The Qualifying Series (QS) Pantin Classic Galicia Pro resumed in clean surf at the iconic "wave factory" of Pantin to decide the final four women remaining in contention for the event crown.
In the opening Quarterfinal, Leticia Canales Bilbao (EUK) wore the hopes of the entire country of Spain, taking on current World No. 15 Alessa Quizon (HAW). In an exciting 25-minute bout, both surfers went blow for blow and kept building on their scores, forcing lead changes after every wave. Eventually, Bilbao's efforts paid off as the Basque surfer learned after exiting the water that she had belted a ticket for the Semis.
"This is my best result ever and I can't even imagine this happening right now," an ecstatic Bilbao said. "Competing against some of the best surfers in the world is just a dream come true and I'm so happy I could win a few heats. This was such an intense heat, I am exhausted right now and will need some rest before the Semis. Alessa was ripping and I really had to step it up to match her level."
Championship Tour (CT) competitor Malia Manuel (HAW) left nothing to chance in Quarterfinal 2, belting a near-perfect 9.57 on her third attempt. Staying very active in the lineup, Manuel chased down every moving wave and built on her total with solid scores until netting an 8.17 to put the final nail in her opponent's coffin.
"The conditions change so much, and I finally got that lucky heat where everything went my way," Manuel explained. "I wanted to give myself no pressure for the end of the CT year and finish the QS strong. This is my fifth event and to make it to the Semis is a relief and I think that will be enough points for me to stay on Tour. Now I just want to stay confident in myself and my equipment and I can't wait to be back competing here in Europe for the CT events."
Philippa Anderson (AUS) had a very selective strategy, riding only four waves in her Quarterfinal heat against France's Pauline Ado (FRA). Anderson opened her account with an excellent 8.50 and quickly backed it up with a 6.67 to control the matchup and ultimately take the win.
"I'm super lucky with those two," Anderson commented. "Malia dropped a nine before so I was just really happy to get high scores of my own. It's tricky for sure but my boards work really well in those conditions and I was quite confident paddling out."
Ado, placing equal fifth placer in Pantin, officially claimed her fourth European women's champion title, going back-to-back after claiming the title in Pantin last year as well. The talented French surfer, who spent four consecutive years on the CT, has had up and downs in 2015 and ends her season right on the doorstep of re-qualification.
"That day was very emotional," Ado said. "I always want to do good in Europe so that title is great news for me. Alize (Arnaud), Justine (Dupont), Maud (Le Car) and I have had a good battle this year and it was exciting in Anglet and here in Pantin to fight for it. We've all had good results in some QS events and I think when we can be more consistent throughout a whole season we have a chance at joining the Top 17 again."
The final matchup of the day between Tia Blanco (USA) and Chelsea Tuach (BRB) didn't disappoint either, with numerous lead changes despite lower scores dropping on the incoming tide. Tuach, who is still campaigning for a maiden accession to the elite Tour netted the fourth and last ticket for the Semis and will look to advance into the Final when the event resumes.
The next call has been set to 9:30 a.m. Friday for both men and women, to decide of Day 4 schedule.