effort, a 7.33, was enough to secure the heat win and take her into her seventh-career CT Final. Manuel came into the season as a WSL wildcard and now sits at No. 2 in the world. 

©Tony Heff/World Surf League

“It was a tough end to my year coming so close,” said Manuel.”I’m very thankful to Jessi and everyone at WSL for giving me an opportunity to have a wildcard in this first half of the year. It gave me the motivation to prove to myself that I still wanted it and I’m here. I’m back.”