The World Surf League (WSL) wrapped another rewarding year on the shores of Chiba, Japan, to the cheers from from a local crowd as one of their own was chaired-up the beach. A well-deserved win from Shino Matsuda at the Gotcha Ichinomiya Chiba Open QS 1,000 powered by Gravity Channel kept the event title on home soil and pocketed 1,000 points toward her 2018 campaign.
It was a dicey final as Matsuda fell behind to Poppke's quick start, but recovered phenomenally and displayed her backhand power to earn an excellent 8.57 (out of a possible 10). The Japanese competitor had the crowd behind her as she took the lead back from Poppke before adding another 5.27 to put the pressure on Poppke -- who required an 8.67 when the horn sounded.
"We don't have many QS events Japan so we have to travel a lot, but to win this one is really special here at home," Matsuda said. "I got a lot of confidence scoring an excellent score in the Semifinals which helped me go into the Finals without any nerves. This has been an amazing experience winning and I'll continue trying my best this year."
This is Matsuda's second QS victory of her career and puts her into the Top 65 on the QS rankings. The Japanese competitor looked to be the surfer to beat, earning an excellent 8.00 in the Semifinals over Ren Hashimoto), and finishing even stronger. Now, Matsuda sets her eyes on more success heading into the 2018 summer season.
"I'm still a Pro Junior this year so my goal is to win the World Junior Championship," Matsuda said. "I'd really like to succeed this year on the QS as well and finish in the Top 50 for a shot at moving up the rankings each year."
Poppke is no stranger to success, already earning a third-place and runner-up result on the QS this season, but hasn't put a full season together just yet in her young career. The Tahitian won her first event in 2016 and was hoping to replicate that result after defeating last year's event runner-up, Hinako Kurokawa, in the Semifinals. But, the Tahitian couldn't find the scores she needed as time worked against her and no real opportunities to show her potential.
"It feels good to be back to Japan after two years and make the Final for the second time here," Poppke said. "I just didn't get the right waves today and it was smaller which made it more challenging for my style of surfing. I want to do more QS events this year and see where I'm at on the rankings by the end of the year to figure out what's next."
Chiba, Japan, native Kurowaka returned to finals day after earning last year's Ichinomiya Chiba Open runner-up, but couldn't find the waves Poppke capitalized on in the Semifinals and was eliminated. Kurowaka only adds a 360 points, dropping her lowest result of 200 points, toward her QS campaign, but will prove vital toward moving up three spots to No. 39.
"Recently I have been able to carry stable heats, so I'm confident and would like to continue to do my best in the future," Kurowaka said. "The points aren't as positive as they would've been making the Final so to win this one was my goal and I'll just have to do better at the next one."
Fellow Japanese competitor Ren Hashimoto fellow victim to Matsuda's brilliant form despite a valiant Semifinal performance. Hashimoto earned back-to-back 4-point rides to take the lead from Matsuda, but couldn't overcome an excellent 8.00 posted by her competitor. The young surfer is becoming a QS veteran, now on her fifth season of competing at this level, and looks to gain ground moving forward.
"I always want to better each event and these points won't help much, but I'll take what I've learned to the rest of this year," Hashimoto said. "This year I plan on going to a lot of events so I'll keep trying my best and work on a better strategy at the next ones. I felt my surfing was there until the Semifinals, I made some mistakes and rode bad waves, but I will take advantage of learning from those mistakes."