The QS3,000 Barbados Surf Pro was called back on today for the final day of men's and women's competition at Drill Hall Beach. Under cloudy skies and periodic rain, a declining two-to-three foot swell provided competitors with another fun day of tropical surf at the left reef break, and performance levels peaked as this year's event winners were crowned.
Earning his first QS victory was Peruvian regular-footer Lucca Mesinas. The mild-mannered South American earned the nickname ‘The Silent Assassin' at the Florida Pro in January and has just cemented the moniker for good. Friendly and gracious on land, but a ferocious opponent in the water.
"It was a really good week for me, after not getting the result I wanted last week in Martinique," he said, with the Peruvian flag draped over his shoulders. "I was super focused on this wave and felt like I had a good chance to do well here because my home break in Peru is very similar. It all developed heat by heat for me, having confidence that I could get the scores."
In his semifinal match-up with fellow Peruvian Miguel Tudela, Mesinas was left needing a score until his last ride. Sitting patiently with priority, the situation was clear and he just needed the opportunity to strike. With less than two minutes remaining, the wave came through and he narrowly got the score required to advance into the Final.
"I knew the wave would come and I had priority, so I just had to wait," recalled Mesinas. "I always have patience in my heats and that helps me pass them, most of the time. It was going to take a big score to beat my friend Miguel and a little wave was not going to do it. That's my plan -- to be patient and when you have the opportunity, just kill it."
Following a wave-starved women's Final, Mesinas and former CT competitor Alex Ribeiro were graced with more set waves. What ensued was the performance of the contest, with Mesinas not only taking the win, but notching the highest heat total of the event, a 17.57 (out of a possible 20), with two excellent rides of 9.57 and 8.00. The 9.57 was the highest wave score of the event. Mesinas only rode three waves in the 30-minute clash, leaving Ribeiro in a combination situation as the final horn sounded.
"I always try to get inside position at the start of a heat, before there is priority, so I can choose the first wave," said Mesinas, reflecting back on how the Final transpired. "But, in this heat Alex was deeper than me, so I just went wide and I got my first score of a 7.33. That put pressure on him and he rode a couple wrong waves, which then gave me priority. Then I just waited and got the 9.57 and backed it up with an 8.00. The nine was my best wave of the contest, for sure. I saw it and it was so good, I was just like I've got to hit it so hard because it's my opportunity, and that's what I did.
"It means a lot to win my first QS. I've been working hard and training to get a win and now I have."
Dynamic goofy-footer Ribeiro from Praia-Grande, Brazil had been a standout in the playful lefts all week. Even going back to the 2017 Barbados Surf Pro, he had put on some of the performances of the event and was looking unstoppable again this year. Gracious in defeat, the 28-year-old was happy with runner-up and looking forward to the next major QS event.
"I'm stoked to finish runner-up here and have some good heats in this contest," said the always smiling Ribeiro. "I have a little injury on my foot, but it doesn't hurt too bad thankfully, or I don't think I could do this. Just something I'm dealing with. With this result I'm looking forward to the next event to keep the momentum going."
In the Final clash the start of the heat left Ribeiro chasing Mesinas. It was a different sort of heat rhythm for him, one that he hadn't had all event.
"All my heats, try to start deepest to have inside position," said Ribeiro honestly. "This heat I did that, but that first wave went too wide and I couldn't get it. He did and got his opening score. In all my other heats I felt like I got a score right at the beginning. In this heat it went his way and he's a great surfer and I'm stoked for him to get the win. He deserves it."
Just prior to the men's Final, it was a battle of teenagers between Leilani McGonagle, 18 and Summer Macedo, 17, for the top spot on the women's podium. Both competitors are incredibly experienced for their relatively young age, but it was their first QS Final. Ultimately, it was the goofy-foot McGonagle who played the game the best in the wave starved 30-minutes, to earn her first victory.
"I feel like I need to pinch myself, I really can't believe it. Ever since I arrived in Barbados this year, I just wanted to win for Zander (Venezia)," said a teary-eyed McGonagle. "Last year at this event we had become really close and it was emotional for me to come back for the first time since he passed. He is someone I carry really deeply in my heart and when he passed away I wanted to win this event for him. I thought about him a lot this week and had a dream about him the other night. This is dedicated to him."
Riding only two waves in the heat, McGonagle sat on an average score of a 5.17 until the final minute. With Macedo only having a total score of 6.60, she required just a 1.43 to take the win. With just seconds remaining, she paddled into an inside wave and executed a couple of turns to score a 2.43 for the win.
"The whole heat I was just thinking that I shouldn't go on these little waves, so I sat for the entire heat with priority," McGonagle recounted. "With about a minute left, I knew the requirement was only a one something, so I finally committed to a little wave and got a two something. It was definitely the most stressful last five minutes I've ever had. I would have loved for it to be pumping and we got to go wave for wave, but we had that earlier in the event and I'm just thankful I got to showcase my surfing then. It went my way in the Final."
Hailing from the island of Maui, Macedo is quickly making a name for herself in international competition, in all conditions. Finishing runner-up at the WSL World Junior Championships in January, the 17-year-old is building a resume of strong results, as she begins to tackle the QS.
"Of course, I'm disappointed to make the final and not win," admitted Macedo. "But, really just in myself for a priority mistake that cost me the heat. I know I just have to learn from those things and keep going. I got 2nd place, that's great! I'm sure I'll wake up in the morning and be happy as a clam."
Progressing through from Round 1 alongside McGonagle, Macedo was staying under the radar and found her form in the Round of 16, when it mattered.
"I had some super close heats and didn't win my first heat until yesterday," said Macedo. "That always puts a different spin on the start of the event. Sort of like I'm through to the next round, but I was close to getting knocked out. I felt like a bit of a dark horse and I know I'm good on my backhand and it was a good opportunity to go left and work on my surfing. I'm happy and have enjoyed the whole week."
Former US Open of Surfing winner and Championship Tour (CT) competitor Alejo Muniz was a stand-out all week. Finishing in equal third has pushed him to the top of the QS rankings, which is setting up a re-qualification campaign for the 28-year-old from Santa Catarina, Brazil.
"I'm leaving happy because a third place is a good result," said Muniz. "I'm happy with my surfing and the way the heats went throughout this week. My only mistake all week was falling on a wave in the Semifinal and it cost me the heat. Alex was surfing great and he deserved to be in the Final."
Also finishing 3rd was Peruvian Miguel Tudela, a dynamic goofy-footer who has seen himself in the draw of Big Wave World Tour events in recent years. Matching his result from last week's Martinique Surf Pro, Tudela's a tough competitor and knows he performed well in the Caribbean.
"It was a really slow heat," Tudela said after his semi-final with Mesinas. "We had a restart at the beginning and then just not a lot of chances to get bigger scores. I was winning the heat towards the end, but he had priority. He got the opportunity to do two big turns on a set and that was it."
"I'm stoked though. I wanted to make the Final after getting to the Semifinals in Martinique too. But, I hope to keep the ball rolling and it was a good run for me over the two events."
The last standing Barbadian surfer in the event was 23-year-old Chelsea Roett, who posted the highest heat score of 15.83 and highest wave score of 8.50 today, in Quarterfinal 3. The fluid regular-footer knows the wave at Drill Hall Beach all too well, and she waited to long for it this time.
"I'm disappointed, but that's how it goes," Roett said. "My plan was to wait for a set, but in hindsight I should have tried to catch one of the waves that came earlier in the heat. The sets were slow and I just thought if I had caught one of the deeper waves, they weren't really the good ones. Then I'd lose priority and Summer would have the upper hand. It's the way it goes, but it's the best I've done in a QS so far and I'm hoping to keep improving. I wanted to be in the Final, but it's ok."
Representing Japan, but residing in Hawaii, 20-year-old Mahina Maeda also finished equal third, losing out to McGonagle in the first Semifinal. With some of the most powerful and fluid surfing of the event, Maeda has found a place in competition that eluded her in 2017.
"I'm really stoked to have made the Semis," said Maeda, positively. "I haven't been making too many heats so far this year, but my surfing feels good. It feels like a bit of redemption for me, just getting some recognition for what I'm doing. Last year was my worst year on the QS, so I sort of stopped competing for a bit. This feels like the result I needed to stay motivated right now.
"It's always a bummer when you don't feel like you get to show your ability. Going into high tide, the heats got slow and, in the end, I just needed another opportunity. It happens though and I'm happy with the way the week went. I wish we had more lefts on tour."