Each year, the women's Qualifying Series (QS) visits San Jose Del Cabo to rack up some big points at the Los Cabos Open of Surf QS 6,000, but often leave wanting more wave from Zippers, the contest break. But not today.
Perfect conditions streamed into the lineup, offering clean, two-to-three foot waves that some of the world's best unleashed near-perfect performances on. It was an 11-hour day on the beach as the remaining six heats of Round 3, all of Round 4 and 5 were all completed to set up a massive finals day Sunday.
Tatiana Weston-Webb dropped the hammer on her backhand, earning a near-perfect 9.93 (out of a possible 10) and 17.70 (out of a possible 20) heat total to kickstart her Los Cabos campaign in Round 4. Weston-Webb sits comfortably at No. 3 on the Women's Championship Tour (CT) and brings that confidence back to the QS here in Mexico. The Kauai, Hawaii-born surfer, who now represents Brasil, hasn't missed the Quarterfinals in two previous years here, and is looking to get there once more.
"On my paddle back out I thought to myself, that's probably the best wave I've ever had at Zippers and it felt really good -- especially getting it under priority was even better. I'm here just enjoying myself more than anything," Weston-Webb said. "I know I don't need to back myself up on the QS heavily right now, if I do that's great, and if I don't I'll just keep my focus on the Tour. It's nice to not be putting any pressure on myself and I think that may be helping out in the water. The vibe here is great and that makes it even easier to relax."
Sage Erickson Demonstrates Her Power
Ventura, California, native Sage Erickson felt right at home at an event she's attended since its inception in 2014 and posted near-perfect scores of her own. Erickson's powerful forehand suited the pumping conditions well as she earned a 9.13 on multiple, big maneuvers in Round 4. The veteran pro, who is on the elite WSL Championship Tour, hasn't clinched a result in 2018, aside from a Quarterfinal at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, and is looking to get her QS gameplan going. (Surfers can qualify, or requalify, for the CT by finishing in the CT Top 10 by year's end, or by finishing in the QS Top 6. CT surfers in danger of falling on the rankings there often keep their jobs by doing well on the QS.)
"The waves have been so good today after being so tricky with the hurricane and this place has become a family tradition," Erickson said. "I've had kind of a bad year competitively on the QS after I started really strong. But, I feel comfortable here and I haven't found that yet. This is where a momentum shift needs to happen for me and I need to start getting results. In the past, when there's a challenge in front of me, I like to beat it."
Nikki Van Dijk Renews Her Relationship with Los Cabos
2015 Los Cabos Open of Surf victor Nikki Van Dijk -- another CT surfer -- showed her potential when Zippers turns on, delivering two great performances in Round 4 and 5. Van Dijk squared off with fellow CT competitor Keely Andrew and former CT surfer Pauline Ado in a wave-for-wave battle. But Van Dijk couldn't be stopped, posting an 8.60 and 8.27, on her dominant forehand and is back into Round 6 for the first time since 2016.
"Essentially it's as good as it gets here and it was amazing to walk up to perfect waves for the girls," Van Dijk said. "I really enjoy just spending time with all the girls here, I came with Laura [Enever] and Dimity [Stoyle], and I think that brings some relaxation to my surfing. Last year was a bit of a hiccup so it feels good to be back into finals day. It's so important to get a big result here to help me this year and I came to win."
Qualifying Series, Meet 2018 Threats
Kauai, Hawaii, surfer Gabriela Bryan continues her rampage at this event with brilliant performances throughout the day -- beginning her campaign in Round 3 this morning. Bryan kicked into high gear, topping Van Dijk in their Round 4 bout, and the young competitor took that fire into another victory. The 16-year-old is on a great run in 2018, earning two QS 1,000 wins already, and brings that confidence here.
"It feels so good to break my Round 4 curse at these bigger events and I'm feeling really confident right now," Bryan said. "Going into those heats I wasn't too nervous. All these girls surf so well and you just have to go out there, stick to your game plan, get the right waves and produce. I felt I did that and I'm stoked to come out on top. The waves are super fun after I had to deal with the really big stuff for the Pro Junior, so this is amazing now."
Australian power-surfer Holly Wawn displayed her aggressive style on the canvas that Zippers continued to provide in both her Round 4 and Round 5 heats. Wawn got the ball rolling with an excellent 8.37 and impressive 16.20 heat total to begin her campaign with powerful, carving maneuvers. The 20-year-old's confidence this year is showing at the bigger events, earning three Quarterfinal results at QS 3,000s and above, as she currently sits at No. 8 on the QS.
"That first heat was pumping, it was so good, but the last one was a little slower after watching the heat before mine keep delivering so I just stayed busy," Wawn said. "I want to qualify and it takes time. You have to roll with the punches and I'm in a good spot heading into the mid-year mark so that feels good. Last year was tough start, but then I had a great finish and I could just taste the CT being so close. I believe in myself that I'll get there."
2017 Los Cabos Finalists Still Remain Among Stacked Field
Also, making their mark on a big day of competition, defending event winner Silvana Lima, last year's runner-up and 2016 victor Bronte Macaulay, Keely Andrew, Coco Ho, Caroline Marks are all CT surfers still in the draw. But, they will have former CT competitors Alessa Quizon and Alana Blanchard, along with QS threats Minori Kawai, Zoe McDougall, and Macy Callaghan.
Event organizers will reconvene at 7:00am MDT for a 7:30am MDT start to Round 6.