It was an incredible event for the Los Cabos Open of Surf Junior Women's competition as many of them also competed in the Women's QS6000 event -- competing in pristine, three-to-four-foot Zippers conditions for the final day. Bringing that confidence into the Juniors, high-performance surfing was abundant as Sophie McCulloch (AUS) took down a stacked international final field, inclduing Summer Macedo (HAW), Alyssa Lock (AUS), and the sole North American surfer able to earn points, Meah Collins (USA).
Winning out of her home region of Australasia, McCulloch continued the Aussies' reign over this event after Isabella Nichols (AUS) took down the title last year. Despite earning no points for the win, she will take a lot of experience gained after making some noise in the Women's QS6000 event as well -- in addition to $2,000. Earning the win on her last scoring wave, McCulloch was overcome with joy getting out of the water knowing she had claimed a victory.
"I'm so happy to take that win with all those girls just ripping throughout this entire event," she said. "I didn't even know how much money we got for the Juniors so it's a really big help with all the travels. It was great surfing against all these girls I've heard about and wouldn't normally get a chance to. I felt really lucky to get that win, the only thing going through my mind on that last wave was don't fall off."
"This is a big confidence boost for me, doing well in the QS and winning the Juniors," McCulloch added. "I just want to keep doing what I'm doing in the next few events and get a lot of experience in these contests. Knowing I can beat some of these talented girls is something I'll take with me and never underestimate any of them -- it's incredible to see what they're capable of."
Turning heads in the Women's QS6000 competition in addition to her brilliant Juniors performance, Summer Macedo (HAW) posted some impressive scores throughout this event -- including the highest single-wave score among the juniors, a 9.60, and a heat total of 18.00. Though she won't take any points back to her region of Hawaii, the 15-year-old gained valuable experience here on the shores of Costa Azul.
"I would've been stoked to win but this was a great event and I'm excited to make it to the Final," Macedo said. "To see women's surfing progressing like it is inspiring and I'm just trying to keep up. To compete in the QS was an incredible experience and really just stoked to be here doing both events. I tried to just take it one heat at a time and enjoy the moment, and I definitely did better than I expected so I'm happy with that."
Another Aussie who helped eliminate a handful of the North America regional surfers, Alyssa Lock (AUS), finished in third place. Topping an all international Semifinal en route to the Final, Lock had the opportunity to surf against familiar faces throughout this event in addition to some of the new talent coming up strong.
"I'm so excited to make that Final and surf this wave when it turned on," she said. "Being here and seeing all these new girls that are coming up is great to get some heats against them. I haven't decided on any more QS events but I'm looking at maybe doing Spain or Japan so that'll be something to think about going forward. I want to keep doing events and get as much experience as I can in a jersey so it'll be fun to see what happens."
Meah Collins (USA), the last remaining North American surfer in the Junior Women's event, couldn't find the waves she needed for a win. However, the Huntington Beach, Calif. native gained some ground with a finals appearance and some vital points toward her Junior Tour campaign. Collins surfed well throughout the entire event as she topped her fellow North Americans Tiare Thompson (USA) and Maddie Peterson (USA) in her Semifinal heat -- which Macedo ultimately won.
"I felt proud to make the finals and represent my home region in a really tough international field," Collins said. "To make that final gave me confidence in knowing I'm up to par with the up-and-coming surfers around the world. I've taken some key knowledge from this event just to be prepared for all conditions and adapt to a changing swell. Gaining mental strength to overcome tough losses like my QS heat as well was a big -- the best thing you can do is learn from it and move on."
Collins will now head to El Salvador to complete the Women's QS Latin American leg before turning her focus back toward the Juniors later this summer at the Vans US Open, at her home break on the Southside of Huntington Beach Pier.