HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Early Friday morning, Malia Manuel surfed lights out and finished runner-up at the Maui Women's Pro.
It was quite a feat for the 24-year-old Kauai native, considering she was only a matter of months removed from the worst injury of her young career.
"It's been an interesting year," said a thoughtful, energetic Manuel to Hawaii News Now in a phone interview.
Looking to start off 2017 strong, Manuel was en route to a big win at Margaret River in Australia back in April, but suffered a torn MCL, which sidelined her for four months. Since she was a child, Manuel said that surfing was all she knew. But being sidelined made her explore other possibilities in life - a period of time she likes to refer to as her "semi-retirement."
"It was really frustrating," she said. I had never taken that much time off surfing, i never really had a forced break. But honestly, I'm in a whole better place now and am really thankful. It was hard at first not surfing. It took a while, took about six weeks but it helped me grow. I lived a normal life for a couple months."
Manuel traveled to Europe and took her mind off the sport by going to countries that weren't renown for their surf.
"I had to surrender (myself) and grow from it. I traveled, learned a lot, rehabbed my knee, met some amazing people and really learned a lot about myself," she said.
After she healed from injury, Manuel gained a fresh perspective not just on life, but the way to approach competitive surfing.
While surfing at the Maui Women's Pro, she said that her mind was at ease - not worrying about the judges scorecards.
"Of course there's pressure to surf, your career is based off other people's opinions and you always want to do well and be satisfied with your performance. I talked with my coach and it was hard to not have high expectations because I just wanted to get back into swing of things, but I wasn't chasing qualification points, or going for a world title. I took a different approach … I just knew I had to be on my best. I knew I had 40 minutes and I really wanted to do the best that I could."
Although Manuel didn't take first place in the competition, she didn't let losing to Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) get her down. She was just happy enough to surf in a final in her home state.
"It was so nice to make a final in Hawaii that was one my dreams and going up against, like, the most dominant surfer in the whole world, too. It was definitely a dream. My corner has been amazing and I'm happy to finish off the year with beautiful surf."
As for what's next? Manuel is already looking forward to 2018 as she plans out her 2018 schedule. But not before some well-deserved rest.
"Regroup for next year," she said of her offseason plans. "I'm already planning for next year and going to new places. I'm ready to have a nice offseason and it's the best best time of the year to be off, winter in Hawaii, so I'll be enjoying home."
Here's the final results from the Maui Women's Pro:
Maui Women's Pro Final Results:
1 - Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2 - Malia Manuel (HAW)
Maui Women's Pro Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.87 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.43
SF 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) 16.10 def. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 10.00
Top 5 on the WSL Women's Leaderboard (after Maui Women's Pro):
1: Tyler Wright (AUS)
2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
4: Courtney Conlogue (USA)
5: Carissa Moore (HAW)