The Surf Ranch Pro presented by Hurley determined its eight male finalists and four female finalists today after the conclusion of the Qualifying Round, the last opportunity for the world’s best surfers to showcase their best performances. The pressure was on as Stop No. 8 on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Surf Ranch Pro, will play a critical role in the 2018 World Title race. This is also the first time since 1985 that a title-deciding event has been held in a man-made wave.
After a trying day,
the men’s finalists are Gabriel Medina (BRA), Julian Wilson (AUS), Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), FIlipe Toledo (BRA), Owen Wright (AUS), Kelly Slater (USA), Miguel Pupo (BRA), and Sebastian Zietz (HAW).
And our women finalists are Carissa Moore (HAW), Lakey Peterson (USA), Caroline Marks (USA), and Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) will compete in the Final of the women’s event after a heated afternoon in Lemoore, California.
The pressure was on early with all of the first eleven competitors falling on at least one of their last opportunities. Pupo rose to the occasion and delivered a clutch performance to post an excellent 8.43 (out of a possible 10) and catapult to third place on the Leaderboard. Stop No. 8 will mark Pupo’s best result of the season after a string of disappointing performances — the Brasilian is guaranteed at least a 5th place finish by advancing on into the Final.
“It took me a little while to figure out how the event works, and I was trying to get my runs I trained for” Pupo said. “I got a couple of 6s, but I knew I had to go for it. I watched a lot of footage and picked up on learning you have to go for it. That was the best barrel I’ve had here on the right and when I looked up I saw I was coming out. I had to make that last blow-tail I always end on to get the score so it was nice to come out of that. My wife and baby are watching, and we have another one on the way so we’re just enjoying life.”
11-time WSL Champion Slater also secured his place in the Final after earning a 7.27 on the left today and advanced into the Top 8, narrowly surpassing Pupo and Zietz, who sit at No. 7 and No. 8 respectively. Slater will surf tomorrow at 9:48 a.m PST
“I was dropping pretty steadily and knew I wasn’t going to be comfortable after yesterday,” Slater said. “After you drop out of that Top 8, the pressure changes. It’s not hard to get that 6.40 on the left, but it’s easy to fall so that’s where the pressure comes. Obviously (Gabriel) Medina is a favorite, he could’ve won this thing off his first two waves and I think we’re all excited every time we see Filipe (Toledo) on the right, but it’s Medina who’s shown he can do it on both the left and right”
Wilson kept his World Title chase intact after decisive surfing to better both his scores on his final run. An excellent 8.60 for his left saw him into the Top 8, but the World No. 3 wasn’t done and soared for a huge air to earn a second excellent score of 8.67 to solidify his place in the Final.
“I’m happy with my performance for sure knowing that inside section my backhand is really hard to execute an air, but I got that done yesterday so it freed me up,” Wilson said. “I just had to commit to it and really happy I made it which helped solidify my spot to qualify. It was a nice right, but I think I do a lot more than that. To be honest I didn’t watch any surfing today, but saw those big scores and knew I had to make some ground. I’m psyched to be in the final day and get six more waves here.”
Zietz managed to remain just above the cutline at No. 8 after scoring a 6.83 on his last lefthander to improve his total. Zietz edged out Yago Dora (BRA), who finished the event in 9th place despite the highest single-wave score of the day, and will compete tomorrow at 9:32 a.m. PST for a shot at taking out the entire event.
“I was so nervous and I think it might’ve shown through a little bit, but I cleaned it up a little bit near the end,” Zietz said. “I felt like I got a couple good turns an before I went out I told myself just to bank a score, don’t get stuck in the lip. I’m just so stoked that’s over and it was a great show yesterday with Gabriel (Medina) and Filipe (Toledo) on another level. It’s fun coming down and watching them, seeing what they can do and putting on a real show for everyone.”
Igarashi, Toledo and Wright also improved their scores on the left to earn their place in tomorrow’s Final.
The world’s best female surfers took their last waves of the Qualifying Round, but the field were unable to put pressure on the Top 4 who held their positions on the Leaderboard to each claim their place in the Final.
Three-time WSL Champion Moore retained her No. 1 spot thanks to high scores on her opening run and will advance to the final day of competition. The current No. 5 on the Jeep Leaderboard wasn’t able to improve her scoreline today, despite nearly landing a massive air-reverse on her last right.
“I wasn’t too concerned about being first or fourth, I just really wanted to qualify for Finals day,” Moore said. “It’s kind of crazy that just from my very first run the first day carried over to today. The girls are really going to step it up and I know I’ll have to do something special to take it home. I still have to put my head down and work for it.”
World Title contender Peterson will keep the pressure on current Jeep Rankings Leader Gilmore as both are through to the final day of competition. The Santa Barbara native has the hometown crowd in attendance and has no intention of holding back for her final performance.
“I’m stoked to be in the finals and tomorrow it’s time to just let it all go,” Peterson said. “I’ll just focus on myself and not worry about what the other girls are doing, and just enjoy this wave. I kind of felt like Carissa (Moore) and Steph (Gilmore) were going to be there the whole time so it’ll be a lot of fun. Hopefully I can put on a show for everyone and I’ll definitely throw the air-reverse in there to see if I can land it. The timing has to be there and it all has to come together but, if I can land that and put a good left together, I think I’ll have a good crack at it.”
Gilmore’s style in the barrel and explosive turns will be a hard combination to beat and the CT veteran will lead off finals day tomorrow to set the pace at 9:00 a.m. PT.
“It’s a new playing field so I’ll just have to go out there feeling confident and strong in my abilities,” Gilmore said. “All these girls are surfing so well and I’m happy to make the Final. It’s an equal third at worst, which is a great result. I try not to pay attention to the World Title numbers, I never really have in my career, so I just like to keep it simple and stick to surfing. It’s one of those times where everyone’s talking about it – the World Title race – and you can’t get caught up in that stuff. I just surf and see what happens.”
16-year-old phenom Caroline Marks (USA) will pose a serious threat to her more experienced competitors during tomorrow’s Final. The rookie is one to watch and after a strong performance on her opening run the San Clemente, California, resident is ready for more.
“The first time I came here it was hard with my backside barrel riding, but I’m feeling really confident at this event and I do think I can win this event,” Marks said. “I have so much left in the tank and always want more, especially at this wave. It was nerve-racking watching all day. I just tried to keep my composure and it should be fun tomorrow.”