Carlos Munoz began his quest on the Qualifying Series (QS) in 2009 and after eight years of tireless competing never wearing down his charismatic smile, the Costa Rican has clinched his first-ever QS victory at the Powerade Surf Open Acapulco. Munoz was a clear favorite to take this event down after his brilliant Round Two opener and that translated to his maiden QS Final alongside fellow first-time finalist Cole Houshmand.
Munoz's searing rail carves, along with big aerial antics, helped power his way through to a massive win as one of the event standouts and finally earning his breakthrough.
"I've been dreaming of this day for so many years and it's finally happened, you just never know when it's going to happen," Munoz said. "I feel like I didn't surf that great in the Final, but I got the job done and I tried to compete my hardest. I'm just stoked to win for my country, Central America and just pura vida."
The Costa Rican now heads into a big summer of competition with plenty of momentum to carry him there after taking down an in-form Nolan Rapoza in the Quarterfinals and John Mel in the Semis. "I'm looking forward to going to California, I'll have some new boards for the US Open, but now I'm going to head home and start training for that one," Munoz added. "This is such a big help in confidence and now I just want to do the same in the US Open before the cut off because I'm pretty far down -- this win helps that cause, but there's still work to do. I just can't help but smile right now, I'm going to enjoy this win for awhile."
Houshmand represented his hometown of San Clemente, California with impressive surfing that earned him a first-ever Final appearance. The 16-year-old still has a big career ahead of him with his Pro Junior years to come and the opportunity to capitalize on more QS events. After a tight heat with Bruce Mackie to begin his day, Houshmand then turned in a buzzer-beater to overtake Derek Gomes in the Semifinals and carried that momentum into the Final where he fell just shy of an inaugural win.
"I'm still pretty in shock, even though I didn't win it still feels amazing and it's a huge experience for me," Houshmand said. "It ended up being really tricky, but it worked out in my favor being able to find a few waves. I think this bumps me up toward the 140 spot on the rankings so it's definitely mission accomplished here and that's what I was looking for before that mid-season cut off. My goal all along was to make a QS Final and even though it's only a QS1,000, I couldn't be more stoked."
Santa Cruz, California native John Mel charged through to his best QS result yet with a Semifinal finish behind the powerful Munoz. The 17-year-old took down the last standing Mexican competitor Jafet Ramos in dominating fashion, but couldn't translate that performance to the Semis. Mel's career is still blossoming and has plenty to look forward to after a brilliant showing here.
"It definitely feels good to make it this far after the start of the year was a shocker and not making a lot of heats so it's nice to put some heats together," Mel said. "I learned a lot here, those were my first two-man heats and had a few priority mistakes so I learned from that. Hopefully I can surf some more of those two-man heats, it's so much nicer with just another guy out there and being able to pick any waves. Now I'll get dialed for the US Open Pro Junior before Virginia Beach and then I have a boat trip to Indonesia planned so it's going to be an exciting few months."
Derek Gomes brings back a solid Semifinal result to his home country of Venezuela after a two-year hiatus from the QS jersey. The 21-year-old blasted through his Quarterfinal heat over an in-form Micky Clarke to take on eventual runner-up Houshmand in a close Semifinal that went down to the buzzer. Unfortunately for Gomes, it went the wrong way as Houshmand's 3.23 was enough to overtake him, but the Venezuelan remains optimistic heading away from Acapulco.
"I'm so happy to make it to the Semis, but it's always frustrating to come so close to that Final," Gomes said. "It's great to be back competing after training a lot and it's good to see it pay off. Venezuela is in a tough situation now with protests and hard times so I'm glad to be able to bring back this kind of result there and give the people that support me something to be proud of. I just want to keep this up and try to get into more contests, and hopefully get my seed up higher to get in those QS3,000s moving forward."
The next North America Men's QS event will be the Vans US Open QS10,000 July 31 - August 6.