The crowd went delirious on Sunday as they witnessed local surfer Bino Lopes (BRA) and acclaimed campaigner Silvana Lima (BRA) take out their respective divisions at the 2016 WSL Men's and Women's QS 1500 Praia do Forte Pro presented by Oi. In front of a packed beach, Lopes enjoyed a perfect ending as he defeated fellow local surfer Marcos Fernandez (BRA) by a score of 16.20 to 15.67 in a narrow victory. With his achievement today, Lopes earned U$10,000 in prize money and 1,500 WSL Qualifying Series ranking points.
With the tropical sun blazing down upon everyone in attendance, light winds and consistent waves in the 3-foot range (1.0 meter) rolled through the Papagente reefbreak as the two in-form surfers of the event made it to the Finals in the Men's division. The spectators had plenty to cheer about as both athletes are considered local surfers at Praia do Forte, even though Fernandez hails from Arembepe, about a 20-minute drive south. Having grown up competing against each other throughout the ranks, Lopes and Fernandez had the full support of the beach behind them.
Lopes began his campaign with a 4.67 and a 7.83 to pull ahead to a quick lead. Fernandez, who had no intentions of leaving things easy, tallied an excellent score of an 8.67 with committed power turns and was able to back up his total with a 7.00 for a 15.67 total. But the day belonged to Lopes as he added an 8.37 for a 16.20 total and a lead he would not relinquish.
Coming back from a serious knee injury, Lopes showed his consistency throughout the event and could not hide his emotions as he was chaired up the beach in front of his ecstatic hometown crowd.
"I'm pretty much speechless. It's hard to describe what I'm feeling right now," said Lopes, who was visibly taken aback. "To be competing here where I grew up and surfing this wave that I love, I think today is one of the best days of my life. I've traveled around the world and Praia do Forte is the place I love the most. Thank you so much to the crowd that made this event so special and I'm glad that I was able to live up to all the expectations and win this event here. I'd also like to thank Marcos (Fernandez), who in my opinion is one of the best surfers out there. This is so amazing because we surf here all the time, sometimes just the two of us. Thank you to all of my sponsors, my family and especially to all of the locals that were out there standing on the reef, cutting up their feet and cheering us on," exclaimed Lopes.
Lopes almost didn't make it to the Finals after his matchup with Jesse Mendes (BRA) in the Semifinals. Mendes threw two huge vertical backside blasts on one of the best waves of the event for a 9.00 on an overhead right. Lopes fought back and placed a 7.00 in his two-wave total, but had difficulty finding a decent backup score, until the final minute of the heat where without priority, Lopes was able to throw a huge air reverse and followed by milking it all the way down the line for an amazing come-from-behind victory. The crowd went wild as the score came in at a 7.80, mobbing Lopes in the process; defeating Mendes by a score of 14.80 to 14.50.
Fernandez on the other hand, faced up against Leandro Usuna (ARG) in Heat 1 of the Semifinals. The Argentinian ripper came in hot to the Praia do Forte Pro after placing a runner-up finish at the prior WSL South America QS 1500 event in his hometown of Mar del Plata. However, Fernandez used his local knowledge to his advantage as he defeated Usuna by a score of 14.60 to 10.50.
"I'd like to thank everyone that showed up here today. Without you, this wouldn't mean as much," announced Fernandez during his interview on the Winner's Podium. "Congratulations to Bino, who is a local here and knows this wave really well. He's a close friend of mine and I'd like to thank all of my friends and family who came out to watch, my sponsors and congratulations to the event staff for all the great work they did throughout the week. I hope this is the first of many events to be held here," Fernandez concluded.
Upon conclusion of the Praia do Forte Pro, several shifts occurred in both the WSL Qualifying Series ranking as well as the WSL South America Regional Rankings. As winner of the event, Bino Lopes received 1,500 QS ranking points as well as an additional 1,000 points towards his regional rankings.
Bino Lopes jumped from 60th to 22nd on the Qualifying Series ranking, while Marco Fernandez went from 21st to 12th. However, since Leonardo Fioravanto (ITA) and Matt Wilkinson (AUS) are currently requalifying by pertaining to the Top-22 on the CT rankings, Fernandez would currently qualify as the 10th seed.
Jesse Mendes who equaled 3rd in the competition, has been knocking at the door to the CT and went from 12th to 8th on the QS ranking, while Leandro Usuna went from 58th to 30th.
On the WSL South America ranking, Usuna has overtaken Flavio Nakagima (BRA) for 1st place on the overall rankings. Each Regional Champion will have automatic entry into all of the QS 10000 and QS 6000 events worldwide in 2017.
This week in the Women's division, Lima charged the righthanders over the Papagente reef with confidence and without hesitation throughout the event. She displayed her explosiveness in every heat and continued her momentum as she defeated Nathalie Martins (BRA) in the Final to clinch the victory.
Lima opened up with an excellent score of an 8.83 with her patented onslaught of volatile rail-to-rail surfing on her frontside. Martins, who had been successful on her backside on the lefts, opted to stay close to Lima on the righthand break placing pressure as she countered with a two-turn combo for a 6.00 and then improved her score as she added a 7.67 for a 13.67 total.
Lima however took things to another level as she tore up a righthander with a fiery array of maneuvers ending in a stylish layback hack to earn a 9.60 for a 17.93 total, breaking all of the scoring records at the Praia do Forte Pro.
While giving her interview in front of the euphoric onlookers, Lima had this to say:
"First of all, I want to thank all of the fans that came out to watch us perform, you guys are incredible! I love surfing when the crowd gets amped up for our surfing because it makes everything so exciting. I'd also like to thank all of my sponsors, especially Oi who backed this event and is helping to support Women's surfing. I also want to thank Marina Werneck and Felipe Freitas (Event Organizers) who were amazing. I'm so happy and I feel like this is only the first step for events like this in Brazil," finished off Lima.
The Praia do Forte Pro is presented by Oi in association with the Bahia State Government via SETRE (Department of Labor, Income and Athletics), Billabong, Skol Ultra, the City of Mata de Sao Joao and the support of ZooM Communication, Gocil and Turisforte.